It has become a habit – catching the two greatest club teams in the world at a venue in some foreign place and watching the drama and spectacle of the absolute pinnacle of soccer’s elite competing for the Champion’s League trophy.
Of course, what better story than a repeat of the story that unfolded two years prior in Lisbon. It’s the story of Atlético Madrid versus Real Madrid at the San Siro Stadium in Milan, Italy.
This is the story of Madrid’s gritty side and the working class suburbs around the Calderón Stadium (Atléti) and the chic neighborhood along the Castellana where the Bernabéu Stadium (Real) is located.
It’s the struggle and fight against the privileged and wealthy aristocratic classes.
The Republic against the Falange party. A war and nearly a century later, the marks in the sand have still not been forgotten in Madrid. Even though the players and multimillion dollar salaries come from many different countries, to wear the badge of Atléti is all together a different story than to wear the badge of Real. Here we were again in a different stadium to relive the battle.
Italy is one of the only places in the world where two teams share the same stadium. In the case of San Siro, the teams are AC Milan and Inter Milan. The fans of both teams have learned to detest each other through family tradition! But this weekend they would transfer the ownership of the stadium over to the Champion’s League. Two of the three greatest teams in Spain would vie for honors. I go every year to this event because I love football.
If you truly love football, and you can only travel to one event, this has to be the event.
More important than a World Cup final or Olympic gold medal, the Champion’s League final is the culmination of a year’s work, a year’s qualifiers, and a celebration of the greatest players in the world. Not to mention, this year it was in Milan – a revisit to a stadium I had not been to in 15 years.
The game was anything but anticlimactic. It was amazing. It came down to 22 exhausted players locked in a dead heat and having to shoot penalties just before midnight. Of course, as in every sport, there is heartbreak, a lucky break, and a winner or loser. In this case, my team for the night, Atléti, yet again would lose out in the last seconds of a game that went on for over two hours. They were the warriors (and in my view the winners) but sport can be cruel. Penalties are almost the ultimate gladiatorial form of combat. Sudden death, 12 yards, two players, a striker and a goal keeper, and 85,000 people looking on. There can be nothing quite like this in any sport in the world. No heartbreak more imaginable in that moment.
We left our Spanish friends in the stadium and exited as quietly and quickly possible. It was late and we needed to make other plans so we dove out of the San Siro and into the night ahead of the crowds. We were sitting in a restaurant that a friend of ours knew very well called the Trattoria Toscana on the Corso di Porta Ticinese. It stayed open beyond 2 o’clock in the morning. We had a fabulous seafood pasta, incredible shrimp with the finest olive oil, and some great white wine to wash it down with. We would live to fight another day. As they say, it’s only a game!