Thursday, May 12, 2005

Why Do I support Real Madrid? Why not Barca? Or Milan? Or Man U? Or one of the other pretenders?

I did not choose to follow Madrid. It's the club that chose me.

Despite the fact that when I started following the club we were on one of the worst runs in our history while Barca was all about the "Dream Team". I still don't know why I preferred Madrid... why I was not suckered by all the hype about Barca... I still don't know why Tenerife broke my heart two years in a row. Why I let my younger brother, a Barca supporter, gloat. As the older one, wiser in the ways of the world (okay relatively speaking at that age), I should have been the one supporting Barca and the one gloating.
It wasn’t the history or the Champions League titles because I knew nothing about them till much later. It had nothing to do with being the greatest team in the world because back then even Marseille seemed a bigger club in my worldview, leave alone Barca and Milan.
I can’t think of one reason why I chose Madrid. Which is why I am convinced I did not have a choice. The club chose me.

I have seen us beat Barca while sitting in the upper tiers of the Bernabeau... hugged the guy sitting next to me when we scored. I have had animated conversations over a (or was that several) “cervasas” the previous week complaining about how Raul Bravo seemed to play better than our stars, me speaking in English, the others in Spanish... neither understanding the other and yet understanding each other completely. I have spent hours queuing outside to buy a ticket and not get one because I was not a socio only to see a ticket appear miraculously the night before the match. I discovered our history and tradition in the European Cup when the commentators spoke about it in our first CL title and later in 1999 when I started using the internet regularly. A few years ago I read Morbo and White Storm. But all of this was AFTER the club chose me.

Long before the era of the Galacticos, before the 1-2-3 of Figo, Zidane and Ronaldo, I supported the club with it’s significantly less glamorous heroes… Michel, El Buitre, Maneul Sanchis, Hu-GOL, Redondo, Hierro, Prosineki (sp?), Raul, Roberto carlos, Salgado… all heroes to me even if most of them (except maybe Raul and the vulture) could hardly qualify as a modern Galactico. I even have a soft spot for the Karembus and Karankas and Ivan Campos of the world. It’s what happens when you love a club…it’s bigger than the individuals, bigger than wins and losses, bigger than losses of form or downturns of fortune, it’s a part of who you are.

Even today, 15 years later, people still find it strange as I walk into office in Bangalore on a Monday morning in depression saying “we” lost the league because of Valencia’s spoineless performance last night, and sulk through the rest of the day. “We” lost? How can this guy sitting thousands of miles away, who has been to Madrid once in his life, who can speak no more than 30-40 words of Spanish claim ownership… claim a “we” or an “our”?

But this is how it is. I chose football and Madrid chose me. It’s a part of my DNA now, something my son shall inherit one day and all I can say is that I am happy he will not wait 12 years in the wilderness like I did before discovering Real Madrid.

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