Saturday, 18th November saw the first Madrid Derby held in Atlético Madrid’s new stadium, Wanda Metropolitano. There was a huge build up to one of the world’s most important Derbys. Lamentably for football history, the result was more than disappointing. The great expectations ended up in something similar to a deflated soufflée with a score of nil – nil. After years of intense rivalry between the two teams, there was no glory to be savoured by the Vikings (Real Madrid) or the Indians (Atletico Madrid).
This rivalry has its roots not only in politics, but also in culture. Both clubs are based on different cultural stereotypes. Real Madrid was founded in 1901 by graduates from Oxford and Cambridge, while Atlético Madrid was founded a year later by mining students from the Basque country. As the history of the two clubs has reflected, both have contrasting identities and different fates that could be summed up in two words “success” and “suffering”. But after last Saturday’s derby, might their fates be changing?
Real Madrid’s first victory over Atlético was in their very first encounter in 1929. Since then, both teams have faced each other in a total of 268 official matches with Real Madrid boasting 138 victories. Atlético has come out on top in a total of 68 matches and both teams have shared 62 draws. The most agonising period for Atlético Madrid was between 1999 and 2013 when they did not enjoy one single victory over their rivals. In 2011, Real Madrid fans brandished a banner with the words, “Wanted: Worthy rivals for decent derby”. Those words took two seasons in making their affect, and in 2013, Atlético enjoyed a stunning and unexpected victory over Madrid in the final of the “Copa del Rey” in their opponents’ stadium.
Atlético Madrid had seen better days and during the beginning of Franco’s regime it was the government’s favourite as it was associated with the military airforce. However, Franco soon shifted his preferences in the 1950’s when Spain was facing international isolation and decided to make political capital out of Real Madrid’s European Cup Titles. According to one minister of the time, Real Madrid were Spain’s best ambassadors.
During this period the thunder of the Madrid Derby began to resound throughout Europe and the Derby was showered with the same respect as that of Milan or Manchester. Meanwhile the rivals’ fans began to chant that Real Madrid were the team of the government and the shame of Spain.
Today, shame is a word that is associated with Real Madrid fans. Unlike Atlético fans, they do not stand by their players when a defeat is suffered. As Fernando Torres once said, “Atlético belongs to its fans and to the city. Real Madrid is the whole world’s team.”
Is this still true after Saturday 18th’s derby? Will the Madrid Derby continue to thunder throughout Europe?