LAS VEGAS – Before the mass of humanity gathered around Allegiant Stadium on Saturday night could take center stage, faint drum beats filled the air. Then the faint repetition of the sutras, finally culminating outside the gate. And then the smell of burning, a burning smell rivaling the delicious smell of street vendors, wafted through the parking lots. Spotted in the distance was purple smoke from that flame, an indication that it was pulled by a Real Madrid fan.
It didn’t take long to realize that this wouldn’t be a typical crowd for a sporting event – an exhibition game where, as part of their pre-season training – take place. on American soil.
“It was a beautiful experience for all Real Madrid supporters and Barcelona have it here,” Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti told ESPN. The stadium is amazing and so is the atmosphere. So we are really happy to be here. “
Outside view of Allegiant Stadium for Saturday night classic between Real Madrid and Barcelona, two of the most famous clubs on the planet, rival any major domestic match in any sport. It’s a marriage of what Americans know and love about sports. It has the fun energy of an NCAA tournament crowd applying for March Madness. It sounds like the hottest confrontations in college football inside. It has the stress of a Game 7 for fans who never get to see their club in person.
However, it doesn’t matter. It was a “friendship”, part of both clubs’ US tour and only the second Clasico will be played in the US. Nearly 62,000 people flocked to the Allegiant Stadium for the chance to watch their teams go head-to-head in one of football’s most famous matches, and Ancelotti made sure to point out that the atmosphere is certainly different from Clasico in Spain. “Bernabeu is our home,” he said. “So different but very interesting.”
If someone is not wearing the blue and red Barcelona jersey, they are wearing the white Real Madrid kit. There’s not much in between. One woman has an American flag hanging on her back like a flag, but overall, takes a hard line towards the fan base. You played for Real Madrid or Barca.
As Saturday morning emerges after another summer Friday night in Vegas, the Strip comes alive with fans on both sides. Up and down the Strip from Resorts World to New York, New York and beyond, there’s a shirt, a jersey, a hat – or all three – of either club. Family fit together. Each group of young men wore a different player’s jersey. Older fans broke the classic kits. Street vendors sell flags and ribbons from both sides, pouring down Las Vegas Boulevard as security repeatedly chases them into the corner.
In the hours leading up to the game, crowds of Barcelona and Real Madrid fans crossed the Hacienda Avenue bridge, walking from the Strip via I-15 to the stadium. The fans all marched, divided by their loyalties, their songs, their cheers and their competing songs, making their presence – and their appearance – known to everyone. A great number of other football-loving humanity descended on Dean Martin Drive, with cars inching forward, street vendors and numerous street vendors selling jerseys and shirts, call for their attention.
Everyone gets there early, and a few don’t get a chance to watch their club kick off. Half an hour before the game started, fans had gathered, banners and flags waved, and many chants and cheers echoed throughout the two-year-old stadium.
In the moments before the game began, the field was empty as both sides made their final preparations in their dressing rooms, the noise became loud and remained there until both teams emerged. From then on, it was a battle of two lungs. Each fan base tries to scream out the other with chants and cheers. Whenever a shot was taken, everyone slid to the edge of their seats and reacted as if it were a moment of victory.
One moment that unites both groups of fans is the action of the Barcelona players Gerard Pique: Every time he touches the ball, an obvious reaction to his separation from pop superstar Shakira goes as far as chanting the singer’s name.
The evening even included a proposal in the stands at halftime, to which she said yes; someone blew a whistle during the celebration.
For the fans inside Allegiant Stadium, Saturday night was a celebration. It’s a chance to watch a game, meet the players they love and experience first-hand the clubs they haunt. They don’t treat it like an exhibition; for over 60,000 attendees, it was important Clasico as possible. (Barca will win 1-0 over RaphinhaThe club’s first goal since moving this summer from Leeds United.)
“It’s always important to play a Clasico“Barcelona defender” Jordi Alba speak. “It was a very special match and the atmosphere was spectacular for the fans on both sides.
“We feel the love from the stands, and are delighted to be playing games with this great atmosphere.”