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Madrid City in English
Sunday 9th of December 2018
20th of March 2010 by admin 8th of June 2010
Derbi days

This month sees families, friends and offices divided as the capital’s premier teams Atlético and Real Madrid go head to head. Talking to journalists and fans alike, Richard Martin tries to get to the heart of this old and fierce rivalry

If you fancy a quiet dinner out in Madrid, plan it for the last weekend of March, when most other Madrileños will be glued to theirs TVs—that’s if they’re not sat inside the Bernabéu—watching the Madrid derby. So what makes this fixture so special? Historically and in terms of support, both teams are among the top four biggest clubs in Spain. But more than a battle against two successful teams, it’s about north of the city versus south, and it’s about class as well.

“Broadly speaking, Atlético are the team of the south of Madrid—the old, more earthy, authentic, working-class Madrid—while the north is an extension of Madrid, the new, more wealthy side of the city, the part which Real occupy,” says Sid Lowe, lead Spanish football correspondent for the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
This gulf in class and wealth is perfectly illustrated by the location of the two team’s stadiums. Real’s hugely impressive Santiago Bernabéu stands tall among other centres of corporate power in the heart of the city’s financial district; a more fitting location for one of the world’s richest and most successful clubs would be hard to come by. By contrast, Atlético’s Vicente Calderón stadium sits between an industrial estate and a motorway by the Manzanares River in significantly less salubrious surroundings.
Born to win
Real Madrid’s stature is reflected by its packed trophy cabinet which, containing 30 league titles and nine European Cups, far exceeds that of its neighbours. However, it wasn’t always thus. In the years after the civil war Atlético ruled the roost in Madrid, winning four league titles in ten years while Real lived in their shadows. All this changed when former Real player and Nationalist soldier Santiago Bernabéu became the club’s President and poached Argentinian forward Alfredo di Stéfano from Barcelona in controversial circumstances.
By many accounts di Stefano is Real’s most important player of all time, complementing an already impressive line-up of players to help Real win the league for the first time in two decades in 1954. They went on to win 14 league titles between 1960 and 1980 and made their name on the European stage, winning an outstanding and never repeated five successive European Cups between 1956 and 1960. It was this period of domination that forged Real’s image as born winners, a team that always has to succeed—and succeed in style, as Fabio Capello found out to his cost when he was sacked as manager despite winning the league, because of his supposedly defensive style of play.
Losing side
By contrast, Atlético have an image as born losers, which many believe has its origins in the 1971 European Cup Final against Bayern Munich. Atléti were leading 1-0 during extra time and on the brink of glory, until they suddenly conceded a deflected goal in the last minute. The goal sent the game to a replay, in which they were thrashed 4-0.
“That last-minute goal gave birth to Atlético’s image as a jinxed team, el ‘pupas’—a plucky underdog,” says Lowe. “The club’s marketing campaign exploits this image and their fans cling on to this idea that being an Atlético fan is about loyalty in the face of failure, about being a feeling. If ‘Madridismo’ is about winning and being superior, Atletico Madridismo is precisely the opposite. It’s about underachieving and being inferior.”
This feeling certainly seems to have manifested itself in the recent history of the Madrid derby: Atlético haven’t beaten Real Madrid for 11 years, and the last time they did, in 1999, it proved to be a false dawn, as they found themselves relegated the same season.
Since then, over 50 teams, including lower-league minnows Alcorcón and Real Union have managed to beat Real Madrid, yet Atlético cannot. “I think this image really works against them,” continues Lowe. “When Atleti play Madrid, defeat is always in the mindset of their players, there is a gigantic psychological block so when things go wrong, it’s fatalism that defeats them.”
“The pressure gets to them,” adds Javier Munilla, presenter on Spanish radio station La Cope. “They spend all week thinking about that game. In the last five derbies, Atlético have conceded a goal in the first five minutes of the match. They come out on to the pitch shitting their pants.”
Fan tales
So are the fans of Real posher and richer than those of Atlético? Fermin Calero, president of the Peña Madridista Carabanchel, reckons so: “Madrid fans are people from high society, they are more polite and relaxed than Atlético fans, who are noisy and rude.”
Though as you might expect, Domingo Guerra Revanga, president of the Legazpi Atlético Madrid Peña, sees things differently. It’s more a question of passion, he says. “Atlético has a much better support than Real Madrid. When Real aren’t doing well, the supporters don’t go to watch them. Madrid fans don’t support the team like we do. They just want to see a winning team, but we go to the ground to support the club whether they are doing well or doing badly.”
He’s not wrong. The attendance at the Bernabéu dropped by a third at the end of 2008/09 when Real were losing ground to Barcelona in the race for the title. On the other hand, when Atletico were relegated in 2000 their season ticket sales increased.
“That’s right,” says Calero. “When Madrid are playing badly, the Madrid fans don’t want to go and waste their time watching them.”
But what do the fans think of their neighbours? “We’re not too bothered about Atlético,” claims Fermin. “We hate Barcelona more. I might smile if Atlético lose, but not very much. They’re a bit pathetic. They are the inferior team so they are always looking at Real Madrid and hoping they lose. We don’t mind them but they hate us.”
Another Real fan concurs: “Atleti fans support two teams: Atlético and the team that is playing Real Madrid next week.”
Atleti fans don’t deny this obsession, as one season ticket holder at the Calderón told me: “Atlético fans are firstly AntiMadridistas, and then Atlético fans.” Although the stereotype of both sides’ fans paints different pictures, each club’s more vocal, hardcore support are remarkably similar. Both Madrid’s Ultra Sur and Atletico’s Frente Atleti share a Spanish nationalist and also fascist ideology, and are likely to have more problems politically with the anti-Spanish ultra groups of Athletic Bilbao’s Herri Norte and Barcelona’s Boixos Nois than with each other.
The next encounter
So what are the expectations for the teams’ encounter at the Bernabéu this month? Real are still gunning for the title and will be desperate to keep up the pace with Barcelona. If Cristiano Ronaldo is fit, expect him to raise his game for this one, while Xabi Alonso and Kaká will try to unlock a particularly shaky Atlético defence that made a catalogue of errors in the first derby of the season at the Calderón, which Real won 3-2. Atlético had a dreadful start to the season but new manager Quique Sánchez Flores has turned things around and led them to their first cup final in ten seasons. What’s more, on the back of beating the mighty Barcelona last month, they will be more confident than ever that they can put an end to their 11-year wait and defeat Madrid. If they are to do so, strikers Kun Agüero and Diego Forlán will need to be on top form. So what do the fans think is going to happen? Domingo doesn’t see Atleti winning, while his counterpart, typifying Madridismo, is predictably confident: “We’re going to beat them, like we always do”.

Three classic capital encounters
1991/92 Copa del Rey Final: Atlético Madrid 2-0 Real Madrid Atlético spoil Madrid’s homecoming
Atlético retained the cup with goals from Futre and Schuster and embarrassed Real by defeating them in their own backyard

1994/95 Real Madrid 4-2 Atlético Madrid Raul makes his debut and comes back to haunt his boyhood club
A 17-year-old Raúl, who was in Atletico’s youth system before they dismantled it to save money, made his full debut for Real with a bang, making two goals and scoring one himself

1996/97 Real Madrid 3-1 Atlético Madrid Madrid beat their rivals and take the title
Real went into the penultimate game against Atleti, league winners the season before, knowing that victory would make them league champions. Los Merengues duly delivered with goals from Raúl, Hierro and Mijatovic, prompting a party in the Bernabéu to rub salt into Atléti’s wounds.

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