Cities

Away days: 24 hours in Madrid

Champions Journalist winner Carla Fernández Ariño played host to our Atleti adventure

WORDS Dan Poole | PHOTOGRAPHY Jacobo Medrano & Getty Images

I’ve just asked Carla what her favourite chant is when she’s at an Atleti game. “The one that goes ‘Ale, ale, ale,’” she says. How does the rest of it go? She pauses. In early evening sunlight, kids shouting giddily in a nearby park, we’re sat at a table outside the bar where she and her fellow Atlético Madrid fans congregate before a match. One of them is her mother. “Mum!” shouts Carla. Mum comes over. Carla asks her to remind her how that song starts – and within seconds, they’re duetting. “Los años han pasado y el Frentesigue igual, honrando tus colores por toda la ciudad…”

Carla Fernández Ariño, 23, is one of the winners in our Champions Journalist competition, for which we asked fans of every club in the group stage of this year’s Champions League to write an article describing their matchday experience. The prize for each successful entrant is tickets to every home game that their team plays in the knockout stage. We were so taken with Carla’s effort – which, if you haven’t already, you can read on page 18 – that we headed over to join her for Atleti’s round of 16 game: just the small matter of the reigning European champions by way of opposition.

Earlier that day I checked into my hotel, the Casual del Teatro. The theme is theatrical: every room is decorated in the style of a musical or play. I have the pleasure of Liza Minnelli’s company – in mural form. There’s also a black feather boa draped around the neck of a mannequin bust (yes, of course I tried it on) and a bowler hat hanging from a coat hook. But what good is sitting alone in your room? It’s time to go and hear the music play.

It’s early afternoon but the city is already bubbling like a delicate frizzante, the promise of a set-to at the Metropolitano beginning to stir the imagination. Carla has recommended a few areas I should explore, which means I’m soon strolling through a barrio known as Sol. I happen upon the Mercado de San Miguel, a handsome covered market where purveyors of fine food and delectable drinks gather to hawk their wares. In my excitement I grab the first thing I see: a burger in a bao. It’s an unexpected but not unpleasant combination, which I marry with a cheeky cerveza. When in Madrid…

Onwards to La Latina, all twisting alleyways and tempting tapas. Carla will later tell me, “If you go to La Latina around 9pm, the vibe…I don’t know, it’s one of those places you can go and just feel a pureness in the air.” Sounds amazing. Unfortunately, I’ve turned up at 4pm, when pretty much every venue has its shutters down and siestas in mind. I do manage to enjoy some jamón and manchego at La Perejila before it closes, in time to see a pair of Liverpool fans grabbing a souvenir selfie with a pair of Atleti fans at the bar.

There are plenty more Merseysiders on the Plaza Mayor, where Liver birds significantly outnumber the pigeons. Footballs are being launched into the air at regular intervals as songs and shouts ring out; King Philip III, overlooking proceedings from the centre of the square, looks bemused atop his bronze stead.

In among the throng I meet Chris Penketh; he’s 32 and lives on the Wirral. “It’s brilliant to be back,” he says. “This is my third time: I came to watch us play Real Madrid in 2009, when Yossi Benayoun scored to make it 1-0, and I was here for the final last season. I’m looking forward to going back to the stadium – it’s lovely.”

Which reminds me that I need to get to Aluche: that’s the neighbourhood where I’m meeting Carla in advance of going to the ground. I hop in a taxi and ask for a bar called Veinti 7, where she meets up with the rest of her supporters’ club, otherwise known as a peña. Populated by young and old, it provides an opportunity for fellow fans to socialise and, more practically, share the cost of hiring coaches to get to the Metropolitano, which is some way from the city centre.

“I’ve been a member for three years now,” says Carla. “Among thousands of fans, these are the ones I know. The older members sit on the bus and tell you their stories of when they were young. While it’s not a family, it’s the closest thing you’re going to get to it inside a club.”

Well, it’s not a family apart from Carla’s mum Ana, of course. It’s from her that Carla got her love of Atlético while they both still lived in England; they moved to Madrid together when Carla was 13. “When Atleti won the league in 1996, she actually came back to watch the last match of the season – while pregnant with me,” says Carla. “She felt ill that night but she still went out to celebrate. Mad.”

The Atleti lineage goes back further. “My great grandpa lived through the civil war and then came to Madrid; he’d take my grandma to the old Metropolitano, the stadium before the Vicente Calderón,” says Carla.“ Then my grandpa started taking my uncle and mum to Atlético matches.”

“A DECADE AGO, NO ONE WANTED TO SUPPORT ATLÉTICO MADRID. SO EVERYONE WHO DOES SUPPORT THEM, THERE'S JUST THAT LITTLE BIT EXTRA."
Carla Fernández Ariño

Grandma Pili is here tonight, in fact. She tells me (via Carla) that she attended her first game when she was six – against Athletic Bilbao in 1953. What about Carla’s first match? “It was on Mother’s Day, with my mum, in the pouring rain. It was against Málaga in 2012, 2-1. It was the best experience ever. I got home and I was so drenched.”

It’s time to board the coach, announces the peña’s president, a jovial, bearded beast of a man in red and white (Santa Cruz meets Santa Claus?). It’s quiet on board; nerves have quelled previously restless tongues. It’s approaching kick-off when we reach the stadium, so we’re just in time to hear that Tony Britten number as we climb the concrete steps.

A match report would be a little redundant at this stage but, considering the fans here were so reluctant to leave Vicente behind three years ago, it’s worth mentioning the noise and colour they generate in their new stadium in the process of beating Liverpool 1-0. Scarves twirl, chants cascade down from all sides and there’s Diego Simeone, rarely anywhere near his technical area, conducting it all. Jürgen Klopp, hands clasped behind his back for most of the game, cuts a lonely figure.

On the coach home, the passengers are quiet again – but it’s a quiet satisfaction this time. The one departure from serenity comes as we pass what’s left of the Calderón, when everyone indulges in their traditional round of applause for an old friend.

“A decade ago, no one wanted to support Atlético Madrid,” says Carla. “It was a team fighting relegation. So everyone who does support them, there’s just that little bit extra.” And what of the city itself, home to her and mamá for ten years, home of her beloved club? “I absolutely love it. I’ve been to New York, I’ve been to Paris, I’ve been to these amazing cities but the life that Madrid has, honestly, it’s incredible.”

Off the coach, back in Aluche, Carla and her mum each give me a hug as we prepare to go our separate ways. “Your daughter’s been brilliant,” I say over Ana’s shoulder, mid-embrace. “My daughter is brilliant,” she corrects me, smiling, as they link arms and walk off into the Madrid night. Ale, ale, ale…

Carla's Champions Journalists articles:
Read more: Atético Madrid v Liverpool
Read more: ‘The kind of magic that only occurs in the rain’

Address Book

I’ve just asked Carla what her favourite chant is when she’s at an Atleti game. “The one that goes ‘Ale, ale, ale,’” she says. How does the rest of it go? She pauses. In early evening sunlight, kids shouting giddily in a nearby park, we’re sat at a table outside the bar where she and her fellow Atlético Madrid fans congregate before a match. One of them is her mother. “Mum!” shouts Carla. Mum comes over. Carla asks her to remind her how that song starts – and within seconds, they’re duetting. “Los años han pasado y el Frentesigue igual, honrando tus colores por toda la ciudad…”

Carla Fernández Ariño, 23, is one of the winners in our Champions Journalist competition, for which we asked fans of every club in the group stage of this year’s Champions League to write an article describing their matchday experience. The prize for each successful entrant is tickets to every home game that their team plays in the knockout stage. We were so taken with Carla’s effort – which, if you haven’t already, you can read on page 18 – that we headed over to join her for Atleti’s round of 16 game: just the small matter of the reigning European champions by way of opposition.

Earlier that day I checked into my hotel, the Casual del Teatro. The theme is theatrical: every room is decorated in the style of a musical or play. I have the pleasure of Liza Minnelli’s company – in mural form. There’s also a black feather boa draped around the neck of a mannequin bust (yes, of course I tried it on) and a bowler hat hanging from a coat hook. But what good is sitting alone in your room? It’s time to go and hear the music play.

It’s early afternoon but the city is already bubbling like a delicate frizzante, the promise of a set-to at the Metropolitano beginning to stir the imagination. Carla has recommended a few areas I should explore, which means I’m soon strolling through a barrio known as Sol. I happen upon the Mercado de San Miguel, a handsome covered market where purveyors of fine food and delectable drinks gather to hawk their wares. In my excitement I grab the first thing I see: a burger in a bao. It’s an unexpected but not unpleasant combination, which I marry with a cheeky cerveza. When in Madrid…

Onwards to La Latina, all twisting alleyways and tempting tapas. Carla will later tell me, “If you go to La Latina around 9pm, the vibe…I don’t know, it’s one of those places you can go and just feel a pureness in the air.” Sounds amazing. Unfortunately, I’ve turned up at 4pm, when pretty much every venue has its shutters down and siestas in mind. I do manage to enjoy some jamón and manchego at La Perejila before it closes, in time to see a pair of Liverpool fans grabbing a souvenir selfie with a pair of Atleti fans at the bar.

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There are plenty more Merseysiders on the Plaza Mayor, where Liver birds significantly outnumber the pigeons. Footballs are being launched into the air at regular intervals as songs and shouts ring out; King Philip III, overlooking proceedings from the centre of the square, looks bemused atop his bronze stead.

In among the throng I meet Chris Penketh; he’s 32 and lives on the Wirral. “It’s brilliant to be back,” he says. “This is my third time: I came to watch us play Real Madrid in 2009, when Yossi Benayoun scored to make it 1-0, and I was here for the final last season. I’m looking forward to going back to the stadium – it’s lovely.”

Which reminds me that I need to get to Aluche: that’s the neighbourhood where I’m meeting Carla in advance of going to the ground. I hop in a taxi and ask for a bar called Veinti 7, where she meets up with the rest of her supporters’ club, otherwise known as a peña. Populated by young and old, it provides an opportunity for fellow fans to socialise and, more practically, share the cost of hiring coaches to get to the Metropolitano, which is some way from the city centre.

“I’ve been a member for three years now,” says Carla. “Among thousands of fans, these are the ones I know. The older members sit on the bus and tell you their stories of when they were young. While it’s not a family, it’s the closest thing you’re going to get to it inside a club.”

Well, it’s not a family apart from Carla’s mum Ana, of course. It’s from her that Carla got her love of Atlético while they both still lived in England; they moved to Madrid together when Carla was 13. “When Atleti won the league in 1996, she actually came back to watch the last match of the season – while pregnant with me,” says Carla. “She felt ill that night but she still went out to celebrate. Mad.”

The Atleti lineage goes back further. “My great grandpa lived through the civil war and then came to Madrid; he’d take my grandma to the old Metropolitano, the stadium before the Vicente Calderón,” says Carla.“ Then my grandpa started taking my uncle and mum to Atlético matches.”

“A DECADE AGO, NO ONE WANTED TO SUPPORT ATLÉTICO MADRID. SO EVERYONE WHO DOES SUPPORT THEM, THERE'S JUST THAT LITTLE BIT EXTRA."
Carla Fernández Ariño

Grandma Pili is here tonight, in fact. She tells me (via Carla) that she attended her first game when she was six – against Athletic Bilbao in 1953. What about Carla’s first match? “It was on Mother’s Day, with my mum, in the pouring rain. It was against Málaga in 2012, 2-1. It was the best experience ever. I got home and I was so drenched.”

It’s time to board the coach, announces the peña’s president, a jovial, bearded beast of a man in red and white (Santa Cruz meets Santa Claus?). It’s quiet on board; nerves have quelled previously restless tongues. It’s approaching kick-off when we reach the stadium, so we’re just in time to hear that Tony Britten number as we climb the concrete steps.

A match report would be a little redundant at this stage but, considering the fans here were so reluctant to leave Vicente behind three years ago, it’s worth mentioning the noise and colour they generate in their new stadium in the process of beating Liverpool 1-0. Scarves twirl, chants cascade down from all sides and there’s Diego Simeone, rarely anywhere near his technical area, conducting it all. Jürgen Klopp, hands clasped behind his back for most of the game, cuts a lonely figure.

On the coach home, the passengers are quiet again – but it’s a quiet satisfaction this time. The one departure from serenity comes as we pass what’s left of the Calderón, when everyone indulges in their traditional round of applause for an old friend.

“A decade ago, no one wanted to support Atlético Madrid,” says Carla. “It was a team fighting relegation. So everyone who does support them, there’s just that little bit extra.” And what of the city itself, home to her and mamá for ten years, home of her beloved club? “I absolutely love it. I’ve been to New York, I’ve been to Paris, I’ve been to these amazing cities but the life that Madrid has, honestly, it’s incredible.”

Off the coach, back in Aluche, Carla and her mum each give me a hug as we prepare to go our separate ways. “Your daughter’s been brilliant,” I say over Ana’s shoulder, mid-embrace. “My daughter is brilliant,” she corrects me, smiling, as they link arms and walk off into the Madrid night. Ale, ale, ale…

Carla's Champions Journalists articles:
Read more: Atético Madrid v Liverpool
Read more: ‘The kind of magic that only occurs in the rain’

Address Book

I’ve just asked Carla what her favourite chant is when she’s at an Atleti game. “The one that goes ‘Ale, ale, ale,’” she says. How does the rest of it go? She pauses. In early evening sunlight, kids shouting giddily in a nearby park, we’re sat at a table outside the bar where she and her fellow Atlético Madrid fans congregate before a match. One of them is her mother. “Mum!” shouts Carla. Mum comes over. Carla asks her to remind her how that song starts – and within seconds, they’re duetting. “Los años han pasado y el Frentesigue igual, honrando tus colores por toda la ciudad…”

Carla Fernández Ariño, 23, is one of the winners in our Champions Journalist competition, for which we asked fans of every club in the group stage of this year’s Champions League to write an article describing their matchday experience. The prize for each successful entrant is tickets to every home game that their team plays in the knockout stage. We were so taken with Carla’s effort – which, if you haven’t already, you can read on page 18 – that we headed over to join her for Atleti’s round of 16 game: just the small matter of the reigning European champions by way of opposition.

Earlier that day I checked into my hotel, the Casual del Teatro. The theme is theatrical: every room is decorated in the style of a musical or play. I have the pleasure of Liza Minnelli’s company – in mural form. There’s also a black feather boa draped around the neck of a mannequin bust (yes, of course I tried it on) and a bowler hat hanging from a coat hook. But what good is sitting alone in your room? It’s time to go and hear the music play.

It’s early afternoon but the city is already bubbling like a delicate frizzante, the promise of a set-to at the Metropolitano beginning to stir the imagination. Carla has recommended a few areas I should explore, which means I’m soon strolling through a barrio known as Sol. I happen upon the Mercado de San Miguel, a handsome covered market where purveyors of fine food and delectable drinks gather to hawk their wares. In my excitement I grab the first thing I see: a burger in a bao. It’s an unexpected but not unpleasant combination, which I marry with a cheeky cerveza. When in Madrid…

Onwards to La Latina, all twisting alleyways and tempting tapas. Carla will later tell me, “If you go to La Latina around 9pm, the vibe…I don’t know, it’s one of those places you can go and just feel a pureness in the air.” Sounds amazing. Unfortunately, I’ve turned up at 4pm, when pretty much every venue has its shutters down and siestas in mind. I do manage to enjoy some jamón and manchego at La Perejila before it closes, in time to see a pair of Liverpool fans grabbing a souvenir selfie with a pair of Atleti fans at the bar.

There are plenty more Merseysiders on the Plaza Mayor, where Liver birds significantly outnumber the pigeons. Footballs are being launched into the air at regular intervals as songs and shouts ring out; King Philip III, overlooking proceedings from the centre of the square, looks bemused atop his bronze stead.

In among the throng I meet Chris Penketh; he’s 32 and lives on the Wirral. “It’s brilliant to be back,” he says. “This is my third time: I came to watch us play Real Madrid in 2009, when Yossi Benayoun scored to make it 1-0, and I was here for the final last season. I’m looking forward to going back to the stadium – it’s lovely.”

Which reminds me that I need to get to Aluche: that’s the neighbourhood where I’m meeting Carla in advance of going to the ground. I hop in a taxi and ask for a bar called Veinti 7, where she meets up with the rest of her supporters’ club, otherwise known as a peña. Populated by young and old, it provides an opportunity for fellow fans to socialise and, more practically, share the cost of hiring coaches to get to the Metropolitano, which is some way from the city centre.

“I’ve been a member for three years now,” says Carla. “Among thousands of fans, these are the ones I know. The older members sit on the bus and tell you their stories of when they were young. While it’s not a family, it’s the closest thing you’re going to get to it inside a club.”

Well, it’s not a family apart from Carla’s mum Ana, of course. It’s from her that Carla got her love of Atlético while they both still lived in England; they moved to Madrid together when Carla was 13. “When Atleti won the league in 1996, she actually came back to watch the last match of the season – while pregnant with me,” says Carla. “She felt ill that night but she still went out to celebrate. Mad.”

The Atleti lineage goes back further. “My great grandpa lived through the civil war and then came to Madrid; he’d take my grandma to the old Metropolitano, the stadium before the Vicente Calderón,” says Carla.“ Then my grandpa started taking my uncle and mum to Atlético matches.”

“A DECADE AGO, NO ONE WANTED TO SUPPORT ATLÉTICO MADRID. SO EVERYONE WHO DOES SUPPORT THEM, THERE'S JUST THAT LITTLE BIT EXTRA."
Carla Fernández Ariño

Grandma Pili is here tonight, in fact. She tells me (via Carla) that she attended her first game when she was six – against Athletic Bilbao in 1953. What about Carla’s first match? “It was on Mother’s Day, with my mum, in the pouring rain. It was against Málaga in 2012, 2-1. It was the best experience ever. I got home and I was so drenched.”

It’s time to board the coach, announces the peña’s president, a jovial, bearded beast of a man in red and white (Santa Cruz meets Santa Claus?). It’s quiet on board; nerves have quelled previously restless tongues. It’s approaching kick-off when we reach the stadium, so we’re just in time to hear that Tony Britten number as we climb the concrete steps.

A match report would be a little redundant at this stage but, considering the fans here were so reluctant to leave Vicente behind three years ago, it’s worth mentioning the noise and colour they generate in their new stadium in the process of beating Liverpool 1-0. Scarves twirl, chants cascade down from all sides and there’s Diego Simeone, rarely anywhere near his technical area, conducting it all. Jürgen Klopp, hands clasped behind his back for most of the game, cuts a lonely figure.

On the coach home, the passengers are quiet again – but it’s a quiet satisfaction this time. The one departure from serenity comes as we pass what’s left of the Calderón, when everyone indulges in their traditional round of applause for an old friend.

“A decade ago, no one wanted to support Atlético Madrid,” says Carla. “It was a team fighting relegation. So everyone who does support them, there’s just that little bit extra.” And what of the city itself, home to her and mamá for ten years, home of her beloved club? “I absolutely love it. I’ve been to New York, I’ve been to Paris, I’ve been to these amazing cities but the life that Madrid has, honestly, it’s incredible.”

Off the coach, back in Aluche, Carla and her mum each give me a hug as we prepare to go our separate ways. “Your daughter’s been brilliant,” I say over Ana’s shoulder, mid-embrace. “My daughter is brilliant,” she corrects me, smiling, as they link arms and walk off into the Madrid night. Ale, ale, ale…

Carla's Champions Journalists articles:
Read more: Atético Madrid v Liverpool
Read more: ‘The kind of magic that only occurs in the rain’

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