One of our long-time members, Eklavya, was lucky enough to attend the friendly between Spain and Chile yesterday, and was generous enough to write up his experience for us! Take it away, Ek:
I was on holiday in New York when I saw a tweet from @barcastuff mentioning this friendly match taking place in Geneva, Switzerland. Matches of this caliber don’t take place here often since the maximum capacity of the stadium is only 30 000. As soon as I saw the tweet, I called my buddies, made up my plans and bought tickets to this match for the really cheap price of 44.- CHF per ticket (approximately €35 and $47).
We arrived at the stadium right in time to see the teams warming up and playing a few rounds of rondos. With the exception of Sanchez, no Chile player got much applause from the crowd when their names were being announced. As you might expect, most of the Spanish players got the full applause, with Iniesta, Ramos and Villa getting the loudest cheers in that order. It seemed many people had never heard of Mario Suarez, Monreal, Javi Garcia, and so were left scratching their heads.
As I noticed the last time I went to a stadium, the bright green pitch looks smaller in reality than on TV, which I guess is due to the height and optics of the cameras.
I had tickets for the corner sector in the north stands, but our seats turned out to be way lower than I had imagined. Although you could see the some players closely, the gridded metal fence was chopping part of our view into perfect cubes. The good thing was that Spain’s bright red and Chile’s white jerseys really stood out well on the pitch.
After seeing Valdes and Sergio Ramos high-five and hug, we were treated to a first class view of the Chile’s first goal at only the 5th minute. The thing about watching matches live is that without the visual help of replays from all angles, you (or at least I) forget the overall play pretty quickly. Instead you’re left with the post-goal impact and a vivid atmosphere, which gets accentuated a tiny bit more as you take a big sip from your beer to celebrate.
Much to our dismay, the stadium had plenty of spare seats remaining even after the kickoff, and I felt our (relatively) small town wasn’t doing justice to this team despite being generally very knowledgeable about football matters. They later announced that the crowd was made up of a meager 15000 supporters, exactly half of the stadium’s capacity, and half of the crowd that had turned up for the Argentina-Portugal match a few years ago.
After Chile’s goal we decided to try our luck at moving towards the middle sector. As the prices vary from sector to sector, changing seats isn’t “legal” strictly speaking, but after sneaking out and exchanging a few smooth words with the security guard, we found ourselves sitting in the much more comfy and padded seats of the VIP section. For the record, the guy in front of us was holding a 134.- CHF ($143/ €108) ticket. However, the atmosphere in this sector was noticeably more subdued and many more expensive clothes were visible, but I digress.
Coming back to the actual match, which we had sort of forgotten in our excitement, we could now see the whole field perfectly well, as well as make out the formations and the players.
The most noticeable feature on the whole pitch was easily Santi Cazorla’s ridiculously small height, even as compared to the low average of Spain’s team. Alexis, pretty short as well, did not give the same impression at all due to his noticeable strength. Combined with his speed and work rate, he looked like a bull willing to take on anyone. Pedro, who is around the same height and capable of matching Sanchez’s work ethic, did not make an noticeable impression on me, although he did have a good game, providing assists for both goals.
Similarly, Xavi and Fabregas, both starters and stars, didn’t strike me in any particular way (as disappointing as that can sound). On the other hand, Don Andres Iniesta, who came on in the second half for Xavi, was clearly on a higher level than the rest. Despite not having any “magic” moments, he still
moved glided on the pitch in way that made the pitch glow brighter and better (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating ).
Negredo, taller than most others, was pretty craptastic in his passes and decision making when he came on late in second half. Koke showed some (surprisingly) good technical abilities and maturity in one particular (somewhat) sticky situation.
Overall, Spain were not exactly impressive that day, and were lucky to get a game-tying goal in the last minute. Also, the Chile fans were louder than the rest of the stadium combined.
Highlight of the day:
At half time we decided to go up as close to the pitch as possible and try to get Iniesta’s attention as he was warming up, but he ignored our cries for 10 whole minutes, returned to the bench to remove his training kit and put on his red jersey. Not giving up yet, the small crowd of fans that had gathered up there (mostly consisting of small kids and their parents) jumped up the small chain barrier and ran up to the seats closest to the bench that had apparently been closed off for security reasons. Iniesta, apparently having heard our shouts, came out and threw his light blue training kit at us which I missed by a few only inches.
Next thing we knew, all the players were coming out of the tunnel again and the security guys were all over us. Despite the chaos, Casillas came up as close as possible you can get to a crowd of crazy fans and signed a few shirts while mumbling something in Spanish. You can imagine the craziness that ensued when Pepe Reina and Villa came out a few moments later and sat on the bench, right next to where we were congregating. Reina gave us a somewhat warm nod and thumbs up, whereas Villa, who has a full badass black beard, gave us his eyebrows-raised-cold-stare-of-death that he’s known for (that’s just how he is). At this point the security had enough and started booting everyone out, but I couldn’t be bothered: I had just seen three major stars from as close as possible you can be.
So, that sums up my interesting evening. On a final note dedicated to all the ladies on my twitter timeline who might wonder at times: when the match ends and players take off their shirts you can make out the lines of their abs from the stands pretty well.
What, no pic of that??? Thanks very much anyway, Ek! We always appreciate game reports from members of the family!