This Saturday we’re going to see the first inner-city UEFA Champions League final when Real Madrid go head to head with Atletico Madrid in the Estadio da Luz, Lisbon.
The Bernabeu museum is aching to put the 10th UEFA Champions League trophy in its cabinet, and perhaps Balon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo and tactical mastermind Carlo Ancelotti will finally satiate everybody’s thirst.
Real Madrid has everything in their favor. Historically, they are the right-winged symbol of royalty in Spain – the team supported by the king, literally “real” meaning “royal” in Spanish, a name bestowed upon them. Their fanbase is greater outside of Madrid rather than inside of the city itself, and it is one of the most successful clubs in modern soccer. In the Spanish capital, their fanbase is stereotypically “pijo,” meaning high class, or posh.
Meanwhile, we’ve got their rivals Atletico Madrid, known as “Los Colchoneros,” meaning “Mattress makers” because their kits look like the bottom of a traditional Spanish mattress once you take the bed sheets off. The nickname says it all. Hardly resembling nobility, Atletico is the team of the Spanish working class. It was often said, “if you support Atletico, you enjoy suffering.”
Real Madrid have had some of the most talented teams in footballing history, not to mention a €515 million spending budget this season. Los Blancos are expected to go into the final with a star studded trio (Benzema, Bale, Ronaldo), while Ancelotti is entering his first Champions League final without A.C. Milan, his fourth overall.
Atletico Madrid have done the impossible this season. However, with both Arda Turan injured and Diego Costa doubtful for the starting eleven due to injury complications, Simeone will have a difficult time thinking of a plan B. His proven “día al día” (day by day) tactic may work in his favor since it proved to be successful for the 2014 La Liga title. A Champions League victory (the first for Atletico) would be icing on the cake for an extraordinary project by Diego Simeone. In his own words, “if we have a 1 in 100 chance, we are going to take it.”
The Underdog Complex is something shared not only by sports fans but is a part of the general human condition. Unless you’re a diehard Real Madrid fan, there would be something beautifully poetic about seeing the little guy run the show.
Spain is suffering a damaging economical crisis. And culturally speaking, soccer has always had a great influence on this specific society. Atletico Madrid, led by a man who transmits a Guardiola-like energy to his players, is a symbol of perseverance and unlikely triumph. Yet their neighboring alter ego Real Madrid is the big guy, with a big paycheck, first class players, and a fantastic coach – most definitely having the winning hand.