There’s a premiere on tonight. And with this I’m not talking about a premiere of a performance, which happens in football every day, because no match is exactly the same as another and they can’t be repeated over successive days as they do with films and theatre. This is the opening night of a stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano, one that succeeds the much lamented Calderón, where a generation of Atleti fans have lived through their unique emotions. The memories will remain there, especially those of the first experience when you were led by the hand of your father, many of whom are no longer with us. And the goals, the scares, the joys, the upsets ... That all stays there, on a bend of the river. “An empty stadium is a skeleton of the crowd,” said writer and poet Mario Benedetti. That is now the Calderon.
The Atlético miracles of Simeone and Cerezo
This has made some of them sad, of course, but Atlético are going to a better stadium. For a few it’s further away, for others it’s closer, but without doubt it’s better. And the timing of the move finds the club in a great place. At the end of last season it was named the second best in the UEFA rankings, just behind Madrid, and ahead of Barça, Bayern, the Manchester teams and everyone else. The Simeone miracle, many have said, and it is. The Cerezo-Gil miracle is this stadium, and more, to have Simeone remain as well as their great players who have received incredible offers. All this has meant that they have sold as many season tickets as were up for sale and they now have a waiting list.
A touch of Real spice for Wanda debut
So today is a happy day. For those going to the game, go early. And better by public transport. First times are difficult. Nobody knows how to get there, where to move to. And the motorway exits of the M-40 are not yet ready. That will take time. First times are difficult. Unforeseen bumps appear. But Atlético is taking a leap into the future and the occasion is so symbolic that the Spain’s King Felipe VI will attend, who on his first visit to the Calderón, while still a boy, confessed to being an Atleti fan. Downstairs will be Simeone, with five from the academy in his team. Facing them, Míchel’s Malaga, so in a way there will be a bit of Real Madrid there. A bit of added spice for a special night.