August in Madrid. The city swelters under the incandescent Spanish sun, the asphalt shimmers in the heat and visitors who are used to the incessant noise and bustle of the capital are surprised by the silence. There’s almost nobody here. Everybody who possibly can has legged it, mostly to the coast, leaving a skeleton crew in the metropolis of emergency workers, interns and… professional footballers.
All of which goes some way to explaining why the Santiago Bernabéu stadium recorded the lowest attendance in 10 years for a LaLiga fixture yesterday, with only 48,446 fans turning out to watch Real Madrid beat Getafe 2-0 in their opening fixture of the 2018/19 season. That's a shade under 60% of the 81,044 capacity.
You have to go back to 24 May 2009 to find a lower crowd for a LaLiga game - with just 44,270 fans turning out then for a match against Mallorca - but back then Barcelona had already been declared champions and Madrid had nothing to play for. Right now there’s a whole season ahead and all the silverware to dream of, but the fact remains there just aren’t that many people actually in the city to go to the football.
How late it kicked off, how late
Still, to have less than 50,000 fans at a Real Madrid home match is a markedly low number, and well below the 61,739 who turned up for Real Madrid’s opening home game last year (against Valencia, 2-2, on 27 August 2017). The nature of the opposition was likely also potentially a factor in the low turnout - with all apologies to Getafe, they are yet to be seen as one of the major draws of Spanish top flight football. And of course there was the time the match kicked-off. 10:15pm no less. While Spaniards love to stay up late, and even more so in the summer holidays, many parents must have balked at the thought of taking young fans to a match, knowing they wouldn’t get to bed till likely after 1 in the morning.
The lack of Ronaldo...?
Some have linked the low attendance to the fact that Ronaldo is no longer a Real Madrid player, and certainly there’s a possibility that for visiting tourists the fact they wouldn’t see the Portuguese star might have seen them less tempted to shell out the usually eye-watering prices Madrid demand for the on-the-day tickets. But the reality is that Ronaldo or No-Ronaldo the Bernabéu will be back to decent crowds soon enough. Just as soon as all the native Madrileños trundle back up from the coast.