Swarms of people dressed in white and blue jerseys flooded the Memorial Coliseum Saturday night for the LA Galaxy vs. Real Madrid exhibition soccer match. At first I thought the audience was cheering on the local soccer team. That is, until Real Madrid made the first goal and the crowd went wild. It was an easy mistake to make—both teams wear white and navy with a splash of gold—but eventually there was no denying that the audience mostly consisted of Real Madrid fans.
“That’s natural,” explained LA Galaxy’s David Beckham after the game, “The Real Madrid is one of the biggest clubs in the world. Fans come to see Kaka, Iker Casillas…” Beckham, who used to play for Real Madrid, seemed happy to see his former teammates, especially Real Madrid goalie Iker Casillas, who he hugged after the first half and continued to embrace as they walked off to the locker rooms. Personal bias aside, Beckham wasn’t kidding about Real Madrid being one of the biggest clubs in the world. It not only boasts one of the highest-paid soccer players, Cristiano Ronaldo, but it also consists of several of the 2010 World Cup champion Spanish players—Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, to name a few.
Real Madrid has been practicing at UCLA since last week, and has been attracting hoards of fans from all over hoping for a glimpse and an autograph from their favorite players. Many fans got to see the players up close and personal at an open practice on Thursday. The team practiced at UCLA last year as well thanks to coach Jose Mourinho, who has brought other teams he’s coached, the world-famous Chelsea, to train at the school before.
Mourinho isn’t the only one that who’s partial to Los Angeles, however. Cristiano Ronaldo, who made the team’s third goal within minutes of entering the game, explained that the team is “very happy to be training in L.A…the people here are very special.”
After the final score flickered on the scoreboard Saturday—Real Madrid 4, LA Galaxy 1—few of the 56, 211 fans in attendance went home disappointed. As for the winning team, they stayed here in Los Angeles. Afterall, they’ve got practice at UCLA until Friday.
Photograph by Helios de la Rubia