I’ll admit it. When I first developed an interest in football back in 2002 as a 10-year-old, I considered myself to be a Real Madrid fan.
Even saying that now makes me cringe, however, back then I had little knowledge of the game and was drawn to the team with all the stars. Ronaldo was banging in the goals along with Raul, Figo was bombing up and down the wings and Zidane was well, Zidane. I couldn’t resist.
Over the last decade, as my knowledge and understanding of football developed I began to find supporting Real hard. I didn’t like the arrogant vibe the club projects and the way they threw money at players. I began to look at the rest of the league, waiting to see which other team might catch my eye.
Might it have been Barcelona? With their skillful players and great method of play. Or perhaps Valencia? Who at the time, had the ‘David-duo’ of Villa and Silva making a name for themselves.
No, there was one club that I was drawn to, and surprisingly (or not) it was Real Madrid’s city rivals, Atlético.
It was around 2005/06 when a young striker by the name of Fernando Torres was starting to hit the headlines for his goal-scoring ability. Watching him at the German World Cup in ’06 was the deal-breaker. If Atlético can produce players like this, they must be alright, right?
I began to follow the club more closely and enjoyed watching the likes of Simao, Maxi Rodríguez on the wings and Torres up front. More recently, it’s been Diego Forlan and Kun Aguero. Of the current crop of players, obviously Falcao is exciting and unstoppable when on form, as is Diego Ribas in the midfield.
Obviously, Atlético suffers from off-field issues and has for some time. Initially I wasn’t aware of this and still, I struggle to understand everything that has been happening. It has been a frustrating period for Rojiblancos fans, especially those accustomed to the glory days of yesteryear.
Being Australian, it’s in my genes to love a good underdog story, and that’s exactly what Atlético provides. Everyone knows Real is a bigger, more successful club with more fans, resources and financial power. Of course Real is going to challenge for the league while the best Atlético can aim for is third spot.
It doesn’t bother me.
Real has a very large number of glory-hunting fans who only really follow the club because they’re always challenging for the league and cup titles. As I admitted at the start of the article, I was one of them at one point. That soon changed.
It began to frustrate me, not all the fans were in it for the right reason, would they all stick around if Real started to struggle? Probably not. That’s why Atlético drew me in and now has me for good. Atlético gives me the feeling of being in a family, rather than playing a part in a large commercial product.
I’ve met some great people on the internet who support Atléti and I was privileged enough to be able to meet some of them when I was in Madrid late last year. Part of me thinks that this wouldn’t have been the case had I stuck with Real.
I still believe that one day I’ll see los Colchoneros sitting a top the La Liga table and when all the bandwagoners come, I can proudly say I’ve stuck by the club through thick and thin.