From Real to Atlético

Tom Pollock tells us how Atlético managed to win his heart even if it first belonged to someone else.

Atleti move into pole position in Group D

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.


  • Derek Maaijen

    It’s amazing how big an effect Fernando Torres had on the following of Atlético outside Spanish borders. Plenty of Atleticos I’ve met were drawn to the club because of El Niño.

    Tom, we’ll forgive you. It’s good to see you’ve opened your eyes, come to your senses and that you now support the right club 😉 I think the sentiments you describe at the end are some we all share

  • Veiko

    I also find Atleti attractive when i first saw Torres. Until then (2006) i was more of a Deportivo fan.
    But after Torres left, Atletico had already grown into me. I will never leave. AUPA !!!!

  • Croatia Atletista

    I also was first drawn towards Atletico because of El Niño at the time I was still a kid but I liked the passion I felt around the club and from its players and being from Split which is probably one of the most passionate places about football in the world I connected to the club easily.
    Also the underdog factor is something I love, Hajduk has always been considered less then Dinamo because Dinamo is from the Capitol Zagreb and we are from Split even tough we have a much richer history then them…I’m sidetracking.
    What I wanted to say is I have been a passionate fan of Atletico for 8 years now and I grown to a feeling that we the Colochero faithfull are a family because there has to be a lot of love and passion to stick with your club trough the rough times cause only then you deserve the good ones…Hajduk has been loosing the championship title to Dinamo 7 years in a row now and I still hardly miss any match.
    My dream is to one day come to Vicente Calderon and watch Atleti live…hopefully by then I will learn Spanish haha.
    Lets kick some Valencia ass tonight!!!
    VAMOS ATLETI from Split, Croatia

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  • Palestine-atleti

    I love atleti since the season the season they won the league and the cup 1997. Since that time number of big players are there starting with juninho, keko, hasselbank and the huge el Nino era that i really miss. Until names like maxi and simao. And the best striker in the world in my opinion is KUN AGUERO this talented player paired with FORLAN made me happy when i see them scoring goals…. And now new era with falcao, diego and arda and i am sure alot of amazing moment will come with these players. ATLETIIIIIII

  • rockefeller

    Sadly to say I first developed an interest in football watching Man Utd winning the treble in 1998/1999. I was a big fan of Yorke/Cole partnership.

    As I slowly ventured my interest into other leagues, I started noticing Atlético Madrid during the 2002-03 season when El Nino first made his breakthrough. I was amazed by the fact that the club was willing to give the captain armband to a kid. I can still briefly remember some of the players back then, Javi Moreno, Jose Mari, Jose Movilla etc. Even Fabricio Coloccini was in the team, was he?

    I remember during that season or next, Demetrio Albertini scored a freekick against Real. Anyone can clarify on that?

    From the place I am from (Malaysia), no one gives a rat ass for other football teams except the EPL big 4 and the Barca/Real bandwagoners. As sad as it might sound haha, sometimes I wish I could have someone to talk to about my passion towards Atlético, and I’m glad I have found this site.

  • @rockefeller
    where do you live?

  • oh never mind

  • Tackle_Hard

    A fine switch. Reverse of this is seldom seen or even heard for that matter.
    But, what we must hope for is those things which you mentioned remain the same. A bigger picture is what you get.

  • Ian

    Ah, another asian!! I’m from Indonesia myself where most are Real or Barca fans, and the sole TV Station that broadcasts La Liga match always made such a huge fuss about those two teams as if they are the only two teams in La Liga..

    I too was drawn to atleti by El Niño, I was a Man Utd fan at first, but switched to everton, and in spain was a valencia supporter at first..

    Went to Spain once in around 2006 I think with my mom and aunt, I wanted to see the Atleti – Barca match so bad that time but it wasn’t to be (we lost that one 6-1 if I recall correctly)

  • rockefeller

    @Randy German I live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to be exact.

    @Ian Great to meet a fellow South East Asian! It’s always a hard task to find Asian followers of Atlético.

  • Jr

    Before I was an Atleti fan, I didn’t even like soccer but the player that caught my eye was forlan in the world cup and that lead to atletico madrid, from then I’ve been hooked to the game of football and I try to watch every single atleti game. A real Atleti fan lives through the good times as well as the bad times of the team. Aupa Atleti!

  • Solari

    you wouldn’t believe this I know…but this was exactly my story with Atlético…………the only difference between me and you is that I’am from Algeria and you are from Australia…. 🙂

  • I started with Atléti recently, just after the World Cup 2010. It was Forlán at first, but later the club grew on me, and I think I belong with it. As a child I fancied Real Betis, but that quickly faded. And Neither Barca nor Real have ever been attractive to me. Atléti really is the deal and I’m proud of it!
    Oh and if it is of any importance, I do also follow Aston Villa…
    Aupa Atléti!

  • Ash

    I never find any passion and interests in those cash-smashing super fancy shining clubs. But I always find myself amazed by clubs who have glorious past and is trying hard to return to that status.
    My first love was Kasierslatuern in German, a club not only has an outstanding past record but also did the incredible in 1997/98.
    Then I learnt Atletico when I was playing the football manager game called CM0102. I found a talent boy called Fernando Torres from this club so I did a bit more research of this club and I was like, JESUS, this club was playing in championship league before and had players like Vieri!? How can such a uber club fall into 2nd league?
    I gradully developed a huge interest in Ateltico as a result of that and now I have been a proud fan of a decade:)

  • palc

    I went from Chelsea to Atletico. I was a huge fan of Chelseas from mid 90’s to 2005. Man I loved those classy players Chelsea had at that time. Zola, Vialli, Hasselbaink, Di Matteo, the list is long. But then this douchebag russian came and completely changed the squad and ultimately the club. Buying gloryunters and driving away the players who have been there for a while. The club dominated the Premier League, but in return, the club lost its soul. It was no fun in being a Chelsea fan no more.
    I found comfort in a team who was playing great football and had this talent called Torres. Watched a couple of games and then I was sold. Been a fan for 7-8 years now.

  • suad

    @Ian dari Indonesia?

  • palc

    I too, am Asian.

    palc= Paulino Alcantara. Look him up. 🙂

  • ali_

    back then, around 2002-2004 i really liked barca. mostly cos of their dutch players. overmars, cocu, kluivert, de bour and mendieta (hes not dutch i know). almost considered myself as a barca fan. on the summer of 2003, me and my grandma supposed to be go to barcelona, but ive got sick, so i couldnt go. my grandma came back with a lots of barca stuff, photos, cups, etc. she even was in the camp nou. she told me that it was amazing. as i said i really like them, but something was missing. dont know what, but i didnt feel THAT. im sure u know what im talkin about. then i saw this club with the red&white stripes and somehow i felt in love with our beloved club. also really liked torres. 🙂 also i think that the sickness on that summer was one of the best thing that ever happened to me, cos without that im sure i would be a fan of barca.

  • @Palc where do you live?

  • palc

    @ Randy

    Norway, unfortunately. 🙁

  • Sebyk

    For me it was also El Nino who brought me to Atlético 🙂 Can’t wait to see him back in red-and-white colours…

  • Tom Pollock

    Great to hear all of your stories Atléti has a surprisingly good worldwide following! If any of you are ever in Australia and Melbourne in particular, don’t be afraid to get in contact with me, would love to catch up!

  • rijikun

    This is a impressing article, I started watching football at Atletico, Kun made me like this. Even though he left, I am still staying in this attractive team.
    Atletico has world-wide fans including me in Korea.