Would you like to take a holiday in Madrid with your girlfriend/wife/lover or your better half who doesn’t like football as much as you? You could play the “alternative” daily trip card.
Darling, I would like to visit the Spanish National Team’s Football Museum. It seems that it’s located in nice and characteristic village…”
After a 40-minute train journey you arrive in Las Rozas de Madrid. A small and seemingly abandoned railway station, without ticket office and bar, located in the midst of a bald landscape, neither urban or rural. The only member of the local “reception committee” was a homeless playing guitar in front of an audience, That didn’t exist. Not a very conforting approach. Furthermore the lack of road signs didn’t help tourists to familiarize themselves with this new place.
Walking towards “Ciudad del Fútbol”, we realize that Las Rozas is a “normal” dormitory town for middle class families working in Madrid but that they prefer to live in a more quiet place. There Spanish Football Federation (Real Federación Española de Fútbol) built its headquarters, it includes a sports complex and the Spanish national team’s football museum inaugurated in 2011 that occupies 1200 square meters.
Our expectations are directly proportional to “The Red Fury” triumphs in the last eight years: in other words. So high.
Before paying our museum tickets (6 euros, more than a fair price) we were impressed by “Puerta de Fútbol” (Football door) – a fine Art Nouveau artwork dating back to the first years of the 20th century – and by a bronze bust of Luis Aragonés.
Everyone remembers the so-called “Sabio de Hortaleza” (wise man from Hortaleza) who was an Atlético Madrid legendary player in the 60’s and in the 70’s, because he introduced Tiki-taka playing style in Spanish national football team and because he won Euro 2008.
The figure of former national team coach, who passed away in 2014, is a constant presence in Las Rozas: from place names to the walls of building.
In practice we have just stepped on the cement of Plaza Luis Aragonés, a grouch manager who didn’t like wearing suits, who didn’t glamour media with rhetorical speeches, but who has left a certain legacy as human being (of course excluding Aragonés’ racist comments in 2004).
Our museum tour begins with an interesting trip to the origins of this wonderful Game, divided summarilly into two parts: modern and ancient history. The first one is an imaginary journey through time and space from Asia in 2000 b.C to Jesuit reductions created during the 17th and 18th century in South America until calcio fiorentino in medieval times.
The second one coincides with the codification of association football rules in England in the second half of 19th century.
The following section is dedicated to the organization of Copa del Rey first editions (Primera División has been created only in 1929) and to Royal Spanish Football Federation foundation, which took place in 1913. Then we move on to national side debut at 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp where “The Red Fury” won the silver medal. Considering the context of this result, it was something memorable, because it was achieved in the era pre-World Cup. It’s not accident that Uruguay the two gold medals conquered in 1924 and in 1928 as the two world titles won in 1930 and 1950 adorning their jerseys with four stars.
Going up to the first floor the curators of the museum pointed out the importance of FIFA congress that took place in Barcelona in 1929. It assigned the first World Cup to Uruguay. Paradoxically Spain didn’t take part in the first edition but this country played an important role in the following one. Celebrating Ricardo Zamora, a key figure in Spanish football history, we focused on the bitter memory of 1934 World Cup quarter-finals. A double match between Italy and Spain held at “Stadio Comunale Giovanni Berta”, later renamed after UEFA president Artemio Franchi. The first game ended in a 1-1 draw and it has made history due to irregular equaliser scored by Italian midfielder Giovanni Ferrari and to the rough play by some home players. The legendary Catalan goalkeeper didn’t take the field in the replay.
According to “official” sources Zamora was injured, according to some others Fascist regime pushed Ricardo not to play. According to the most plausible interpretation the Spaniard refused to take the field in order to protest against injustices he suffered.
If in doubt, the replay match wasn’t no less regarding competitiveness and controversial referees’ decisions. Thanks to a 1-0 win Italy reached World Cup semi-finals writing one of the most questionable chapters of their history.
Going on with our tour, Spain lifted his first major international trophy winning “at home” the second edition of European championships in 1964: a triumph celebrated properly but not excessively, while the curators of the museum dedicate to “treble” Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 a room all by themselves. We have a very little to add about one of the best teams of all, able to win thanks to a clear football philosophy and a style that has become a textbook case. Admiring from up close the replicas of these three trophies, side by side, make our eyes still young.
Generally speaking, memorabilia, mementos and gadgets exhibition is rich and varied, thanks also to well-known Spanish collector Pablo Ornaque, in addition to an intelligent and exciting staging for both children and adults. Alongside jerseys, boots or anything else related with football games you can find also anedoctes, trivia, notes about Spanish way of life that magnify the importance of football in the social context of the coutry without overlooking the legacy of some events, like 1982 World Cup or 1992 Olympic Games (in Barcelona they won the gold medal in football).
Furthermore this museum gives value to youth and women football, but also to other variants of the game like five-a-side football, beach soccer and even futbolín, a Spanish version of table soccer. A full and complete overview of home movement.
After almost two hours we return to the ground floor. There we can see, among other things, the homage to mourned Antonio Puerta and Dani Jarque and we can visit the little museum shop. In addition to habitual and expensive mechandise, refrigerator magnets and books are not included, but should have been.
We leave satisfied “the City of football”. If we would want to look for dog’s horns, it’s a fact that Spanish Civil War and Franco‘s dictatorship had a deep impact on country’s life, also on football. The systematic exclusion of politics from museum exhibition is a right and controversial choice.
The trip back to Madrid is bittersweet, between satisfaction and melancholy. Poetic justice implies a whole afternoon to spend in a shopping center. No harm done, holding clumsily girl’s clothes outside a dressing room, we’ll remember Luis Suárez, Emilio Butragueño and Andrés Iniesta‘s moves.
PS: during Euro 2016 Italian national team led by Antonio Conte turned the tide, giving a football lesson to one of the best current football schools. We hope that Italian Football Federation (FIGC) could follow the example of Spanish football federation creating a museum, interesting as Las Rozas’ one. It could be the best gift to Italian football lovers.