Last time Atletico Madrid played behind closed doors, the fans from outside were heard
Sad, unnatural and lonely is how football appears in Bundesliga but it’s what the reality of football is after coronavirus and games will have to go on behind closed doors, just like Atletico Madrid were forced to do 12 years ago.
The last time the Colchoneros played without any fans in their stadium was in a 2-1 win over PSV Eindhoven in November 2008 after fans clashed when Marseille visited the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
Two of the players who featured that night were Mariano Pernia and Simao, who recalled the experience for MARCA.
«I remember that game perfectly because it was the first one I played behind closed doors,» Simao explained.
«It seemed weird to us from the warm-up, when the referee blew his whistle you could hear it across the whole stadium.
«It was a cold day and not feeling the heat of the fans left us frozen, but we could hear people outside the stadium who came to support us.»
«It was strange because we were playing in the Champions League after a long time since Atletico had played it, and with the Calderon empty!» Pernia agreed.
«It was special, not even when we trained was it empty usually, but people came anyway and you heard their chants from outside.
«Playing like that was something very unique in my career because you don’t ever expect it as a player, the most beautiful thing is playing a game like that at home, with your people and even more so with the support of the Calderon, but luckily we could win anyway.»
Simao opened the scoring after 14 minutes whilst the banner of the Fondo Sur stated ‘nothing and nobody will separate us from you’.
«I will always keep that game in my memory, we won and I could score in an unforgettable game for all that we’d been through,» the goalscorer said.
Pernia also took advantage to share some advice with Diego Simeone‘s current players.
«You hear everything, the coach… Although you get used to it, it was like a training session,» Pernia added.
«The idea of getting to the stadium and there not being anybody waiting, there’s no atmosphere of an official game and you have to find motivation wherever you can because people waiting for you and or coming out to warm-up to a half full stadium motivates you and makes you concentrate.
«So you have to find that motivation because the points are the same as when there are people in the stadium.»
But the memory of those fans, who he grew to appreciate even more after that night, is important to Simao.
«Now many years have passed and we go back to playing behind closed doors for other reasons, but I still appreciate the affection and respect I always felt at the Calderon and in Spain.»
Soon, a new generation of Atletico players will take in that experience for themselves.