If there is one learning to be gained from observing Real Madrid and Barcelona fans over the years now, it is that none of them actually seem to cherish the experience of supporting their respective clubs for a single moment. Not for a nanosecond.
Whilst this is perhaps a feature of all supporters of megaclubs around Europe that are expected to crush their rivals, this tragic tendency is certainly magnified in Spain where Barca and Madrid are alone in being two enormous fish in a very small pond.
Chelsea fans can take some joy in an away win at Stoke City, for example, or cheer a home victory in Stamford Bridge against Liverpool with some justification. Deep down, Barça supporters know that a 7-0 victory against Levante is utterly meaningless.
There is no fun to be had in a league that is just a procession of cannon fodder being taken apart week after week.
After all, how can a match between one team that has Neymar and Andres Iniesta on the bench and the other that spent just €300,000 on one player over the summer be anything close to a fair fight? It is the same situation with Real Madrid, a side that stuck five goals past Athletic Bilbao, Deportivo, Mallorca and Levante last season.
The rush of Barcelona winning the league title must only have been a hundredth of the joy felt by supporters of Atletico Madrid watching their players lifting the Copa del Rey last season or Real Sociedad finishing fourth. The followers of those two teams would have felt more giddy happiness in just one day than in the 11 years since Real Madrid last won the Champions League—the last true celebratory moment for the Bernabeu club.
It is no wonder that this sense of malaise and boredom manifests into paranoia and squabbling.
Any Spanish football writer or pundit is accused in equal measure of being pro-Barca or pro-Real Madrid—often during the same piece. Endless arguments take place in cyberspace over which referees favour which club. Of course, this happens everywhere else, but not to the extend as in Spain. The Premier League arguably has over 10 big names to squabble over.
When there is only two, then the intensity of the fight is magnified.
The easy solution for better times ahead is for some supporters to follow a different footballing path. Of course, many Real Madrid and Barcelona fans are so by birth with the club’s DNA passed through the family. But the vast majority are flighty, glory boys who only latched on when Leo Messi looked a bit special or when Cristiano Ronaldo was signed. Anyone who says otherwise is a big fibber.
In the same way that an obsession can quickly grow of loving "Club A" and hating "Club B" with all the nonsense about Messi vs. Ronaldo, it is very easy to fall in love with a side like Sevilla, Betis or Villarreal. With those teams, a victory actually means something wonderful.
Defeats or draws are not world-ending crises, either.
Completely dropping an allegiance to the big two and tearing down those Andres Iniesta posters may be a big stretch at first, so perhaps adoption is a good starting point. At that point, the truth will be learned that the joy in football is not to be had by winning every game, but losing some. It is not celebrating the side’s leading striker scoring 50, but a hard-working veteran getting to 15.
From the outside, being a Barcelona or Real Madrid fan seems like a wholly tiresome, stressful and joyless experience. Especially when there is a whole different world of football clubs out there to try.
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