The day the Millwey Rise scribe visited one of Spain’s iconic football stadiums

PUBLISHED: 13:05 18 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:55 18 May 2020

The Real Madrid ticket that meant Dick Sturch took in the Champions League meeting with Lyon. Picture DICK STURCH

The Real Madrid ticket that meant Dick Sturch took in the Champions League meeting with Lyon. Picture DICK STURCH


Around about 8pm we boarded the Easyjet flight from Bristol to Madrid and the revelries we had experienced in the airport lounge increased several decibels as we took our seats, writes Dick Sturch.

We had probably chosen the wrong night to be flying anywhere near the Iberian Peninsula.

Rangers were playing Porto the following evening and any flights heading in that direction had a lot of ‘merry’ people with Scottish accents on board.

We didn’t realise there were so many Rangers supporters in the West Country. The reason, we found out later, was that all the direct flights from Scotland to anywhere in Portugal were sold out so the overspill of supporters took flights from various UK airports to Madrid and then onward connections to Portugal.

There were loud cheers as the plane took off. Even louder when the cabin crew came around with the trolley, although it had to return several times to re-stock with anything containing alcohol!

We did our best to engage in the agitated conversations around us, but our ability to understand the excited dialect made it somewhat difficult. At the same time I was trying to brush up on my ability to become the Spanish translator for our meeting with some new business clients the following day in Madrid.

I had retired a year earlier but kept in touch with my old company. They knew I had some Spanish contacts in the agricultural industry and thought perhaps they would try and expand their product range into Spain.

I agreed to set up the meeting in Madrid where we would discuss the possibility of the Spanish company becoming main agents for their products.

After a very eventful flight, we arrived in Madrid’s Baracas airport. Luckily few of us had to go through ‘Arrivals’ as the majority of our fellow passengers awaited their onward flight to Portugal in the airport’s bars.

We quickly went through to the exit found a taxi and proceeded to our hotel on the airport complex. There we enjoyed a quiet drink awaiting the arrival of the Sales Manager (another Scotsman!) who was flying in from Glagow.

We discussed the following day’s proceedings before heading to bed. Where I again spent time listening to ‘Spanish for beginners’. I didn’t have a great night’s sleep concerned at my ability to ‘actually’ translate. I could always make myself understood in Spanish, but did not have a great ear for any response, especially at the speed it was usually delivered.

We had arranged a meeting room in the hotel and our three visitors arrived dead on time.

After cordial greetings and introductions the meeting began. I had previously met the father and son who owned the Spanish company so that made things somewhat easier although when discussions began in earnest I soon realised I was unable to keep up with the translation.

To my relief the third person who accompanied them, and introduced as Carlos, said in perfect English: “I think the proceedings are getting a little technical so I will help Derek out.”

Was I pleased! I’m sure the Spanish owners realised I probably didn’t have enough understanding of Spanish for the technicalities involved. After this the meeting progressed quite smoothly. We broke for lunch for trays of ‘tapas’, wine and coffee before continuing into the afternoon.

The meeting eventually drew to a close with all the relevant information exchanged so both parties could go away and consider the possibility of a future business relationship.

It was then that we were invited to accompany them for a meal in the heart of Madrid. None of us had ever been to Madrid before so we were really excited about this.

There was only one problem, the father and son had driven down from Valladolid that morning and picked up Carlos on the way so there was only one car (I forget what make) for the six of us, but that wasn’t go to stop us!

We somehow sat three in the front and three in the back as we set off for the City centre.

I have no idea how we got there, but we parked up in a vast underground car park before emerging into a multitude of people, hooting horns and police whistles in the heart of Madrid.

We ate in a very busy restaurant and what a meal it was with all manner of dishes washed down with crema catalana (my favourite), wine, brandy and coffee.

Eventually the meal came to an end and for us we thought our day was over as the father and son left for Valladolid.

We bid them farewell and a safe journey then wondered how we were supposed to get back to our hotel. Carlos, who was still with us, invited us to accompany him so with no idea of the outcome we did.

Gradually the streets began to get choked with people most heading in the same direction and then we saw why, as the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu appeared before us. Carlos announced he had tickets for that evening’s Champions League game between Real Madrid and Olympique Lyonnais.

This was at the time David Beckham was playing for Madrid together with all the other major stars including Ronaldo.

It was so totally unexpected and produced a frisson of excitement rarely experienced. We climbed the stairs up to our reserved seats which left us gazing down onto the famous pitch amidst the deafening sound of the drummers behind the goals. Madrid, who had lost 3-0 at home to arch rivals Barcelona the previous Saturday, were looking to bounce back with an emphatic win, although they were without Raul and Ronaldo through injury. In truth it was not an exhilarating game and it ended 1-1.

Beckham and Zinedin Zidan were substituted in the second period and the crowd really made their feelings known to Real manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo, who was replaced the following month.

The result made no difference to me (or Madrid as they had already qualified). Of greater importance to yours truly was that I had visited the ‘Bernabeu’ and I had the memories and ticket to prove it.

We left among a disconsolate throng of Madrileños with Carlos, who escorted us to the shuttle station for the airport, and caught a train back to our hotel where we partook of a few more drinks before retiring for the night. What a day. Certainly the phrase ‘business before pleasure’, comes to mind.

Incidentally, Rangers beat Porto 3-2 so I’m glad we were not travelling back on any plane heading for the UK that night!

Dick Sturch can be contacted via email at

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