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Las Vegas did not disappoint. From the very first hour in the morning, the city rose to the El Clásico occasion, with both blaugrana and all-white jerseys to be seen all down the Strip and everywhere else, and all mixed together as families, friends and partners got into the mood for the evening’s big game between Barça and Real Madrid. From the Statue of Liberty at New York-New York Hotel, the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas, the enormous Bellagio Fountains... It was impossible not to know that something big was bubbling.
Fans from all over the United States, but also from Mexico and even further afield in North and even South America, had converged on the City of Lights. The chance to see the two Liga giants go head to head in one of the most famous rivalries in sport was too good to miss. What's more, in what they call the entertainment capital of the world!
In a city that’s used to showbiz, with big-name concerts every night, plus theatre, magic and just about every kind of fun that one can possibly dream of, July 23 had a new headline act on the Las Vegas menu. El Clásico in Las Vegas is an experience that everyone who was there is going to be remembering for the rest of their lives.
Allegiant Stadium... OMG!
The Allegiant Stadium is something else. It’s a museum piece of contemporary art. Just two years old, the home of the Las Vegas Raiders has an extraordinary retractable roof that kept the 45ºC heat outside, with three simply spectacular giant screens all adding to the incredible pregame atmosphere.
But the real stars of the show were the sell-out crowd of 65,000 spectators. Swallowed up by everything that was happening on such an awesome stage, it was easy to forget the real reason why all this was happening… There was a game of football to be played.
But once the referee had blown for kick-off, the tempo went into overdrive. The crowd was totally engrossed by what was happening, with constant chants of “Madrid, Madrid” from one part and “Barça, Barça” from the other until the beautiful moment when the two sets of supporters began to chant in absolute unison, a perfectly synchronized “Madrid, Barça, Madrid, Barça.”
Of course the moment of the night at the Allegiant Stadium was Raphinha’s goal. This may have ‘only’ been a preseason friendly, but from the reaction in the terraces, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Brazilian’s goal had just won the Champions League. But what a goal it was! Every bit worthy of this splendid occasion in the midst of the Mojave Desert.
65,000 people went home feeling very, very happy indeed, but especially the ones wearing blaugrana. Barça now head east to Dallas, which is sure to be another spectacular occasion, but El Clásico in Vegas is going to be some act to follow!
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