Atletico Madrid Take First Step Into a New Era With Opening Game at Wanda Metropolitano

Sunday September 17th, 2017

"I have never seen anything like it," said Diego Simeone, clearly moved by the occasion. "I will remember it for the rest of my life."

Most people that were there will, too. Atletico Madrid's inauguration of their new home, Wanda Metropolitano, was an impressive spectacle, and a poignant, significant moment.

What came before the game was elaborate and celebratory, but there was a sense of nervousness around the cavernous arena. It was understandable. Moving to a new stadium is always a tumultuous experience, even for the biggest clubs.

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Atletico's performance in the 1-0 win over Malaga was like the first, awkward phases after moving house, tentatively settling in to new surroundings, a new environment. The much-discussed atmosphere was different, too.

At times it was noisy and boisterous, chants echoing around the pristine, ultra-modern stands. At others, the noise dipped and there was a subdued, hushed atmosphere. It's not surprising, though. No-one expected an immediate transition, for there to be the same vociferous nature of Vicente Calderon, just one game in.

But there were signs that it could be soon. On the pitch, there was room for improvement. Simeone said as much after the game, but the focus was always going to be elsewhere; winning felt like a relief for the players and fans.

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Antoine Griezmann's second-half goal was met with cheers, as was the introduction of Fernando Torres, a player whose goals were some of the best moments at the Calderon. Overall, it was certainly a day of celebration, of looking ahead to future successes and looking back at those in the past.

There was an air show before kick-off, plaques dedicated to players outside the ground and a fireworks display after the final whistle. Supporters looked on gleefully, taking photos and filming the historic scenes.

That's not to say that everything went entirely smoothly. A flag outside the ground prior to the game was erected upside down, and fans did not take kindly to the plaque dedicated to controversial former player Hugo Sanchez.

But the mood was generally positive, not dominated by anxiety as those Atleti fans of a cynical persuasion may have expected. And Simeone's side looked at home in a stadium fit for an elite club. That's exactly what they are now.

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Match-winner Griezmann called it "the best stadium I've played in". Simeone, meanwhile, claimed he "did not imagine it any other way".

It was certainly different to the crumbling stadium it replaced, but that was expected. There wasn't the same intensity, the same intimidating feeling of fans baying down on the opposition from the sidelines.

Instead, and this can only be a compliment, it more closely resembled the stadiums of Atletico's rivals, Barcelona and Real Madrid. With 67,000 fans packed inside, Los Rojiblancos are now a match for Spain's elite, not only on the pitch, but off it too.

Saturday was an exciting day for the fans, for everyone associated with the club, and by the end of it, the future looked even more exciting. For the big games, and there will be plenty to come this season, with the fans settled in, the Wanda Metropolitano will be some sight.

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