an evening engraved in ceramics / C1 / Quarters / Villarreal-Bayern (1-0) /

Long before kick-off, Villarreal supporters pulled out all the stops for this exceptional quarter-final against Bayern Munich. Efforts that brought the players back to them over the next 90 minutes, destroying one of the best teams in Europe so that the Yellow Submarine could offer itself one of their greatest Champions League victories.

Until outstanding performance, exceptional circumstances. The yellow army enthroned in the center of Vila-real had already made a first masterstroke a few days before a historic quarterfinal against Bayern Munich: absolutely all 23,500 seats in the Estadio de la Cerámica. The day before the match, there were exactly three spots left, until at 5.30 pm the last buyers paid just over 300 euros to buy tickets for a match they probably didn’t think was so legendary, 24 hours later. At the same time, President Fernando Roig paraded in front of the stadium with a few Bavarian officials, waving to the passing supporters who had come to feel the leather in the square in front of the stadium. In the tranquility of a working city, where many people line the peripheral roads at the exit of the ceramics factories, the municipality of the southern suburbs of Castelló de la Plana does not seem ready to go up in flames for a quarter of an exciting finale . Only certain red Bayern sweaters tumbling through the small streets of Vila-real and trucks coming to supply the surrounding bars remind us of this.

The calm before the storm

In the early morning the first yellow jerseys are displayed on the backs of the children and the flags in honor of the local club stretch out over the balconies. But no one talks about the match, out of superstition or stress. The 5,000 Bavarian supporters who made the trip will be far less reluctant to storm the few bars in town and investigate pint after pint from midday. The caves are more discreet, some are content to go to the club shop to buy the competition scarf. Eymeric, a French supporter who made the overnight journey from Chambéry, even took three. “I have a friend of mine who is a Bayern supporter, we didn’t think we would face each other one day” , testifies the person who had to dry the tears of his brother, a supporter of Juventus, in the round of 16. As the refreshing breeze gives way to a persistent sun, Vila-real is gradually waking up. The town of 50,000 sees its cloud of yellow jerseys all heading in the same direction: the training center. Unaccustomed to rallies before the game, Yellow Submarine supporters had put the signs in the air by organizing a whole procession to follow the bus to the stadium. The first supporters arrive drop by drop around 6pm and make their way through the narrow streets leading to the Ciutat Esportiva. All in a relative anarchy, reminding us that neither the club, nor the city, nor its supporters are used to such events.

Seeing the youthful faces that make up these more or less disciplined lines, we think none of them would remember the other achievement that marked the club’s history: the elimination of Inter Milan in the second leg in 2006 to secure a place in the Champions League semi-finals. With flocked jerseys from Pau Torres or Gerard Moreno, this generation mainly wants to write its history, with this team that has made it dream since this title in the Europa League. The club was not mistaken: while the teenagers were crowding in a bar not far away, the youngest of the training center who came out of their training sessions formed a pasillo past the entrance of the bus. Stars in their eyes, the masked minots act as security and wait for the first team players. Their coaches act as choirmasters, launching the songs while reminding their protégés to stick to the line they formed initially. Behind them, parents are very proud to see their children so close to their idols. One of them even took gloves and a marker with the aim of signing them with Geronimo Rulli. One after another, the stars of pueblo check the kids dressed in yellow from head to toe and get on the bus that will take them the 1500 meters separating them from the stadium. At the applause meter, the big winners are named Pau Torres and Étienne Capoue, the latter stretching out his arms like an NBA star treading the floor to better feel the fervor of the several hundred supporters in the parking lot.

“If It’s Stupid”

The real enthusiasm is what awaits them at the exit, in these small streets that run along the training grounds, along which dozens oflovers torches and smoke in hand, a rather rare occurrence in Spain. From his memory, Eymeric, who forged his passion with his grandparents, inhabitants of Vila-real, had never seen such a procession before a match. From the height of his 27 years, he only remembers the famous parade that the club organized after the Europa League victory last season, but nothing as spontaneous as the movement created on social networks the day before. The bus has gone by at full speed and the crowd is crowding in the middle of the streets, some desperately trying to extinguish the torches they lit before the bus’s passage, not really knowing how to deal with these unusual paraphernalia . The numbers also struggle to coordinate, such as the trajectory given to the procession, which is gradually thinned between major arteries rushed through and small alleys where everyone sneaks to get to the stadium faster. The Estadio de la Cerámica is (finally) surrounded by its supporters. The club had placed yellow flags in the club’s colors on each of the 23,500 seats, which were quickly swept through a whole lover can’t wait for kick-off.

The national anthem sang almost a cappella and the entry of the players to the national anthem of the Champions League set the tone for a meeting that had to be unforgettable even before the match started. already broke a decibel record. By “If It’s Stupid” come off the stands, symbols of a very resilient people, who now know that this team can beat anyone, including the Bavarian bogeyman. Horace Danjuma only needs eight minutes to lose all hope caves, celebrates his goal like a sick man at the corner post in front of supporters who blew up the Cerámica. A goal full of opportunism, as Villarreal so well knows, proves once again that David can beat Goliath, especially when the weakest is carried by everyone pueblo, no matter how small. The series of chances given the Yellow Submarine will only constantly ignite a flame that has never been consumed for 90 minutes. Some players like Juan Foyth, author of a remarkable piece in his right lane, will even be entitled to their personalized song. Like Unai Emery’s men, the yellow crowd will never stop believing in it, and no doubt Gerard Moreno and Alfonso Pedraza would have liked them to be less tender about tuning a Manuel Neuer who wasn’t in top form.

At the final whistle, the Estadio de la Cerámica will be very happy with a 1-0 success against Bayern Munich, which makes us dream of the return leg in Bavaria next week. At the end of the game, the supporters pack their cars and honk at whoever they want to hear that little Villarreal beat Bayern Munich. In a press conference, Unai Emery immediately calls out the interest of the supporters in this success: “When we got on the bus and saw the hope of the whole pueblo, we knew we had a great responsibility. And I said to myself: ‘We have to make them happy today’, something more emotional than a simple sporting victory. † For his part, Eymeric, moved to tears, leaves the stadium and finds it hard to believe what he has just seen: “It’s the most incredible night I’ve experienced in a football stadium! † He joins his household like the others: many will work tomorrow, and even if it will be difficult to sleep after this historic achievement, it will be necessary to continue to run the city of ceramics.

By Anna Carreau, in Vila Real

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