On December 3rd last year I checked my emails. Now this may not seem like a particularly momentous event, but those who know me well will be aware of the fact that I hate checking my emails: the only people who use email to contact me would probably only be doing so with bad news. So imagine my pleasant surprise when the first new message in my inbox popped up with the following words:
CONGRATULATIONS!! I am delighted to announce that you are the lucky winner of the top prize and will be travelling to Madrid with 1 guest to meet Radamel Falcao and watch him play this Sunday the 9th of Dec!
To be honest, it took a moment to register: See Colombia Travel’s venerable stalwart, Mr. Paul Fowler, had sent me a link to a goal.com competition to meet Falcao some weeks before, but I’d entered it in an offhand way and then subsequently forgotten about it…I guess it’s lucky that I do occasionally bother to log into hotmail…
But anyway, I digress: I contacted the email’s sender and just 5 days later my Dad and I were sitting on a flight to Madrid. We spend a good couple of days in the sunshine, checking out everything the city has to offer (tapas and beers to be honest with you; we did go to the Prado though), before being picked up from our hotel (5*, la-di-da!) and whisked away to the Vicente Calderon to watch Atletico Madrid vs. Deportivo La Coruna.
Now, prior to the game, we had been discussing the possibility of seeing Falcao get a goal; given his goalscoring prowess and Atletico’s high-flying position in La Liga, it seemed a distinct possibility. We basically seemed to agree that we would be content just to see him shin one in; who wants to meet a frustrated striker after a poor performance!?
Luckily, Falcao read the script…and scored 5 in a 6-0 win. Not just five scuffs either: goal No. 2 was probably the best goal I have seen live – a twisting, dipping volley right out of the top drawer. Seeing Falcao perform live confirmed what I (and most of the football world) have been saying for ages: that boy can play!
After the game we were ushered into the bowels of the stadium. After a wait of what seemed like hours (probably about 1 to be fair), out came Falcao for the old meet an’ greet. I wasn’t really expecting much; he’d just put in the shift of his career and was, in all likelihood, pretty knackered! In reality, he was one of the friendliest ‘celebrities’ I have ever met: talkative and generous with his time. What else would I expect from a Colombian to be honest (and a costeno at that)?
Falcao speaks very little English, but luckily I speak Spanish, so we enjoyed a nice little chat about all things Colombia. Although, like many Colombians I know, the question of whether I’d had a Colombian girlfriend was number one on his list of concerns! I resisted the temptation to beg him to sign for Man Utd, but left him with the following message: See you in Colombia (friendly or menacing depending on your point of view, I guess)!
A few photos were taken, autographs signed, and then, boom, off he went to greet the press. Short and sweet (much like the man himself in fact). Off we went, back into the balmy Madrid night, still pretty much buzzing from the whole experience.
Radamel (first name terms now, you know!) is a Colombian national hero for good reason: a truly talented player, friendly and down-to-earth; he pretty much represents exactly what people love about Colombian people, and I feel very lucky to have met him…I know many, many Colombians who’d love the chance…
I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll be in Brazil in 2014…Come on Colombia!
(Photos courtesy of Chris, Goal.com and Western Union)