Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to play LaLiga Santander matches behind closed doors, in line with the health authorities’ specifications, Real Madrid decided last spring to temporarily move their home matches away from the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, in order to accelerate the redevelopment work they had planned for their stadium.
As such, they started playing matches at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano, a stadium previously used by their B team for their matches and located within the club’s vast and modern training complex.
After having previously hosted a Madrid Derby and Champions League fixtures, the stadium held El Clásico for the first time ever on Saturday. The match was epic, exciting and fast-paced, with memorable goals and pieces of play. Real Madrid’s 2-1 victory over FC Barcelona could prove to be huge as they aim to retain their LaLiga Santander title.
Through TV, fans were able to enjoy the match as if it were being held in the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. There were, though, five things that weren’t seen during El Clásico or, in other words, these are five secrets that provide some extra context to El Clásico sights that viewers saw through their screens.
🏹 The dynamic celebration of Benzema’s goal
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema scored a goal that will live long in the memory, turning in a Lucas Vázquez cross with a backheel flick for the 1-0 lead. This was a goal that all the Real Madrid players celebrated enthusiastically at one of the corner flags, a moment that looked on TV like something from a video game.
Why? Well, it’s thanks to the new cinematic cameras that LaLiga has started using this season that allows for this razor-sharp perspective in front of a blurred background. This is a pioneering initiative in the world of football. These cameras cost 200,000 euros and weigh 30 kilograms once positioned as a steady cam. They are so sophisticated that MEDIAPRO, the production company, has hired focus experts from the world of cinema to work from the sidelines of the pitch along with the camera operator, ensuring that the sharpest image makes it onto the screen.
🥶 A shivering Lionel Messi had to change his shirt
An intense rainstorm fell during the second half of the match and left many players soaking wet on the pitch. In fact, a shivering Messi even asked to change his shirt, with the entire planet able to see this themselves thanks to one of the 30 cameras at the Estadio Di Stéfano, which was able to focus in on this specific moment with sufficient detail to show just how much he was shaking.
There was actually a camera that permanently followed all of the FC Barcelona No.10’s movements, just like there was another with the exclusive task of following Karim Benzema. With 10 more cameras than any other LaLiga Santander match and a similar number of recording devices to the last Champions League final, there was no way that this moment would be missed.
🎱 The billiards bounces of Toni Kroos’ goal
Real Madrid went 2-0 up in the first half thanks to a free-kick goal from Toni Kroos. Before the ball rippled the back of Marc-André ter Stegen’s net, it bounced off Sergiño Dest and Jordi Alba, who were unlucky in their attempted blocks and who could only watch on as the German’s effort ricocheted in like a billiards ball.
Viewers were able to appreciate these bounces in detail thanks to the three cameras that are placed at each end of the pitch. There is a mini camera hung inside the net itself, there is a pole-cam, and there is the new Fan Cam, that has been brought in this LaLiga season. These Fan Cams are built on some scaffolding at a certain height and they are, in the absence of fans in the stands, allowing players to celebrate there and connect with their supporters, as well as permitting angles that weren’t seen before.
The three cameras behind the goalline weren’t only used for the Kroos goal, but also for Óscar Mingueza’s celebration, Messi’s spectacular Olympic goal attempt, the Fede Valverde and Ilaix Moriba efforts that struck the woodwork and much more.
🎥 The perfectly worked move for Mingueza’s goal
FC Barcelona launched a comeback attempt in the second half thanks to a goal from academy graduate Mingueza. It was a goal that came from a well-woven move that started from the left flank, as Messi and Jordi Alba linked up before Antoine Griezmann was able to let the ball pass through his legs towards the eventual goalscorer.
Viewers were able to perfectly understand the mechanics of this piece of play thanks to the interactive augmented reality graphics that LaLiga implemented this year. This is a very technically complex system, one that other football competitions have tried to replicate without success. It includes stats and up-to-date graphics that are presented in real time thanks to Mediacoach – another LaLiga tool – and that help the fans to better understand how the play is developing.
Given their spectacular and complex nature, these graphics have been genuinely revolutionary in the audiovisual field, along with the implementation of virtual fans and audio. In Spain, 88% of viewers prefer the broadcast with the virtual overlays compared to the original version of no virtual fans and no crowd noise, something that the broadcaster also offers for the few who do like that experience. The whole crowd noise process is impressive, as the stadium audio tracks were recorded from real fans for the FIFA video games saga.
These tracks are now being used during matches in the closed-doors era and there are real sound technicians in the stadiums who are tasked with conjuring up the right audio for the right moment. There are even four different audio options for celebrating a goal and 12 different types of applause. The final result is quite spectacular, with the aim of trying to bring passion to the fans during these times when they can’t be at the stadiums.
🚁 An Estadio Di Stéfano sunset captured by a drone
Shortly before the start of ElClásico, at around 20:45 CEST, the whole world could enjoy the spectacular Madrid sky at sundown. This was thanks to the special location of Real Madrid’s training centre and, above all, thanks to a camera installed in a crane 25 metres up
It was perfectly positioned to capture how the sun went down behind the stadium walls. As well as this, LaLiga broadcasts have had drone shots as of this season to capture aerial views. They weigh 4.5 kilograms, cost 35,000 euros and can fly up to 120 metres high. They even have built-in parachutes. With Spanish law adapting to the growing use of drones and with LaLiga and the national police having an anti-drone protocol, it was actually necessary to be in communication with the control tower at the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport, situated just three kilometres from the stadium. These two aforementioned aerial cameras more than made up for the absence of the famous spider cam, one of the hallmarks of LaLiga broadcasts, which can’t be installed at the Estadio Di Stéfano because the venue isn’t tall enough. In an audiovisual sense, this was the only difference to a match at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
It's clear to see, therefore, that if El Clásico is the most-watched match of any league in the world – with a potential audience of 650 million people – then it’s because the spectacular football of the world-class players is complemented by a stellar broadcast for that TV audience.
On this particular occasion, there was also an epic element to the broadcast as a result of the intense storm that hit the Estadio Di Stéfano. The details of the match were captured by the 10 super-slow and ultra-slow cameras, broadcast in 4K HDR quality through one of the most modern mobile units in the world. The stadium’s pitch coped splendidly with the rainfall, with this stadium more than prepared for what was Real Madrid’s third home match in seven days.
LaLiga has a protocol for looking after the league’s pitches and this requires the highest standards at the stadiums of Spanish clubs. Like all the others, the Estadio Di Stéfano makes the grade. Not the storm, nor the change of stadium nor the COVID-19 situation nor the absence of the teams’ deeply missed supporters could stop the unique spectacle of world football that is El Clásico.