MADRID (AP) — They call her the wildest soccer mom. And now she’s back where it all began.
After two decades in the United States building a family and a career, one of Real Madrid’s most hardcore fans has returned to Spain to be near the club she adores.
María García-Mella Cid left Miami about two months ago and is finally getting to enjoy her team from up close.
This past weekend, the 41-year-old García-Mella enjoyed a day she could have only dreamed of while in the United States. She got to drive a few kilometers from her home to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium to meet other Madrid fans and take her son to a Spanish league match.
“Everything was perfect, absolutely perfect,” she said after Madrid’s 2-1 win over Real Betis on Saturday.
“It was awesome to see them win and for my son Alejandro to see them win,” she said, breaking down in tears while giving her 13-year-old son a warm hug outside the Bernabéu.
García-Mella is the type of fan who used to sing Madrid’s anthem to her kids while she was pregnant. She said she watched every Madrid game at home the year it won its seventh Champions League title in 1998, just before she left Spain.
She didn’t get many chances to watch Madrid play back in the United States, and at first could only follow the team’s matches through online radio stations. She made it to some of the friendly games the Spanish powerhouse played there, including the 2018 match in Miami in which García-Mella and her family were invited onto the field to meet the Madrid players.
She also got to see Madrid win the 2017 and 2018 Champions League finals in Britain and Ukraine. Her trip to Kyiv — planned after the team made it past the round of 16 — was a “psychotic” odyssey that took 24 hours on the way there and about 36 hours on the way back to the United States. She had to go through Iceland the year before on her way to Cardiff, Wales.
“I wake up and I think about Real Madrid and I go to sleep and I think about Real Madrid,” García-Mella said. “I can’t conceive my life without Real Madrid. It’s hard to explain. People think I’m crazy, especially my husband, but now being back in Madrid he realizes that I’m not the only one, that there are other people that have this disease, and I say that it’s a blessed disease.”
Her husband, Arturo Cid, was on board when they decided to move to Madrid with Alejandro, their 15-year-old daughter Andrea, and their dog Luna, a black giant schnauzer. Along with them came the dozens of Real Madid jerseys and books and magazines that García-Mella has collected, many filled with autographs by club officials and players, including Iván Zamorano, David Beckham and Luka Modric, her favorite Madrid player now.
“She is actually introverted, but when it comes to Real Madrid, everything changes, it brings out this passion in her,” said Cid, an American who is no soccer fan but learned quickly to understand what the team meant to his wife.
“It hasn’t always been easy, because if you don’t understand the passion, it’s hard to understand why I have insomnia and I’m up at 4 a.m. because they played a semifinal,” García-Mella said. “His motto is ‘Happy wife, happy life,’ so he prays that Real Madrid wins. Because then I’m happy, and if I’m happy, he is happy.”
The move to Spain came as a good change of scenery for the family and was a great opportunity for García-Mella, whose love for Madrid had already turned into a part-time mix of job and hobby thanks to a Twitch channel that now has nearly 2,000 followers and is broadcast five days a week. Her number of followers has already increased since returning and she expects to grow even more.
Both Cid and García-Mella are psychotherapists and have been able to work with their patients from the U.S. remotely.
García-Mella was born in the Dominican Republic and came to Spain with her family when she was 8. She moved to England to study and then went to Miami a few years later to get her masters’ degree. There she met Cid and had her children.
She was a season-ticket holder for Inter Miami and the president of Madrid’s fan group in South Florida.
It didn’t take long after she arrived in Spain as a kid for her love of Real Madrid to blossom. It was watching a game with her older brother in the seating section of Madrid’s most hardcore fans that it all started.
“My older brother, who is 9 years older than me, basically taught me to love football,” she said. “He took me to the Bernabéu for the first time when I was 8 years old and I saw the game on his shoulder. It was love at first sight. I never looked back and Real Madrid became my obsession and still is my obsession today.”
Sitting there in the Bernabéu stands by her son on Saturday, she couldn’t avoid seeing herself in a 7-year-old boy next to her.
“I told the boy, ‘Have you been here before?’ and he said ‘No, this is my first time.’ And I said, ‘You are always going to remember this game, always.’”
For García-Mella, being at the Bernabéu watching Real Madrid won’t be an adventure anymore. It can finally be part of her routine again.
“I am literally living a dream,” she said. “I can’t ask for more. I am very happy.”
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