Soccer

El Clásico Miami: “The Grand Friendly”

El Clcsico Miami is three days away and all through South Florida, everyone is getting ready for two of the biggest clubs in the world to take over the 3-Oh-Five, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Pitbull, Marc Anthony, Drake, the Miami Beach glitterati and ESPN are finalizing their plans to party and put the city once known as Magic City once again on their pedestal! However, arguably the biggest attraction of all was in China fulfilling his commercial obligations. Why?

Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo went to Singapore on Friday to meet with billionaire Peter Lim, who owns Spanish club Valencia and Mint Media, which owns Cristiano’s non-Real Madrid image rights. On Saturday, he went to Shanghai for an endorsement event for Nike and also visited Beijing.

“We are doing everything we can to get him here,” said Daniel Stillman, the CEO of the International Champions Cup. “We are still hopeful that he will make it.”

Cristiano Ronaldo has 107 million Instagram followers. To put that in perspective, Nike has 73.4 million followers.

While Cristiano is cris-crossing the world, Real Madrid played their first match of the ICC Sunday. They lost a 2-1 penalty shootout to Manchester United in what was undoubtedly, the most woeful penalty shootout in the history of recent football. His absence also affected the attendance of the match, which was played at Levi’s Stadium, home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. 65,109 fans saw the glorified training session.

Real Madrid will play Manchester City in their 2nd game of the tour tonight at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Meanwhile, Barcelona defeated Serie A Champions Juventus Football Club 2-1 on the back of two sparkling and spectacular goals by Neymar. They will play Manchester United tonight at FedEx Field, home of the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

The Barcelona roster for the U.S. tour includes Lionel Messi (possessing a whopping 76.5 million Instagram followers), Brazilian star Neymar (who is being wooed by fellow ICC participant Paris Saint-Germain), Uruguay standout Luis Suárez, and World Cup winning Spaniards Gerard Pique and Andrés Iniesta.

Among the Real Madrid stars due to be at the game Saturday are Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas, Wales star Gareth Bale, Croatian Luka Modric, Karim Benzema of France, Sergio Ramos (currently captain of the Spanish National Team and Real Madrid) and the mercurial Toni Kroos of Germany.

Many pundits are excited at this footballing spectacle coming to Miami, but one man knows El Clásico better than all of us, beIN Sports Analyst Ray Hudson explains it in his effervescent way:

“It’s an absolutely astounding week of soccer, a stardust occasion,” Hudson said. “To have this wonderful, gargantuan occasion decorated by the world’s greatest footballers in Miami, in our area, in our town, it’s beyond exciting.”

A sellout crowd of 64,767 is expected at Hard Rock Stadium Saturday for the match.

Both teams will practice Friday night before the game! 25,000-plus is expected at the stadium for both Barcelona and Real Madrid training sessions, with tickets ranging from $20-$30. Barcelona is practicing from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and Real Madrid trains from 8 to 9:30 p.m.

Casa Clásico, a free fan fest at Bayfront Park downtown with live music and soccer interactive activities, is open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“If you’d told me that Barcelona and Real Madrid would be playing at the stadium Joe [Robbie] built, it would be inconceivable,” Hudson continued. “The lead-up to this has been long and arduous for the sport, but now it’s arrived like a bottle rocket. This country has been baptized with soccer.”

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