We were on UEFA Champions League filming duties in Madrid last week, when the city's two giants locked horns to determine Juventus’ opponents in the Cardiff final on June 3. This is the biggest sporting event on the planet this year, so it's not surprising Wales is looking to maximise the potential global exposure the opportunity is creating.
The Madrid derby in the semis meant one team from the city was guaranteed a final place, so we were commissioned by Visit Wales to head out to the Spanish capital to film Spanish excitement for the trip to the birthplace of Bale.
Our Head of TV and Film Production Rob, hired a film crew with local nous to capture the fans' reaction and specifically to follow the journey of Spanish travel writer and Real fan Javier Zori del Amo (@zoriviajero), as he's over in Cardiff to write about what the city has to offer in advance of the final for the influential Spanish publisher Condé Nast Traveller. I went along as interpreter… and to lose my luggage, more of which later!
We filmed the airport, Atlético's Vicente Calderón stadium, staging its final ever European game before the club's move to more salubrious facilities, and grabbed a flavour of the life of the madrileño, before interviews with Javier in both Spanish and English in a very chic area of this beautiful city.
And there was a little drama thrown in too. Real were leading 3-0 going into this second leg, so we were safe to assume our day’s filming could be based around los galácticos making it to Cardiff, right? ! Two early Atlético goals did nothing for Rob's blood pressure, but Real of course triumphed in the end.
Our best intentions of filming jubilant Real fans cavorting in the fountains of the Plaza de Cibeles (Atlético have their own fountains to cavort in) was put paid to by some proper rain in Spain, accompanied by a lightening show as the final whistle blew.
“Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night” Hemingway says in Death In The Afternoon (also the name of his favourite aperitif), and so we sampled our fair share of tapas in this exuberant, friendly, lived-in city. It only enhances Madrid’s reputation that my luggage which had doubled as a film prop, and was mistakenly left in the boot of a taxi, was duly delivered some five hours later by a vigilant taxista to the bar where we’d watched the game.
And in the interests of balance, we’re also working on PR for Visit Wales with the Italian media, highlighting the story of Welsh great John Charles, Il Gigante Buono (The Gentle Giant) and Juventus' 'best ever foreign player’ in this Year of Legends. His son Peter was just eight weeks old when his dad became the British record transfer and moved the family to Turin. Peter later went to Whitchurch High, the same school as Gareth Bale, and will be working in the stadium for the Champions League final when the Italians come to his native Cardiff next month.