Marcelino enters the ‘Pepita Thumbelina’ with his mask with the Atleti shield printed in gold securely fastened over his nose and mouth. The emotion of her takes it in the eyes of her. She was waiting for her wife, in an optician’s shop in Plaza de Manuel Becerra in Madrid, when she began to see shirts with the Atlético shield and the name ‘May 17’. She right away she knew her. Nearby, a red-and-white rock was celebrating an anniversary. A rock that he knows well, who tried it, knows it, and he has been, together with the ’17 de mayo’ celebrating the Atleti. The shirts took him to ‘Pepita Thumbelina’, to the table where Luis Alberto Pérez, president, is. Hugs, love, a few words, a slogan: “Aupa Atleti”. Marcelino has just summarized what is happening this May 22 in that restaurant. What is May 17. The one in 2013, when Cholo’s team won the Copa del Rey against Madrid. The one in 2014, when the Cholo team beat Barça in LaLiga, that Godín header. And those of 2020 and 2021 that could not be, the pandemic and its confinement ruled.
“This is a celebration of LaLiga from last year. And also of Anfield”, confesses Luis when the “Atleti, Atleti” already fill the toasts. “And the reunions, especially the reunions.” Tomorrow the team closes an irregular season, but there are many things for which the 120 present hug each other. This rock is seven years old. The blur is Abel, Atleti legend confirmed but leaves at the last minute due to a family matter. Everything else is happiness. An explosion. The qualification for the Champions is in the clash of cups. “You just don’t know what it means to meet again.” The trip back from Anfield meant that those emotions had to be saved, put on ‘stand-by’. Until this afternoon.
With 78 members, there are more than 120 at the table. Families, children, future. During the meal, Luis glances several times at that table in the back, long and full of children. “It’s more than 30.” The future. One grabs the microphone as if he were a tenor: he sings the Atleti anthem while everyone else waves their flags. Formed seven years ago, their name sprouted from those celebrations. The 2013 Cup. The 2014 League. The hugs in the stands, the feeling of family. A family that has rooted tomorrow in those children who come. “Saul, Saul”. The chants have a name. That of that blond boy who takes a photo with a replica of the LaLiga cup and a red and white flag in his hand that cannot better tell the story of this supporters club.
On the one hand, his father, Robert, from the Rojiblancos of Belgium, who on May 17 found love and family. “But that’s what we are. Family,” says Luis, proudly watching the board move around the restaurant, with flags, with pins, with the word Atleti in their mouths and the shield in their hearts. But the Rojiblancos from Belgium are not the only ones also present. Abel hasn’t come but those sister clubs have: Indios de Caledonia, Sons of Atleti, Los último del Calderón, Greco Carabanchel, Diablos rojiblancos. And even the “Oyam ed 71”. That round table that only wants to change the order of its flag on its back, the one that shouts “May 17.” At Atlético-Getafe this season, on February 12, when they arrived at the Metropolitano they hung her upside down and thought: “No one will notice.” But they were all. Fill the laughs. They are called split, “los del 71”, but they are very familiar. The one that hand in hand doesn’t stop celebrating what COVID didn’t leave him. Today is May 17. It could be 2021. They are League champions. Marcelino feels it when he grabs the phone. With all that emotion filling his eyes over his mask with the red and white shield in gold.