El Clásico's futbol fever takes over Miami

Thousands descend to Miami Gardens for 8 p.m. pre-season friendly


MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – F.C. Barcelona and Real Madrid players were getting ready for their 8 p.m. Saturday pre-season friendly at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

It will be the first time their historic rivalry -- known worldwide as El Clásico -- comes to the United States. The last time they played outside of Spain was in 1982 in Venezuela. 

Organizers expected more than 65,000 fans. Some paid about $500 for tickets all the way on the upper reaches of the stadium. Others paid as much as $4,500. 

Some fans have traveled far for the game. Locals only purchased about 30 percent of the tickets sold. There were fans from Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Brazil in Miami Beach Friday night.

Brazilians were looking forward to watching Neymar da Silva Santos play and Argentines were excited about Lionel Messi.

"My son couldn't sleep last night. He has been waiting to see Messi in person for the first time," Matias Lopez said. "He has been watching him since he was in his crib."

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who is the brainchild of the El Clásico Miami event, said he did everything he could to try to get Cristiano Ronaldo to come play in Miami but the best world player of the year couldn't make it. 

During practice Friday, Neymar got into a scuffle with his teammate Nelson Semedo. After Sergio Busquets held him back, Neymar took his shirt off and walked away from the field.

The fan festival opened at 11 a.m. outside of the stadium, 347 Don Shula Drive. It is free and open to the public. Reggaeton stars Alexis and Fido were scheduled to perform at 5:45 p.m.

There will also be performances by Marc Anthony and Prince Royce and plenty of celebrities including Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne. David Beckham won't be attending. 

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood hosted the official El Clásico Miami VIP Party Thursday night at Hard Rock Live. Sean Paul performed and some Miami Dolphins stars attended. 

Ross' Relevent Sports company already brought England's Manchester City, Manchester United, Juventus and other European soccer teams to Miami during their off-season. 

Follow Local 10 News Sports' Will MansoClay Ferraro and Kirk Gimenez for live updates. 


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