Spain’s Atletico Madrid may lack the championship pedigree of cross-town rivals Real Madrid or FC Barcelona, but it can boast of being the first soccer club to offer an eternal resting place for its ultra-loyal fan base.
Atletico’s columbarium, inaugurated in 2008, has been a success and spurred Real Betis and Espanyol - and soon Barcelona at Camp Nou - to set up their own repositories.
The idea has also been taken up outside Spain, with English club Manchester City and Argentina’s Boca Juniors also installing their own sepulchral vaults at their stadiums.
The memorial space at Atletico’s Vicente Calderon Stadium contains 4,200 ceramic cremation urns that celebrate different moments in the club’s history, which dates back to 1903.
“The idea sprung from the desire of many Atletico Madrid fans to have their ashes deposited on the field. We therefore decided to create this area so fans can fulfill their wishes,” Ana Huertes, who is in charge of the memorial space, told Efe.
A total of 30 urns are occupied and more than 120 have been reserved by fans who want their “remains to rest at their beloved club,” including former players such as Kiko Narvaez, Adelardo Rodriguez and Juanma Lopez.
“The response from the fans has been great. There are many who’ve asked us and are interested in this initiative,” Huertes said.
The vaults, which cost 3,600 euros ($4,657) each, can be purchased and reserved by living fans or bought by family members of the deceased.
Numerous anecdotes have arisen since the project was launched, according to Huertes, but the most memorable was a request by one individual who wanted his ashes “rotated around every so often so he could watch the matches.”