JOHANNESBURG: The Barcelona and Real Madrid players taking part in May 6’s LaLiga Clasico at the Camp Nou are household names all over the world – and many of the potential audience of half a billion cheering on their team are global stars themselves.
There are lots of close ties between LaLiga and the global world of entertainment, while top performers in many other sports are also keen followers of Spanish football.
Jennifer Lopez is a huge Madridista, and wore a Real jersey during a concert in the Spanish capital in 2012. Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin regularly tweets his excitement about big Los Blancos games.Among Barcelona’s biggest backers is Colombian singer, songwriter, and dancer Shakira, who will of course be supporting her partner: the Blaugrana defender Gerard Pique. Madrid centre-back Sergio Ramos also has a famous other-half in Pilar Rubio, a well known Spanish TV presenter, model and actress.
Barca fan Justin Bieber got a backstage look at Lionel Messi and company training when performing in the city in 2016. Rapper Snoop Dogg has worn the Catalan side’s colours more than once onstage.
Many of Hollywood’s A-List celebrities are also close followers of Spanish football. Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts was starstruck herself on meeting Cristiano Ronaldo at April 2017’s ‘Clasico’ at the Bernabeu.
Roberts’ ‘Pretty Woman’ co-star Richard Gere even travelled with Zinedine Zidane’s team to their Champions League final victory against Atletico Madrid in Milan in 2016. Actors Viggo Mortensen and Russell Crowe are also confessed Madridistas.
Bollywood superstar Ranbir Kapoor is such a big Barca fan that the club made him an honorary member and official ambassador to India in 2011. Former Terminator and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has also enjoyed a visit to the Camp Nou.
Within Spain’s own acting community, Madrid born Penelope Cruz grew up a Madrid supporter, but her husband Javier Bardem is a longtime Barca fan.
Past and present stars from other sports will also be tuning in on Sunday for sure. Five time NBA champion with the LA Lakers Kobe Bryant is a massive Barca booster; Oklahoma City Thunder star Carmelo Anthony has trained with Madrid. New England Patriots two-time Superbowl winner Rob Gronkowski loves Ernesto Valverde’s men, while ex-Cincinatti Bengals wide-receiver Chad Ochocinco cheers on Zidane’s side.
Tennis star Rafael Nadal is a regular Bernabeu visitor and honourary Madrid club member, despite his uncle Miguel Angel Nadal winning five LaLiga titles playing for Barca in the 1990s. Meanwhile double Wimbledon winner Andy Murray was often at the Camp Nou while training in the Catalan capital as a teenager.
Once the LaLiga Clasico kicks off on Sunday these stars will be like all other fans, glued to the action. Only when the final whistle is blown we will find out which celebrities are on the winning side.