Football: Fans brave unprecedented security for El Clasico in Madrid

Police officers stand guard next to soccer fans having their picture taken outside the Santiago Bernabeu stadium before the 'Clasico' soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona in Madrid, Spain, on Nov 21, 2015.
Police officers stand guard next to soccer fans having their picture taken outside the Santiago Bernabeu stadium before the 'Clasico' soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona in Madrid, Spain, on Nov 21, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (AFP) - Sniffer dogs, mounted police, helicopters, security forces in their hundreds and countless identity checks greeted fans for Saturday's El Clasico (Nov 21) at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Supporters flocking to see the mammoth clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish capital were confronted with an unprecedented security display for what is widely regarded as the biggest game in world football, just over a week after the deadly Paris attacks.

"I'm 20 and in 20 years that I've been coming here, it's the first time I've seen something like this.

"There's always police, but nothing like today," said student Borja Jimenez, as he stood having a drink before entering the mythic stadium in Madrid.

"It's super secure, there's no way anyone can bring in a bomb here," added the Real Madrid supporter, who had to go through three checks before he was able to enter the ring of security laid out by authorities in streets adjacent to the ground.

Some 1,000 police have been deployed to protect the stadium and another 1,400 security guards are also keeping a watchful eye on a game that has an estimated global television audience of 500 million.

Spanish authorities have labelled the game a "high risk" one after the Stade de France was one of a number of targets struck during the Paris attacks last week that left 130 people dead and more than 350 injured.

In the days following the attacks, Spain's friendly against Belgium in Brussels was postponed due to the elevated terror threat and Germany's meeting with the Netherlands called off by a bomb threat, as jittery authorities feared a repeat incident.

In Madrid, as supporters queued to enter the 81,000-strong stadium and have their pockets and bags searched, armed police stood watch every few metres, other security forces on horseback passed by and still others walked around with sniffer dogs.

But the heightened security appeared not to have dampened the excitement of the thousands who flocked to the stadium, some from as far away as Tajikistan.

Some from France, like Melanie Bezzazi, had relatives who were worried about her travelling to Madrid for the game.

"We can't deprive oneself of everything, cancel everything... They cancelled quite a lot of stuff in France, quite a lot of events so we came here hoping to enjoy things a bit," the 25-year-old said.