Home’s where the head is

What is extraordinary about football is the all-pervasive influence of its stadia on our entire perception of a club’s identity.  Even when a team builds a new ground, moves to it and plays there for several years, it never quite manages to bury the memory of the original, whose role in the club’s birth and development – from toddler to pensioner – was total.  This is why a stadium move is a traumatic event, whether it’s done for practical or for purely financial reasons, and sometimes a club never quite manages to recapture its original vibe, so linked was it to the essence of the previous abode.  Real Madrid supporters of a certain ilk and age still refer to the Bernabéu as ‘Chamartín’, Atlético fans are not entirely comfortable with the Wanda and the way they were shooed out of the Calderon, whilst in England, West Ham just don’t seem to be West Ham outside of Upton Park (the Boleyn Ground) – which just goes to show that in the same way as we feel at home in our own stadium, we judge others by the aesthetics and peculiarities of theirs. Continue reading “Home’s where the head is”

A weekend at the derby

This weekend was a multiple-derby theme, on the third ‘jornada’ of La Liga.  There’s nothing like a good variety of derby-fests to fill the fans full of late summer cheer, especially with a fortnight’s break looming for the internationals (and an interesting game for Spain at Wembley ).

The Spanish have adopted the term ‘derby’ and re-spelt it ‘derbi’ although they seem generally unaware of the etymology of the word.  In the past it was sometimes used more loosely to simply refer to any big game, to the extent that even the ‘clásico’ was called a derbi by some. But with the new globalised reach of LaLiga (without a space) the term clásico has stuck.  The derbies, however, now conform to the accepted idea of being either a same-city encounter (Betis v Sevilla) or a same-region game (Eibar v Real Sociedad).  This weekend saw two same-city clashes, one regional affair, and one in-between-the-categories affair, in an unusual cluster of fraternal frolicking. Continue reading “A weekend at the derby”

The Hamburger Chronicles

One of life’s great dilemmas is when you travel to an away match and are unsure of where and when to eat.  In the south-west of Madrid on Friday night, in the town known as Leganés, I ask the stressed-out barman in ‘El Tiburon’ (The Shark) if we could partake of two hamburgers, the ‘Tiburón’ special and ‘El Clásico’, the latter’s ingredients seeming to have little connection to the famous game it appears to be named after, but then again the former is also struggling to justify itself, with a certain lack of shark-infested waters to the south-west of Madrid.  It’s 21.15 and the Leganés-Real Sociedad game starts in exactly an hour, about ten minutes’ walk from the Shark.  The pallid old barman shakes his head; ‘It’ll take a while’ he says, nodding his head sideways to the kitchen, in which a lone frantic woman is cooking in a frenzy, as opposed to a frying pan. Continue reading “The Hamburger Chronicles”

The late-late show

Liga Fever decided to wait until late Monday night to write the opening weekend round-up, but as I caress the keys there is still a game going on (Athletic v Leganés), the likes of which will finish the four-day marathon sometime around midnight, but I’ll keep an eye on the score.

Well it’s holiday time, and despite my genetic condition of Englishness, summer is now affecting me in the same way as it does all Spaniards.  August is a sacred period, and although there is nothing in Genesis about it being a month of rest, you can’t get a plumber for love nor money – because they’re all on holiday in Benidorm.  And don’t get ill, because the doctors are all in Marbella.  Nevertheless, it is rather good for just watching loads of footy and that’s exactly what I did, as a huge personal sacrifice for the massed ranks of Liga Fever readers. Continue reading “The late-late show”

Liga Fever’s season to come

Welcome back to the party, dear readers, and we hope you had a good summer because now it’s over and you will from now on be obliged to sit at home and watch La Liga unfold yet again like a late-blooming flower, all multi-coloured petals, stripes and diagonals (Rayo, Huesca, Girona), centenary white (Valencia) all topped off nicely by the yucky puce of Valladolid – but we wish them no ill-will.  Continue reading “Liga Fever’s season to come”

¿Kantera de Lezama? Mis huevos.

A mí me hace cierta gracia cuando el Bobby Charlton de la política, ese Iñaki Anasagasti del peinado tan bonito, acusa a La Real de tener a ‘mercenarios’ en su plantilla.  Pues hombre, con la pinta que tiene sería mucho más sensato callarse, pero bueno – si quiere llamar la atención más aún, será su problemilla.  No obstante, hay que confesar que Iñaki tiene cierta razón sobre los mercenarios, porque es verdad que los ha habido en la plantilla de La Real, aunque curiosamente ya entrenan en Lezama y juegan en el Athletic, y conducen coches mucho más chulos que los que conducían cuando entrenaban en Zubieta, si no me equivoco. Continue reading “¿Kantera de Lezama? Mis huevos.”

Allons enfants de la Patrie!

The 2018 World Cup, far more enjoyable than folks were expecting, was similar to a three-course meal that you spoiled by eating too much of the excellent starter (the Group Stage), leading you to a less spectacular but occasionally tasty main meal (knock-out stage), but a decent enough dessert to end the evening.  Without wishing to stretch the metaphor any further, the best team won despite the dubious nature of their first two goals, in a game where both sides stuck to the guns that had seen them reach the final.  Continue reading “Allons enfants de la Patrie!”