I’d just got back from the Basque derby between Real Sociedad and Eibar, jumping off the late bus with my neighbour and scout Vicente Biurrun into the fangs of a howling gale. Biurrun is an ex-professional – and suitably prepared for inclement weather as all good goalies are, he’d opened his brolly into the gale and beckoned me into its protection, but the wind got the better of the situation and almost wrenched it out of his large keeper’s hands. Biurrun packed in the game in 1995, the year my son was born, a year that produced an extraordinary crop of midfield players in the Gipuzkoa region of the Basque Country, several of whom are now playing at the top level. Another of this crop had just made his debut, coming on for Eibar in the 60th minute, replacing Kike with the score at 3-0 to Sociedad. Continue reading “Emotional Rescue”
Two games obviously stood out this weekend, one at the new San Mames and the other in Girona. The rest seemed like a sideshow, although Valencia’s 1-2 win at Alavés which opened the weekend’s sparring on Saturday lunchtime was both predictable and useful, since it obliged Barcelona and Real Madrid to ensure the three points in their respective games. Valencia had to work hard, but they remain undefeated and have now won six consecutive league games since their draw with neighbours Levante back in mid-September. Continue reading “Girona Jonah, a cathedral for Barcelona”
So you want entertainment ? Look no further than Betis, Real Sociedad and Valencia. Betis and Real’s nine and eight games respectively have so far produced a whacking 72 goals, each side involved in 36, in their own net or in that of their opponent. Valencia are close behind on 35 but remain undefeated, so we’d better give them the crown. Valencia – wot? You mean they’re actually doing well again? They are indeed, and the interesting thing is that nobody saw it coming.
Continue reading “Fires in the east”
Funny guy, José Miguel González Martín del Campo – better known as Michel and currently on most betting slips as the next coach who will be drawing unemployment benefit in Spain. Well, he probably doesn’t need to draw his next wage slip from the state, having been employed for the last seven months by Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani, who’s not without a penny or two. But he’s entitled to, if he wants. He’s signed a contract until June 2018, so there’ll be a decent whack of severance pay if he’s shown the door after the team’s latest 0-2 defeat at home to the mighty Leganés. Then again, one should not poke fun at the visitors, the victory being their third away from home this season, giving them a possible sniff of Europe and sixth place in the league as I tap at the keyboards on Sunday night. Continue reading “Michel, male manipulation, and bonkers Betis…..”
Watching England narrowly pip Slovenia and qualify for Russia, the night before Spain also secured their place by defeating Albania 3-0, was like watching the Grimsby youth-club disco make way for the Bolshoi Ballet. Julen Lopetegui’s Spain, refreshed and motivated by the change of coach, and with a seemingly endless cache of arms to employ on the front line, obliterated a half-decent Albanian side with a first-half display on Friday night which should rightly frighten the other feasible World Cup aspirants. Continue reading “Spain catch the Russian plane”
Well it’s difficult to talk about football today, but I’ll try my best. Maybe keep it brief and scattergun, look at the results in general and try not to focus too much on all the stuff that’s been going on in Catalonia. Too much of it in a football-related context can become slightly tedious – I’m aware – but when one of the games this weekend is played behind closed doors because of a referendum/non-referendum (call it which you prefer), then we’ve reached rock-bottom. So after we get that one analysed, the only way is up. Continue reading “Weird scenes inside the goal-lines”
The dumbest thing that anyone can ever say about Spanish football is that it shouldn’t be mixed up with politics. Lots of people do say it, of course. When it’s convenient for them, Spain’s best-selling sport tabloid ‘Marca’ says it (both directly and indirectly), but in sheep-bleating the empty phrase they themselves are being political – of course.
I became interested in Spanish football precisely because it is so politicised, almost to the extent that Spanish football and Spanish politics are one and the same. The whole Barça-Real Madrid rivalry reflects the cultural and political history of Spain in a very accurate fashion. How could anyone deny this? Sid Lowe has written an excellent book about it (Fear and Loathing in La Liga) and if you look at another book called ‘Morbo’ (not sure who the geek was who wrote it), you’ll find plenty of the same. And it’s not just Barça-Madrid. Far from it. There’s enough political bad-will floating around the rest of Spain to keep those particular batteries charged for another millennium. Continue reading “Football and Politics: Spanish Bedfellows”
Pride cometh and goeth before a fall, and all that jazz. Is that the problem with Real Madrid, or is there really no problem at all? In Spanish football, a 7-point gap with 33 games remaining is the definition of a crisis. Real Madrid (or their lackeys in the press) now fear they will never catch table-topping Barcelona after the latest calamity to befall them, namely a 0-1 reverse in the Bernabéu against Betis, with a goal scored in the 94th minute – usually the time that the home side specialise in snaffling the points on a bad day. Continue reading “Pride cometh before a fall”
It’s a rainy Sunday night in the Basque Country, just for a change. In the fading light, the dusky grey sky blows late-evening clouds over Anoeta, around whose scaffolded and concrete structure the ants scurry as kick-off time looms. It’s one of those moments when you think you’re at the centre of the galaxy – that nowhere else can be as important as this, and you’re desperate to get inside. Real Sociedad v Real Madrid feels like the focus of the week, the penultimate game of the 4th ‘jornada’ in La Liga, although on the previous day the opening of Atlético’s new Wanda Metropolitano must have cultivated similar sensations. Continue reading “Madrid Back on Track”