Clásico Conundrum

Every cloud has a silver lining, eh? Just when Real Madrid thought that things couldn’t possibly get much worse, in the 25th minute of Barcelona v Sevilla, Leo Messi took on his compatriot ‘Mudo’ (the mute) Vázquez, toppled over and injured his arm.  The world stood still, Dembele replaced LM (who had already scored and set up a goal) and hope returned to the Bernabéu, where the grey-suited chiefs sat hunched in Saturday night pow-wow over the future of Mr Lopetegui. Ah, alas poor Julen – we thought we knew him.  From seeming like a thoroughly sensible bloke running the national team with serious-faced efficiency, his boat floated too close to the Siren shores of the Bernabéu. Julen dived into the water, and the rest is history. Continue reading “Clásico Conundrum”

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Tantric antics

Given the foul weather on Sunday morning, I wandered down to the local bar with my papers and pored over the footy stuff, accompanied by my ‘Tejano’ coffee (Texan – which is an ‘Americano’ with a bit of cold milk) and a croissant whose sugary nature will mean some gym-ridden penance sessions this coming week.  I like these coffee visits to the bar, usually alone.  I can read all the Spanish news and all the sports tabloids, in perfect peace.  In fact I stayed so long that Valladolid v Huesca began on the telly.  ‘They’re going back down, that Huesca lot’ pronounced the owner of the bar from within shouting distance – aware of my weakness for football.  I nodded. ‘They try to play football, but it doesn’t work for them – look!’ he proclaimed, as a pass went astray. Continue reading “Tantric antics”

A dose of democracy?

I was reminded of the Seekers’ song from my childhood when Messi came onto the pitch with Barcelona 0-1 down to Athletic on Saturday:  ‘I could search the whole world over/Until my life is through/But I know I’ll never find another you’.  We were talking about the wee man last week and once again he hit the headlines by pulling his team back from their third brink in three games by shaking up the general movement and getting the vital assist for Munir’s equaliser. Well actually it was four games on the brink, because they were mighty fortunate to win at Real Sociedad before this little negative ‘run’ began, but hey – crisis what crisis? They’re still top of the league.

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The forty-minute Messi effect

Continue reading “A dose of democracy?”

Messi records another record

Let’s talk about Barça and Madrid eh?  Five games gone, and by next weekend that’ll be seven (there’s a full programme during the coming week), so how are the big boys doing?  Maybe before we consider the question, it’s worth mentioning the fact that Messi’s performance against Girona, in which he scored (of course), was his 423rd league game for Barcelona which surpassed his ex-teammate Dani Alves’ total – handing him yet another record – this time for the most league appearances by a foreign player in the history of Spanish football.  He’s played 644 for Barcelona’s first team in total, but it’s the league figure which is significant for the statistician anoraks.  Continue reading “Messi records another record”

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”