Just finished Squid Game, and before you say ‘What took you so long?’ I have the pre-prepared retort that I prefer to let the hype settle before I tune in. I came late to Game of Thrones for the same reason, but returning to the Korean series, I wasn’t expecting that ending. I won’t deliver a spoiler, but unexpected twists are hard to deliver these days….and in football terms, you probably know where this is heading. It seems as if Spanish football is in need of ‘a Leicester’, a twist – and has been in need for some time now.
As Paul Gascoigne once remarked ‘“I’ve had 14 bookings this season—eight of them were my fault, but the other seven were disputable.” What is not in dispute is Real Madrid’s current leadership of LaLiga, or the fact that they won fairly and squarely on Saturday night in Anoeta – or if you really insist, in the Reale Arena in San Sebastián. As promised last week on these very pages, I attended the game in the flesh, alongside my son who had flown down from Amsterdam to see the event. He was released from footy obligations, with the Dutch leagues below full-time pro forced back into lockdown. So you would have thought that Real Madrid could have gifted us a magical evening together, but alas, Ancelotti and company were not in the pre-Christmas spirit.
I’d been hoping to mark this debut round-up for the noble pages of Football España with a rant-free feeling to it, but why change the habits of a lifetime? It was actually an interesting weekend’s action, to quote that over-used English adjective, but not without its controversies. I refer of course to the hand of Piqué, as opposed to God, and to the strange antics of Mateu Lahoz, Spain’s refereeing equivalent to Boris Johnson. Like Johnson, Mateo Lahoz talks a lot but rarely makes any sense, and his talk tends to be focused on explaining away yet another crass mistake he has just made. Johnson has better hair, but Lahoz can run faster. More on his bizarre decision in the Espanyol v Real Sociedad match later.
That was the weekend that was, although the Camp Nou clásico turned out to be something of a damp squib – not that anyone was complaining to the wild west in Madrid. Barcelona huffed and puffed but they never really blew Madrid’s house down, and by the time Agüero had scored his first for the hosts in his first clásico, the dice had settled. Madrid stay second, a point shy of Real Sociedad (more of them in a moment) and can be pleased with the way they coped with Koeman’s predictable tactics.
It was Monday night and I’d just nipped down to the beach for a cooling dip, as you do. It’d been a muggy day in San Sebastián and I’d been suffering a bit in the office all day. The good thing about going for a swim early evening is that most of the day-trippers have gone home, and I can usually count on bumping into a sort of mate of mine, an ex-pro neighbour who played for several top-flight clubs but who has been retired for a while now, living the life of Riley as an agent. Good bloke though, and always up for a natter. Sure enough, he emerged from the sea five minutes after me and we had a drying-down chat in the fading bronze light of the beach.
Before we get onto the minor stuff – Messi, Mbappé, Memphis, let me just tell you about my weekend. Live football is good, particularly after pandemic-based confinements, and so like many other dysfunctional members of my species I’m trying to attend as much as possible. As Stephen Fry said of religion, ‘It’s what some people do with their madness’. My madness is more ball than Bible-based, and my pilgrimage sites tend to involve terracing. Which is why people should never get married on Saturdays. Why Saturdays, ffs? The wedding reception I was invited to unfortunately coincided with Real Sociedad v Levante on Saturday, meaning that another lucky madman got my seat (I gave it to him, in a Christian act of altruism) but it really isn’t good enough. Why can’t people have wedding receptions on a Thursday night? They would then only coincide with the Europa League, and the loss would be of little consequence. Propose this soon to your local MP. You know it makes sense.
After events such as Lisbon, one can always count on Shakespeare. Macbeth, sitting down in the morning for coffee and porridge after murdering the king in the night and having had a bit of verbal with the missus, is asked by fellow party-goer Lennox if he’s had a decent night’s sleep. ‘Twas a rough night’ replies Macca, deadpan. This is often used to teach the concept of dramatic irony to GCSE students in England, but if Shakespeare were alive today you’d probably prefer to just ask him – ‘You were taking the piss, right?’ Continue reading “A rough night in Lisbon”
Yes – it’s that time, albeit rather late this year. The annual look-back on Spanish football antics normally takes place just as the new-born lambs have stopped their gambolling and the strawberries are beginning to look like mush. It’s been a weird season, and you may well be asking yourself whether I’m referring to Real Madrid winning the title, Deportivo dropping to Segunda ‘B’ or the irruption onto the scene of a pandemic. Perhaps all three. Continue reading “It’s The Balls! 2019-20 LaLiga round-up.”
There was an interesting moment in the Bernabéu on Sunday evening, sometime around the 30th minute. Cicinho played in a clever diagonal ball from the right, near the half-way line, intending it for Ronaldo to run onto. But the striker saw it too late, thought about it, then decided not to waste his energy on a ball that was running inevitably to the opposition (Depor) defence. As the crowd fidgeted with impatience, several boos began to float into the mild evening air. Madrid were winning 1-0, but Ronnie was still unloved and unwanted. Get thee back to Italy, the boos seemed to say. Continue reading “A weekend with Drew Carey and the galácticos”