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.Continue reading “Beach Wisdom”
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.Continue reading “Happy with Mbappé?”
Four seasons in one day, rub-a dub-dub and it’s helter-skelter through what remains of our fragile sanity at the fag-end of the league campaign. Never fear, there’ll be a hammock and rest for us somewhere, in the close season at the end of the universe. I was happy that football was back, and now I can’t escape it.
‘Don’t it seem like a long time?’ That’s from a song written by Ted Anderson and performed by Rod Stewart in 1971, in the days when the latter was still good. And since he likes football, he’ll have been suffering too, and possibly singing that one in the shower. Don’t dwell too long on that one.
Back on March 10, when Real Sociedad beat Eibar 1-2 in an empty Ipurua, the only consoling thought, like the First World War being likely to last ‘at worst, a few weeks’, was that the lockdown wouldn’t last either. Now it’s been three whole months. The previous season finished on May 19th and started up again on Friday August 16th – a day Aritz Aduriz is unlikely to forget. Anyway, Aduriz aside, that was a three-month break but one that was scheduled. Continue reading “After the Gold Rush”
Before this weekend, Granada had only been top of LaLiga once before, coinciding more or less with the overthrow of Allende’s Chilean government in September 1973 by Pinochet’s cronies. The coincidence is of no relevance whatsoever, but I thought I’d drop it in anyway. It seems like a long time ago, in a season when they eventually finished in 6th place, two places above Real Madrid and two points shy of qualifying for the old UEFA Cup. It was their 6th of eight consecutive seasons in the top flight, their best run yet since their relatively late foundation in 1931, and probably their best season to date, if you ignore 1959 when they lost to Barcelona 4-1 in the Generalísimo’s Cup Final. Continue reading “Granada Armada”
In military theory, after a defeat, an excess of self-reflection and analysis of exactly what went wrong is seen as healthy, but only up to a point. This is because there was an adversary, and the adversary prevailed. You lost the battle – but it wasn’t all down to you. In psychology this is called ‘chronic analysis’ and it tends to be so self-absorbed that you fail to see the other factors – perhaps you know where this is going. If you just lost 0-3 to Barcelona, as Eibar did on Saturday, you probably wouldn’t need to spend the rest of the week self-flagellating. Eibar played okay, but Barcelona simply took advantage of their different level of quality. Analysis over, and move on. Real Madrid, however, were drowning in chronic analysis over the weekend, or at least their friends in the Spanish mainstream press were. Maybe the squad flew home from Mallorca after their 1-0 defeat thoroughly aware of what went wrong – and what did go wrong? Continue reading “Give us a mention!”
The British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once observed that ‘A week is a long time in politics’. Eduardo Alvarez more recently remarked that ‘three weeks is a long time in football’, and so here’s Liga Fever again, just as you were beginning to think that you could no longer stand the silence of the international break. It’s tough out there, I know. During a fortnight in league-less space, nobody can hear you scream. Continue reading “Three weeks fasting in the wild”
‘twas the penultimate game of the season, with everyone kicking off at 18.30 on Sunday – and ‘twas fun for some, less for others. This particular week of the league season is always the toughest, because at the nether end of the table there is usually a single side left who can still escape relegation and two sides who can be sucked into it, whilst up top the 4th Champions League spot tends to be the main focus. The trap-door opens or the dreams are quashed. Continue reading “Almost over, bar the shouting”
“They play like this [like a small team], that’s why they’re down [in the standings]”, were the bitter words of Mr Enrique Setién, coach of Real Betis Balompié, after his team were handed their backsides by Leganes back in February. That 3-0 victory took Leganes only three points below Betis, but Setién paid no attention to that fact and went on to say that if Leganes decided to attempt a ball possession approach like his inspiring, innovative, ground-breaking Betis (the adjectives are mine), they would miserably fail. Continue reading “Strikers’ time”
So we have a champion in the top flight (Barcelona), and another closing on the title in the Second Division (Osasuna). With three games left to play, the Catalans and reigning champions decided to get the league business out of the way by defeating Levante 1-0 at home, Leo Messi once again the chief executor/executioner in the 62nd minute just as the visitors were beginning to get a little awkward. We might still be waiting had Morales’ shot not bounced off the post in the 89th minute – another example of Barcelona’s lucky-charm season but also an indication of how they tend to make their own fortune, of how they tend to take their own chances cleanly and not leave much to random chance. They host Liverpool on Wednesday in what should be an extraordinary occasion, possibly en route to a treble. Oh, and their women’s team beat Bayern to get into their first ever final of the Champions League too. Continue reading “Champions”