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.

bff9fad64cafe6851aba30b25f9ac18a
The forty-minute Messi effect

Continue reading “A dose of democracy?”

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”

Thirteen and counting

Well that was pretty bonkers.  It was always going to be an entertaining game with goals, but nobody could have quite predicted the events that would lead to Real Madrid’s 13th European Cup, their 7th since the Champions League era began in 1992.  It was also their third consecutive win, a record in the post-1992 period, and their 4th in the last 5 seasons.   For younger readers, Madrid won the first 5 European Cups consecutively between 1956 and 1960, and they will struggle to either equal or supersede that record, but their achievement in the modern era is nothing short of remarkable, especially with the quality of the opposition hanging around the competition these days.  Continue reading “Thirteen and counting”