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”
Preview of all La Liga matches in the 6th jornada
There’s a new powerhouse in La Liga, probably at the level of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Yes, their budget is considerably smaller, but when you look at Atletico’s squad now, and what it will become in January, there’s very little argument: they can compete with the best in Europe. Continue reading “Atlético make the big move”
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”
Quiniela for the 5th set of fixtures of the season
How much time does a footballer need to show his true potential? In some cases, probably years. Which club or coach has the patience to wait all that time nowadays? Sometimes there’s no room for error, as it’s hard to justify certain investments and salaries with the mere hope that prospect X can bloom into a fantastic asset.
But when clubs take their time and it works, it’s a fantastic feeling for their usually fickle football fans. Think of Isco, for instance. It has taken him a few seasons and a bizarre conjunction of events to feel at ease in a Real Madrid shirt and show all the talent many of us – not me, by the way – thought he had. Or Marcelo, who arrived in Madrid ten seasons ago and could have left the club quite a few times before he finally looked not only talented, but as consistent as he does today.
What should Real Madrid do with Gareth Bale then? Continue reading “Time and Patience”
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”
Analyses and predictions for La liga’s 4th set of fixtures
I could spend a few thousand words describing how much I’ve been thinking of writing this comeback column, but it would be a waste of your time, so let’s get down to business. This is a Quiniela and hopefully you already know the drill: a home team win is reflected by ‘1’; a draw with ‘X’; and an away team victory with ‘2’. So there we go: ten matches, ten analyses, ten decisions to make… And some terrible jokes in the process. Continue reading “Back for Good?”