Gareth Bales on us

It’s not often you get the opportunity to travel from one end of the footballing spectrum to another in just a few hours.  But today was one of those days.  After the highs of Lewes’s win at Wingate & Finchley yesterday it was a rude awaking at 3am for the trip to Madrid, on the first flight out of Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport.  So early was the departure that I had the BA lounge to myself for a good 15 minutes.  Still no Marmite though, but that is another story.  As the plane hugged the Atlantic coast of France I looked back on my previous trips to the Spanish capital, each memorable for different reasons.

9893199025_1e372f1884_b (2)In 1998, the Current Mrs Fuller and I made our first ever trip to Madrid on Debonair.  Remember them?  They flew from London Luton and went head to head with Easyjet for a number of years.  We pitched up in the middle of the Summer, not realising how hot Madrid could be.  A tour of the Bernabau raised temperatures even more, although the roof-top swimming pool of the Emperador was certainly a bonus (Madrid tip number 1: Not only an excellent rooftop pool but a huge buffet breakfast).

Two years later and we were back again.  In lieu of Christmas presents to each other we had invested in four consecutive weekends in European destinations that just happened to have four of the biggest football teams in Europe.  Milan, Madrid, Munich and Rome.  What an outstanding month.  Only it seemed such a good idea when we booked it in July.  Come January time and CMF was “just” five months pregnant.  Not handy for walking up to the top tier of the San Siro but she was a trooper and so I decided to treat her to a seat in the lower tier at the Bernabau.  Oh how she enjoyed sitting in the Fondu Sur with flares for company.  Nobody has ever mentioned that passive flare smoke is bad for unborn babies so that is OK.  In those days the East side of the stadium only had three tiers, rather than the five elsewhere.

Four years later and I was back to help Spain celebrate their 500th fixture.  And how were us party guests treated?  With water cannons in the streets around the ground, unprovoked baton assaults on the fans in the stadium and the racial abuse of Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips.  The actions of the Spanish police went unpunished although their FA were fined $87,000 for failing to act on the abuse from the crowd. So that makes it all alright then. Continue reading

Alcorcón, The Pride of Madrid (again)

Our idea of heaven is a weekend away watching football and generally enjoying the local culture.  All of us at TBIR were dead jealous of Danny Last across at European Football Weekends as he escaped the ice and snow of the UK for Christmas to Madrid.  after nearly two weeks of being a family man he escaped for a couple of days for some football action.  Below is one of his posts from his trip.  Enjoy – we certainly did!

Someone in EFW’s Brilliant Ideas Dept had decided it would be a top wheeze to take in a brace of matches on the outskirts of Madrid – in the same day. Needless to say I had no objections and considered myself up to the task in hand.

A trip to Alcorcón for a midday kick off with Real Madrid Castilla (reserves) would be followed by a short trip on the metro to Getafe to see them do battle with Valladolid at 5pm. I don’t know about you but these are the sort of days I find fairly agreeable.

AD Alcorcón were involved in the second most astonishing thing ever to occur in this glorious old pastime. They were responsible for knocking Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey this season. They thrashed them 4-0 at home and only lost 0-1 in the return leg at the Bernabau. 4-1 on aggregate and the biggest upset of all time in Spanish football complete. Some Real Madrid players haven’t played since that game, notably Guti – bad few weeks for him no!?

What? You want to know the most astonishing thing ever to occur in football? Here you go then; when Arbroath beat Bon Accord 36-0 in 1885 – thus recording the biggest victory in any senior British match – just 18 miles down the road on the same day, Dundee Harp beat Aberdeen Rovers 35-0. How’s your luck!? Worst still, the ref thought Dundee had won 37-0 but their own secretary thought they’d only scored 35 and so the lower figure was agreed upon.

Where were we? Football, Spain, oh yes…Alcorcón. Well, the twenty minute walk from the metro station to the ground takes you past a multitude of high rise blocks of flats. You also walk through a large park which – at a push – you could call an area of outstanding beauty. Its not really a place you’d choose to bring your wife on a honeymoon but good luck to it anyway. I felt just as at home here than anywhere in the country. It’s the real Spain so enjoy it.

After being relieved of €15 for my match ticket, I made my way inside the 3,000 capacity mutli-coloured all seater stadium. The first thing that you notice is that hundreds of those seats have been broken. This must have been caused by excess celebrations after that victory over Real Madrid.

These are giddy times for the club. They are due to take on Racing Santander in the next round of the cup soon. Tickets for this match (as well as the away leg) were being sold by a couple of chaps walking around the stands with a huge bundle of cash on them. Brisk trade was also being done in the club shop as shirts, scarves and pretty much everything else was selling out and fast.

Alcorcon 2 Real Madrid Castilla 1 – 3rd January 2010
After a couple of rousing renditions of We Will Rock You and with the sun not quite beaming its approval on the scene, the game got underway on what was rather marvellously – a pudding of a pitch.

The main stand was sold out and one of the fans in there was a complete loon/legend. He sang (into a microphone) alone for 90 minutes. His voice boomed out across the Municipal de Santo Domingo like an Indian call to prayer. Freaky but uniquey.

Cristian missed an open goal for Castilla early on but, what really had the locals talking was an incident on 18 minutes. Your correspondent with his right foot (I’m actually left footed) retrieved a wayward ball from the stands and lofted a perfectly chipped effort straight into the hands of Real Madrid left back Nacho (of course Nacho). He didn’t have to move a muscle. Both coaches looked at each other in semi-amazement and I’m sure at least one of them jotted down a note. I’m still sitting by my phone awaiting the call as I type.

On the stroke of half time the home side took the lead with Lopez (of course Lopez) getting his nut to an inswinging corner. It was great to see the Real Madrid players collectively losing their rag, caked in mud and evidently not wanting to be anywhere near Alcorcón.

With the aid of a bent linesman, Castilla found their way back into the game three minutes from time. Juan Carlos (of course Carlos) equalised with what would have been the most undeserved point ever gained by a team in the nattily named Campeonato Nacional de Liga, 2a Division “B” Group II.

Luckily, for all the romantics in the ground, super-sub David Sanz was on hand to bring a bit of justice to proceedings. He chose the very last bit of action in the match to head home the winner and send the home crowd into another seatbreaking celebration. I stood with the ultras behind the goal in the second half and although relatively few in number, there was pandemonium in there when the goal went in. Some tried to pull the goal down in all the excitement. A brown besuited policeman saw to that though and stood triumphantly in the goalmouth afterwards beating his chest. Marvellous scenes.

After the game, I reaped the benefit of this being a working class town rather than a tourist trap. For just €8 I was able to enjoy a three course meal complete with bottle of acceptable red wine in a little family restaurant near to the station. Don’t mind if I do. After all, I had another match to attend at Getafe in a couple of hours. Thanks Alcorcón, el orgullo de Madrid otra vez.

Read about the rest of Danny’s Madrid heaven here .