For Part I of “Nonidentical Twins”, please click here.
At the height of Moorish rule in Spain, their capital city was not Granada, but Cordoba. Cordoba was an established but weathered Roman settlement on the banks of the Guadalquivir River at the foothills of the Sierra Morena. Its strategic location offered three major advantages for the conquering Moors.
Firstly, it was low enough in altitude to be close to modestly cultivable land, meaning it could support a large population relatively well. Secondly, the Guadalquivir River provided an excellent transport route that connected Cordoba to the rest of the Islamic Empire, which facilitated trade. And lastly, the site was almost perfectly central in what was to become an administrative capital of the Umayyad Caliphate, making it a perfect place from which to govern “Al-Andalus” (as the Iberian Peninsula was known at the time). These three factors transformed Cordoba from a decaying collection of Roman ruins to the very heart of importance and sophistication in Medieval Europe.
And boy, did Cordoba transform. So high were the quality of life and level of security there that immigration was rampant. By the 10th century AD, Cordoba had swelled to become one of Western Europe’s largest cities in terms of population size. Much like Baghdad, Cordoba became a center of knowledge, study and education during the Islamic Golden Age, particularly in the fields of chemistry and architecture.
The second subject can hardly be a surprise when you take a walk around the city centre, a place where every street corner could claim to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in its own right. Alongside the river sits the largest diamond in the former caliphate’s crown jewels; the Mezquita de Cordoba, a former mosque that was constructed in a single year in 784 before it was converted into a cathedral after the Catholic reconquest of the city in 1236. To put it in more simple terms; life in Moorish Cordoba was objectively leagues ahead than it was in the small dwellings of superstitious and backward Medieval Christian Europe.
Fast-forward one millennium and Cordoba remains just as beautiful as it must have been during its imperial days in the Umayyad Caliphate. A visit is worth whatever effort and money it takes you to get there. Admittedly the modern 21st economy has relieved the city of its status as the capital of the Iberian Peninsula, but as you walk the winding streets of its Jewish Quarter, gazing at endless delightful tiles and ornate carvings of Islamic geometric art, the theme of cultural blending that features so prominently in Spain‘s history glows brightly before you very eyes.
Much like Granada, Cordoba effortlessly reminds you that multiculturalism is a precursor to economic growth, technological innovation and artistic advancement. A good thing, in other words.
All things given, you would anticipate that ultras and fanatics of Cordoba CF would celebrate their city’s historic prominence in the face of their rivals at any and every opportunity. You would assume they would acknowledge the positive effect that the fusion of cultures has in the world. You would imagine them to be eager to demonstrate tolerance in a country where Football fandom remains tribal, polarised and sectarian. If our theory about why the fan culture of Granada CF has resisted the regional swing towards the right is to stand up to scrutiny, then the Football fan culture of its twin-city Cordoba would also be centrist or at least leftist…. right?
You are smart enough to know where this is going. The ultras of Cordoba CF are up there with the loudest right-wing sympathisers that can be found on Andalusia’s terraces on matchday. The Estadio Nuevo Arcángel is a hostile place to travel to as an away fan at the best of times. But knowing that the local hard-cases are extremely unwelcoming to any outsider serves as a stain on your otherwise exquisite visit to magical Cordoba.
The usual right-wing fan tropes apply to Cordoba’s ultras. Fascist salutes are not unknown. Fan-made merchandise such as stickers, scarves and slogans often feature anti-immigrant propaganda. Needless to say; Cordoba CF does not charm the impartial spectator of Spanish Football in the same way that Granada CF does.
We therefore conclude not with an answer, but with a question. How can two Andalusian cities both defined by an historical exposure to other cultures and civilisations produce two sharply contrasting Football fan cultures in the 21st century? Granada CF remains something of a black sheep in Spanish fan traditions, and all the more popular for it, but Cordoba CF ultras would simply object to being described as black on the very principle of it.
Have a think and let us know.