We’re late to turn this adventure into a post, but our story of travelling away to watch our beloved Hull City AFC play a pre-season friendly away on the Sunshine Coast was too unorthodox to ignore it. The Brighton and Hove Albion reserves and La Segunda big club Málaga CF were the opponents on the same day in the Marbella Football Center, but last minute plans to travel down from Barcelona without taking time off work made it anything but a conventional away day…..
14:40 – close my laptop with a vague message to my manager about “got somewhere to be” and leave the office quickly.
15:37 – walk through the door of my flat and jump into the shower as quickly as possible knowing I won’t have another chance to do so for 2 full days….
16:47 – arrive at Barcelona Nord coach station with just enough time to take a piss.
17:06 – coach departs for the long journey southward.
08:33 – after long night of restless children sat behind me, the coach finally arrives at Marbella coach station – possibly the grimmest place on Earth after only Elland Road.
08:56 – arrive by regional bus in the small Andalusian town of San Pedro de Alcántara; the closest town to the Marbella Football Center. San Pedro is a far quainter town compared to the other Costa del Sol holiday resorts that are very familiar to party-loving foreigners, and away from the highway, it is actually quite a pleasant place for an afternoon.
10:04 – as the heat is picking up, I walk to the Football center and arrive only to be told that I cannot enter. The first match kicking off at half ten in the morning was advertised as “behind closed doors” and therefore spectators were not allowed to enter. However, having just arrived in the region and with nothing else to do until the evening, I decided to try enter anyway and play my luck. The young steward at the gate explains I cannot enter but asks his manager on his walkie-talkie if I can come in anyway. The answer is no, so instead of protesting or trying to muscle my way in, I chose to be patient by the gate.
10:25 – with 5 minutes to kick-off, a gentleman wearing team-merch walks through the gate. Recognising, the badge, I call out to him; “are you City mate?”. I explain my predicament and he says he will see what he can do. A short while later, the game gentleman returns in a sleek black people carrier. As the young steward opens up the gate, the Hull City employee rolls the window down and beckons me over;
I’ve spoken to the center manager and he says it should be all okay. I just need to drive back to the hotel now to pick up the vice chairman, then we’ll be driving back. When we get to the gate, hop in and we’ll drive you down to the facility.
10:40 – true to his word, the club employee who I shall not name rolls up to the barrier now with a colleague in the passenger seat. The car stops and they kindly allow me to jump in before cruising up to the main vehicle entrance of the Marbella Football Center. We walk in (presenting myself as a club employee to the security guard even though I clearly don’t look like one) and I calmly take a seat on the completely empty stand having only missed ten minutes of action. To my left are the club staff, 10 metres behind me enjoying the shade are the players and in front is a professional Football match that I get to enjoy all to myself.
Politeness is a virtue.
11:34 – after having shook superstar Oscar Estupiñan’s hand and welcoming him to the club and city (in Spanish), I began to feel the sun more and more. I retired into the bar downstairs in the main clubhouse where I was treated to multiple beers on the house by a very attentive staff lead by Irishman Colin working as a “fix-it guy” for professional sports clubs conducting pre-season training in the area.
12:19 – the game ends 2-1 to Hull City against Brighton’s under 23s. The players and coaching staff pack up and walk slowly out of the ground, greeting me in the process. I take a final piss and decide to go walk back to the town to find something to eat and a place to cool off.
14:07– several more beers and half a pizza down, the heat and the long coach ride through the night finally get the better of me. Trying as hard as possible not to sound like a weirdo, I ask the chef I can I put my head down on a table in the corner of his restaurant to rest for a few hours. “Yeah whatever”. With my face pushed into a rolled up sweater, I go out for the count for several hours.
16:47 – slightly rested but in no way refreshed, I wake to find my half-finished pizza has been replaced by the bill. I square up the check, splash some cold water on my face and heave my rucksack back onto my back to continue walking. New objective – find a public place to shower.
17:12 – close to the beach I am disappointed not to find any type of public washroom or shower that I could use. I notice the time and realise I have limited time before kick-off. Two options face me – walk further towards the beach without knowing how long it will take me to find an outdoor shower, or cut my losses and walk back to the Marbella Football Center for that evening’s game. I did not travel 500 miles through the night for a shower; I came to watch Football. So, very sweaty and pink from sunburn, I turn and head back to the ground.
18:18 – having successfully navigated San Pedro’s industrial estate for the third time now, I get into the ground to find the local fans of Málaga CF massively outnumber us. Nevertheless, a modest amount of Hull City fans have made the journey and are camped on the stands in front of the clubhouse (which had let me in before but was now designated as “VIP”). I took a trip to the bathroom to change shirt and joined the City fans to welcome our boys onto the field.
20:42 – the final whistle goes, instigating a full pitch invasion lead by Hull and Málaga fans. The travelling Championship team brushed the Andalusians aside with a comfortable 3-1 win, albeit it against an underperforming reserve team in the second half. One by one, fans begin to make their way to the exits, which poses a problem for several of us with different travel reservations. 3 lads I spoke to had a limited number of hours to get to Málaga Airport, whereas my travel plans were simpler – I needed to take a bus back from San Pedro to Marbella coach station where my return leg to Barcelona was to depart at 23:50.
20:56 – several of the lads decide to punt on an Uber whle I walk with a Tiger fan on holiday from Scotland with his young son for the fourth time that day through San Pedro de Alcántara towards the highway.
21:41 – with 4 minutes before the final bus back in that direction that evening is due to depart, we make it to the bus stop. However, we wit 30 minutes without any luck. My two fellow City fans are heading up to Benalmadena between Marbella and Málaga, and the youngster is clearly quite tired by this point. The dad orders an Uber which eventually pulls up – at the exact moment the bus we would have taken does.
00:38 – it is now midnight on Sunday, some 4 hours after the last game finished and 16 hours after I first arrived in Marbella. My voice is hoarse, my skin is covered in my own salt and I absolutely smell terrible. Not a single screen in Marbella Coach Station is showing departure time information, helpfully, and the coach I need to catch to get back to Barcelona in time for work the following day is almost an hour late. No staff are around to direct me and I have no idea where my frigging bus is. As my irritation begins to get the better of me, at long last the bus rolls into the station and admits me, the only passenger waiting, on. I find a reclined seat beneath a fan and fall asleep.
17:55 – that same bus finally pulls into Barcelona Nord station, 49 hours after I originally set off from that same spot. Exhausted but happy, I pull my heavy bag back onto my aching shoulders and descend the steps of the coach. I note the soreness of my feet as I slowly walk home, so satisfied by how nice I know my cold shower is going to be. Christ, I am not the young-buck in my 20’s that I used to be and I can feel it. I kick open my door and wonder why I put myself through all this nonsense. But them I see my black and amber scarf hanging up and I realise why.