The tram jerked round the corner and the colossal Olympic Stadium burst into view – a facility purposefully developed for the 2012 UEFA European Championship that The Economist estimated had cost the Ukrainian taxpayer an astonishing $13 billion. We hopped off the Soviet era tram just as a faint blast tapped our ear drums. Shrugging it off, we walked towards the front gates as another faint explosion rippled the air around us. More unusual was the comprehensive security force flanking the entrances – half the national guard seemed to have descended onto the Ukrainian National Stadium for a routine league Football match on a Sunday evening.
Satisfied with the few photos I had taken, I awkwardly scrambled back down the muddy ground and continued my walk. More media vehicles had parked up at the front side of El Sadar since I had began my tour of one of Spain’s classic grounds, and the queue of expectant fans outside a closed ticket window had grown. Realising I was short of funds, I turned to go find a cash point and walked into the path of an older gentleman.
“Who we playing today?” Alavés I said. “Oh, should be a good one then”.
The title is a bit of a stretch, but hopefully succinct. The Basque Country is comprised of 4 provinces of northern Spain and 3 of southwestern France, even though the País Vasco is an administrative, semi-autonomous region of Spain. Known is the Basque language as Euskal Herria, the Basque Country can be best conceptualised as the land straddling the border where Basque cultural traditions have survived and are most celebrated to this day. Across the Easter break, we decided it was time to explore their ways and history by checking out some great Football matches in Spain’s most enigmatic region.
A bit of sickness this week put delay to this upload, but we have finally sifted through the photos of our latest trip to pick out the best for this blog post. Last weekend we got on the train to the Autonomous Community of Valencia for some La Liga groundhopping action.
It’s a question I get asked surprisingly often whenever I visit lower-league sides. Nevertheless, this gentleman’s abruptness caught me off-guard. I asked him to repeat himself, and he pressed on with yet more enthusiasm; “are you a Football player?”
The would-be stand-up comic in me has a stock answer reserved for this question; do I look like a professional Footballer with a belly like this? My new friend laughed and doubled down with his own quick-witted retort. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Look at this fat bastard over here” and he patted his pal’s tummy lightly. “that’s a proper beer belly”.
By no uncertain terms, one giant of European Football has had an exceptionally poor start to the 2021-2022 season. It takes only seconds for the visitor to the Museum of Football known as Camp Nou to appreciate both the legacy as well as the monumental resources of FC Barcelona. So high is the global commercial demand for a slice of what the media brands as the Football club that embodies the Catalan spirit that “La Rambla del Barça”, a 150 walkway of sideshows, facilities and entertainment outside the actual stadium, accommodates bidding customers from the world over on any day of the week, regardless of whether or not there is a match to be played on the day of their visit.
Hello darkness my old friend….. Autumn has most definitely arrived now, but that just makes finishing a match under floodlights all the more charming. We’ve been on the road again with more groundhopping with a camera with 2 matches attended in 2 days with great attendances, great atmospheres, great prices but a bit of a lack of goals in the consistently contentious comunidad of Catalonia.
A father pushed his two daughters hurriedly onto the footpath and immediately sploshed his left foot into a puddle. With a sigh, he followed his children to a 50cm strip of concrete beneath an overhanging shop front, accepting the dark patch now a quarter of the way up his denim jeans. I caught his eye as I shuffled up slightly to provide room, sharing a defiant “that’s how it is sometimes” type of smile with him as his family squeezed in beside me. Now all we could do was hope the shower would soon cease. They had their weekly shopping to complete. I had 30 minutes to locate this damn stadium.