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.
The Estadio Pinilla hosted another partido amistoso the day immediately following CD Teruel’s pre-season friendly against Atlético Levante. The boys from CD Castellón on the Valencian coast travelled all the way up to the medieval provincial capital a full kilometre into the clouds where they took on SD Huesca, the club recently relegated from La Primera and who are used to playing at altitude.
Let’s be honest. Some places in the world just speak to us and we don’t know why. It could be entire nations, obscure cities or very specific buildings, corners or points on a street. During this year’s pre-season season, I got the chance to visit one of mine. That place is Teruel, provincial capital of the region of the same name and the most southerly city in semi-autonomous Aragón in Spain’s north-west.
10am on a Friday morning may be an unusual time for a Football match, but it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable – particularly when you’ve been able to go for so long. But with restrictions easing slightly and pre-season friendlies now underway, we did not miss the opportunity to get our groundhopping kicks once again in the home of a semi-professional outfit in Spain.
Needless to say that in the past 15 months it has been tough to find live Football games to attend, enjoy and subsequently write about. Travel has been limited, entry requirements into stadia have been very strict and – let’s be honest – in the grander scheme of things writing about Football fan culture has not been a high priority in the world recently. Since early March we have been to just one live Football match; a heavily regulated Tercera Group X league fixture between Xerez Deportivo and Rota. This weekend however that changes.
The time would have been around 6pm. The final spots of daylight were fading quickly into the surrounding buildings. The sun had been kissing the horizon when we left the guest stadium in Bornos, but that had changed quickly in the bus ride back through the foothills of the Cordilleras Béticas. In the shadow of the Chapín, my two interviewees led me to an innocuous family bar.
Between inflated transfer fees, relentless top-down engineering and the acutely politicised nature of the sport in the country, China and the Chinese Super League offer little for Football traditionalists. Yet an inquisitive Football enthusiast can still chance upon an oasis of culture even in this expansive wilderness.