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.
Morning dawns slowly over the main road through a quaint residential neighbourhood. A set of waste disposal men get to work keeping Spain clean as a young lady zips past on her morning jog. But while the city begins to wake, all around there are signs that someone has been busy during the night.
One half of the most Football mad city in Africa. In Casablanca, you are either red or green, but you cannot mix the two. On our recent visit to Valencia, we spotted a lamppost outside La Mestalla that had been entirely taken over by Wydad Casablanca.
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.
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.