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.
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.
Not wanting to waste more money on the metro, I bet with myself that I could make it back from the office to my home where I would be working for the rest of the day in time for my next meeting. The emergency dash to the HR office had taken care of my immediate concern with time to spare, so I decided to walk back from the centre of town towards my flat, snaking my way through El Born district. But in spite of my haste, one shop window still caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks.
A day late you might well say, but who cares?
To my surprise, fans were freely walking back out of the stadium. The vast security team that had so diligently monitored the actions of the crowd inside the ground now seemed entirely ambivalent to their temporary exit. With fifteen minutes to kill, I followed many fans out to find a soft drink. Having completed my purchase from a vendor making his living in the shadow of the stadium named in honour of the city’s proletariat, I turned to face the Beijing Workers’ Stadium and bumped into three young men in identical green t-shirts featuring bold designs. Given the impenetrable language barrier, I made a friendly motion to demonstrate my wish to take a photograph. Their passive demeanour evaporated.