Monday, December 21, 2009

Brass Monkeys, bizarre wigs and some top totty!

Every Christmas since colour telly began you can rely on Coca Cola to come up with an advertisement the equal of any repeated TV offering can't you? Prior to last Tuesday I had no idea at all what want went into producing thirty seconds of top quality retail opportunity, that was until Italian production company The Family arrived at Elche CF'S Martinez Valero stadium to film a Coke ad to be screened during next summers World Cup.

Apart from the temperature, which felt like minus four with a wind chill factor of about twenty below, I'd hazard a guess it was a perfect day for getting a commercial shot, sunny and with cloudless blue skies. One hundred and fifty odd carefully selected extras, two pro' photographers and an Elche centre-forward formed the cast, on the other side of the camera lens about forty technicians were organised by Director Marco de Aguilar, a veteran of various campaigns for numerous high profile clients. At a conservative estimate, only about twenty of the techies appeared to actually be doing anything, most of the rest just sort of bimbled about trying to keep warm, perfect then for me to snatch a word in broken English with a very helpful Italian "production assistant" called Joanna who explained exactly what was occurring.

My synopsis, which I doubt will ever resemble what eventually appears on screen, is thus -

As the tension rises during a dramatic football match, a bloke in the crowd pops the top off a soft drink bottle and instantly the footy is forgotten, the camera pans away from the action and, during a pregnant pause he takes a swig, seconds later the penalty is slotted and the crowd goes mental.

I think the going mental bit was what the day was all about, come the finish the advert will run to ten seconds, with six seconds featuring football fans of the thirty two competing World Cup nations all looking jolly pleased indeed. The finished product promises to be quite a colourful affair with over the top wigs, a huge array of football shirts, scarves and the faces of one or two seriously attractive ladies painted in national colours. Therein though lay the problem for everyone present except the snugly attired crew, the stop start nature of filming meant the extras were required to take off their jackets and replace them over and over again, not an ideal scenario on such a bitterly cold day, at least a couple gave up the idea of a generous days wages and left well before the end. Those that persevered were rewarded with mounds of ham and cheese baguettes from the on site catering crew.

On the way out I helped myself to one and cut my gum trying to eat it!!

Top - Director Marco De Aguilar
Right - Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o
Left - A few of those mental folk
Below - Some crumpet with her face painted

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bravo: two-zero

With their dismal November a fast receding bad memory, Sunday December 13th saw Santa Pola CF play the first of only two games scheduled for the month. As British football gears up for a frantic Christmas period, Spanish soccer heads in the opposite direction, from the weekend of the 19th and 20th no matches take place until the first Saturday of January. Easy life!

With a two week break since their previous outing thanks to a National holiday, Santa Pola welcomed lowly Alfaz del Pi to the Pereira ground, an outfit that hadn’t exactly set the league alight in their fourteen games to date. Shortly after 1130 referee Moraledo Santos kicked things off and by the time two and bit hours later he ended the game, Santa Pola had appeared to have strolled to a routine win. For the victorious Marineros, the match was anything but a walk in the park, Alfaz may have been short on confidence but certainly weren’t lacking in aggression. Inside the first five minutes, scary looking full back Bazaga, won the ball cleanly from 'Pola winger Paloma but unfortunately his momentum carried him off the pitch and into the spectators where he collided with a young boy. For sure the collision would have hurt an adult, seeing the eight year old child's tears, the concern of the rugged defender was apparent. Thus was set the scene for a full blooded game played out in a very sporting fashion.

Santa Pola dominated a one sided first half but weren't above to find the back of the net, a bit of a combination of three things really, shite finishing, tenacious defending and a flag happy lino' who appeared to have a bit of a nervous tic in his right arm. Half time came and went, so too did the tears which meant the visiting full back could concentrate on his defensive duties and not worry about avoiding having his goolies removed by an irate Mother at full time.

I suspect Alfaz got a bit of a bollocking in the dressing rooms during the break, they came out and were considerably better, especially their spiky haired number ten Raul who played the second forty five with a particularly spiky attitude too. Such is football though, as the visitors stepped on the gas and put the home side under the cosh, guess who scored first? yup, 'Pola. Chema slapped in a speculative shot the Alfaz 'keeper could only spoon out straight to the lurking Paloma who buried the ball gleefully. A goal up Santa Pola relaxed but it was still the visitors who made all the running, their task was made easier by the dismissal of centre back Dani for his second yellow card. For the second time this season, he'd soon be having a Sunday off courtesy of an identical reason, poor dscipline! Striker Mario Fernandez was replaced to ensure the Santa Pola back four remained just that.

A goal up and a man down, Santa Pola then proceeded  to make heavy weather of the remainder of the half, Alfaz showed much more up front and were unlucky not to equalize. Santa Pola rode their luck and looked distinctly edgy as the away side pressed. With time running out, the next goal would only mean one of two things, a point apiece or all three for the locals. As it happened, Chema, ploughing a lone furrow deep behind enemy lines up front was in the right place at the right time to oblige with a carbon copy of the first goal. With only five minutes remaining the second goal settled the Santa Pola nerves and guaranteed three welcome points.

Apologies to all for the dodgy title of this piece, the final score was 2-0 though and I did say "bravo" at the end, only it probably sounded a little bit more like "fucking excellent"

PHOTOS; Top - Bazaga (left) survived with both spuds intact
                  Bottom - Paloma (10) was on target

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Elche CF revival continues

Six league games and a losing Copa del Rey tie away at Cartagena, were quite enough for the Board of Directors of Elche C.F. to dispense with the services of popular coach Claudio Barragan. Four defeats, a draw and a single win yielded four points and twentieth place in the Segunda A table. It didn't help Claudio that the straw that broke the camel's back was a dismal capitulation away to hated Alicante rivals Hercules.

Enter stage left one Jose Bordalas Jimenez, "Pepe" to local journalists, TV types and football fans. With no pre-season opportunity to build a squad of his own choosing, Pepe was compelled to go with what was already there, and since taking over has had to contend with one or two long term injuries to key personnel.

From a low point of being publicly humiliated in the Alicante derby, Elche have acquired the persona of the snotty nosed kid, who, after being slapped around once too often in the school play ground, took it upon himself to learn self defence. Since the beginning of October, the Franjiverdes have put on some weight, puffed out their chests and, home or away, simply refuse to quit. In the nine league games since taking over, Bordalas has steered his new charges to five win and four draws, at least a couple of which were wins for the taking before the opposition scored late equalizers.

At the time of writing, Elche sit sixth out of twenty two in the divisional classification, a remarkable turn around from wallowing third bottom and scratching around for points. In the space of five or six games, Elche have become one of those sides that the opposition treat with considerably more respect. Previously, a trip to or visit from Elche was seen as a chance for some points and to improve the goal difference, no longer.

Amongst the teams the new tenacious Elche have taken by surprise recently are promotion hopefuls Cartagagena, old rivals Rayo Vallecano and recently relegated Real Betis, both of whom lost without scoring. As expected, fans favourites Argentine goal-keeper Willy Caballero and playmaking midfielder Santos haven't disappointed. Elsewhere in the team, various different players have stepped up to the plate to give the notoriously fickle Elche public some food for thought when choosing their player of the season.

Argentine midfielder Acciari has been immense, not least because of his calming influence over Ghanaian colleague Wakaso, a player who was once yellow carded whilst warming up and who later helped himself to a straight red card five minutes after coming on off the bench. These days, Wakaso draws ripples of appreciative applause as a new found maturity sees him a regular and well deserved starter, playing the part of combative ball winner and spraying passes to colleagues everywhere.  Up front, the goals are starting to come regularly for burly number 9 Jorge Molina after a sluggish start during which locals fans scratched their heads in frustration. The Alicantino striker is a single goal away from heading the top scorer list, the majority of his eight goals to date have all come since Pepe took charge.

At the back, if you stop them scoring you stop them winning, as part of a settled back four, ex Real Mallorca centre back Marti Crespi has been outstanding. In and out of the side under Barragan, the twenty two year old hasn't missed a game under the new manager and has played an integral part in shoring up a defensive unit that once leaked sixteen goals in six games.

Clean sheets and plenty of goals for make a useful combination, the result of which is steady progress up the table. For Elche the early season threat of relegation seems a thing of the past and, collectively, the squad are now looking upwards and not over their shoulders. Sixth place, three below the promotion places and just six points off top spot are the rewards for Pepe Bordalas' Elche revolution. A tremendous effort by all concerned.

PHOTOS: Top - "Pepe" Bordalas greets his opposite number, Javier Gracia, ahead of the recent game against Cadiz.
                  Bottom - Jorge Molina celebrates yet another goal 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tell me again why I bothered

You know what it's like don't you? you've felt like crap for the past two weeks, really can't be arsed to do anything and just want to ming, unwashed, in bed like the monster from the bog of eternal stench. Well, that was me last Sunday, but unfortunately, Sunday is also football day, which, in turn handed me a bit of a teaser. Was I really so bedridden, decrepit and in need of intensive care that I couldn't possibly, under any circumstances, jump in the car for the ninety minute drive to Javea to watch their 1630 kick off against Santa Pola? Having missed just the one 'Pola match in the last couple of years, the answer probably took all of ten seconds to come to me.

Three hours later, fortified by a Big Mac and chips I didn't really want and never even finished, the stop start rain that slowed my progress North was back as I pulled into the car park at Javea's municipal stadium. Immediately, I noticed the place had no roof, fanfuckingtastic! Huddled under my brolly, complete with fingerless mittens and, for the first time this season, woolly hat, I did my best to enjoy what quickly became a very poor first half of football, the kind of game that has nil-nil written all over it five minutes in. The fact I managed to coax my knackered body into not falling asleep during a dire first period is more due to the effect of stinging raindrops on my eyelids that any effort of will power on my part.

Bereft of anything whatsover resembling taste, the only useful function of my half time cup of coffee at most away grounds is to warm my hands up, today, a miserable dark and damp Sunday, was no different. I retook my uncomfortable concrete seat in the uncovered stand with a nagging dread about what the second half might bring. Today, I didn't even have the luxury of bellowing profranities at either the opposition players or match officials because a good ten days ago I'd reduced my voice to some croaky silent thing following a violent, three day coughing fit. These days I was only capable of emitting strangulated utterances, curious noises that would make even Stephen Hawking say "Pardon?"

One hour and three goals later, only one of which was scored by Santa Pola, I headed for the exit numb with cold, more than a little pissed off and seriously wondering why I bothered. My next task was to find an amenable local cafe with internet connection to tap out a match report for the newspaper, I could see with this I would struggle because during Javea's 2-1 win I'd managed to scribble all of seven lines in my notebook. Proper journalism, if it never happened pretend it did!!

On the evening that Barcelona took on Real Madrid in the big one, I stumbled across the only bar in the Costa Blanca with indifferent locals. All of four people rammed themselves inside the place and took more interest in me than the biggest footy match of the season so far,  mentally, I compared my devotion to theirs.
500 and odd difficult words later, shortly after nine fifteen, I arrived home thoroughly delighted I'd made the effort, my initial doubts were answered by smiles, brief conversations and numerous handshakes from the twenty man travelling 'Pola squad and management team, each of whom, just like every week home or away, appreciated somebody bothering. This weekend, only ten 'Pola fans made the effort.

Tell me again why I bothered? Simple, your football team is your football team, win lose or draw, they piss you off on a regular basis, you might might spend the next two hours seriously hacked off, but tomorrow, you can't wait to watch them again!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The old boys return

Nope, not a Manchester pub in a popular television show but the story behind Santa Pola's most recent three points, taken from a team featuring a couple of their former players. Of the two blokes in question, one was out of luck and the second was a right jammy bastard!

For years attacking midfielder Toni Giminez prompted his 'Pola team-mates and probed away at opposing defences for the benefit of the cause, chipping in with crucial goals and numerous assists. During 2008/09, his last season at Santa Pola, he was much less effective and for large parts of many games appeared totally anonymous. Clearly, the June transfer to rivals Benissa was sufficient re-motivation, Giminez is playing well and amongst the goals again as his new outfit sit in a handy second place, eleven games into the season.

For game twelve, a rugged looking Benissa side, captained by former 'Pola centre-back Cristian sought to avoid only their third defeat following a decent start to the campaign. With the Els Ciprerets pitch suitable only for moto-cross or something agricultural, permission was granted by the FFCV for Santa Pola CF to use the larger, plastic surface of the Pereira facility, on which for the previous couple of weeks the squad had been training.

The game itself was a bit of a good 'un, Benissa are by a distance the best team Santa Pola have played all year, physical, strong and with loads of height throughout the side, they looked a handful, especially upfront where that man Giminez eventually gave all four Santa Pola defenders a pretty good work out, creating most of the good stuff for the visitors. There was nothing streaky or undeserved about the 2-0 lead Santa Pola had opened up at the interval, the real fun and games though began as the second half started.

A very obvious and correctly called yellow card for the bearded Cristian for a none too subtle shove in the back on Paloma, was soon followed by his second. A disappointing and error strewn return should have ended early, instead, and despite the linesman politely volunteering, "I think you've already booked the away number 4" he stayed on and almost changed the game. Inexplicable refereeing oversight aside, there was still a game going on and a good one too. Benissa pulled a goal back before 'Pola extended the cushion to two.

Cristian, who on any other day would have been back in the changing rooms blow drying his hair, eventually racked up two yellow cards, ninety odd minutes, a goal and an assist. His goal, Benissa's third, was a free kick heaved in from long range to make it 3-2 with ten minutes left. Chema's second of the half kept the Marineros two ahead before, yup, the very, very lucky Cristian set up Nestor for the last goal.
Final score 4-3

Had I been sat next to anyone else other than a muscular coloured lad in a Benissa tracksuit, I would have been just a tad cross at the refereeing bungle, instead I spent quite a large part of the final twenty minutes being obsequious to chummy next door. Nothing at all to do with the fact that shortly after the start of the game, he'd mentioned he's Benissa's starting striker but is presently sitting out a three game ban for violent conduct, honest!!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Up ya bum Orihuela

This weekend Santa Pola failed miserably in their quest to emulate Hercules B and rack up seven consecutive defeats, they didn't even get half way there which was a huge relief. Following three disappointing losses, the old Santa Pola returned and trimmed up Orihuela B very nicely thank you, in large part due to the return of a couple of first choices absent recently through injury.

On a crap pitch at a shit-hole of a ground, (I wrote about it here a week or so ago, remember the one? you access it via a teeth jarring road of bones), the
"rojiblancos" eased to a 1-2 win against an ordinary looking Orihuela B side that spent most of the game bitching at the referee. They should have kept their gobs shut and do what they're paid to do, kick a football to one another.

Muscular American striker Mario Fernandez opened the scoring inside ten minutes and 'Pola began the game looking good and controlled things until an inexplicable deliberate handball by centre back Miguel gifted the home side a penalty for the equalizer. He might have got away with it against any other team, Orihuela "persuaded" the ref to have a bit of a chat with his lino and the upshot was a yellow card and a spot kick, slapped in by striker Aleo. That was how the first half ended, a careless goal conceded but no real alarms as Santa Pola, for the most part, stroked the ball around with confidence.

The winning goal came courtesy of the oldest bloke on the pitch,
Chema, defying the ageing process prodded the ball in from close range shortly after the second half began. Thereafter, a youngish looking Orihuela B side went into a even bigger moody and had two sent off. Saul had his afternoon's work shortened by about thirty minutes following his second yellow card and full back Damian saved the man in the middle a bit of time with a straight red. Until he hit the floor and regained his senses, Chema knew nothing about the cowardly mugging from behind perpetuated by the home full-back.

Try as they might to draw blood deliberately, the only time Orihuela B managed it was by complete accident, the unlucky Santa Pola defender Vicente stopped a boot in the mouth and was withdrawn, last seen counting his teeth with about three kilos of Kleenex surrounding his gums.

Down to nine immature men, the home side were clearly getting a bit narked, expelled forward Saul, still very obviously seething, chose to pick a verbal fight with the smallest member of the travelling support, local legend and "Chocolatero" (more later), Pablo. Visualise Charlie Magri in against Evander Holyfield and you're half way there. In the end, Pablo, still giving it loads, was dragged off by a concerned friend who feared for the safety of the local bloke.

Eventually, referee Vegas Iglesias blew for time and following the reluctant but necessary handshakes all round, Santa Pola grabbed three welcome points after a fractious second half. At the end of the week-end fixtures 'Pola sat fifth in the Preferente classification with twenty points from their first eleven games. Not bad at all following a piss poor November.

PHOTOS; Above - spooky, Orihuela players whingeing at the ref
                 Below - Paloma was outstanding

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Overnight bags and old bags

Last Saturday, Santa Pola made the half hour journey to Mutxamel, (Much-a-miel), seeking to avoid a third successive defeat, I don't think they tried quite hard enough! The afternoon wasn't that great an experience all round, in spite of proferring FFCV press pass, Santa Pola season ticket and Directors identity, the muppet on the gate insisted on a payment of ten euros, in the end I gave up arguing and just walked in.

The stadium itself was barely worth two euros entrance let alone ten. A decent sized artificial pitch, surrounded by a grubby athletics track and floodlights set way too far back to offer any worthwhile illumination were accompanied by a gale force wind and bare concrete seating, miserable!

The Mutxamel manager, Juan Iborra, who I chatted with a couple of weeks ago on my unofficial scouting mission offered a handshake in return for my good wishes for the game and took a seat next to his subs. He barely had time to warm his arse though as he was red carded twenty seconds after the start for foul language.

Freezing cold and with 'Pola a goal behind at the break I wandered off to the cantina to try and cheer myself up with coffee and a sarnie, I should have taken my passport and an overnight bag, it was about a kilometre away and took and age to get served, so long in fact I missed the start of the second half. With twenty minutes left Marcos equalized from the penalty spot as Santa Pola came more and more into the game, pushing hard for a winner they left gaps at the back and conceded twice in the last ten minutes to throw it away,
Final score 3-1

Above - Marcos scored but to little avail

Special thanks must go to the sixteen stone Spanish lady with a face like a bag of spanners sat nearby for making a shitty afternoon even worse. By the end of the game the constant moaning of her and her husband were really starting to bother me. I was tempted to offer a friendly suggestion, something like, "for fucks sake shut up you fat old heiffer, your team won"  but thought better of it.

The football was too depressing to describe in detail so here's a web link describing the action, or what little of it there was.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Alto riesgo - the Murcia derby

Having failed to persuade the oh so patient girlfriend a Sunday trip to IKEA would be a good idea, I still went anyway, not the Swedish superstore though but to one of the best stadiums in Spain, the adjacent Nueva Condomina, home of Real Murcia C.F. In one of their biggest games in years, struggling Murcia took on near neighbours and sworn enemies, high flying Cartagena.

Ninety minutes before kick-off the place was jumping, courtesy of the more than seven thousand visiting fans who made the short journey from home in one of Spain's most important naval cities. Ten games into 2009/10 Cartagena, recently promoted from Segunda B football, still await their first defeat and are this seasons surprise package. The way they disposed of Murcia, languishing near the foot of the table, was clinical, two goals inside the first five minutes and the home side were on the back foot almost immediately.
A third Cartagena goal on the half hour killed the game as a contest and thereafter Murcia were playing for pride.

It's probably because I've been weaned on a diet of semi-professional football played out in front of crowds of about five hundred or so, but there's something quite exciting about a magnificent stadium rammed to the rafters with a huge visiting contingent separated from the locals by a column of hard looking cops that stretches all the way to the top of the stand. The local law enforcement needn't have worried, after a rampant first half the away lot were in the mood to party, which they did, and how!

In his first game in charge of Real Murcia, Jose Gonzalez must have read the riot act during the break, his charges came out for the second half and performed like men possessed, Cartagena never got a look in and for the first time in the game the home fans sensed something special might be about to happen. They deservedly pulled a goal back and set about battering the Cartagena back four for whom Arsenal and Villarreal reject Pascal Cygan was immense. Urged on by their own fans who took a while to find their voices, Murcia tried everything but couldn't find a way past the outstanding Cartagena goalkeeper Ruben, who defied the marauding red hordes singlehandedly.

A debateable Cartagena penalty on eighty two minutes maintained the three goal cushion and saw Murcia down to ten men as former Hercules defender Sergio Fernandez saw red and took an age to depart. Despondent locals streamed away five minutes before Cantabrian referee Sr.Teixeira blew for time. Final score Murcia 1 - 4 Cartagena. 

Top - Cartagena's twelfth player
Middle - An assured performance by Pascal Cygan  
Bottom - Sergio Fernandez is asked to leave

Monday, November 2, 2009

Not the best weekend

Just when I was giving some serious thought to changing my name to Harry, the North London derby occurred and immediately put the kybosh on a bit of flawed idea. I managed to watch the first forty three minutes before turning off the TV in a bit of a huff. One quick Google Earth later and I jumped in the car to scope out Santa Pola's next away opponents.

Orihuela is about twenty minutes away from Elche and their B team were taking on Mutxamel in a Preferente fixture I didn't really need to see but just fancied because Spurs were so shite. Orihuela have one of the leagues most attractive stadiums, Los Arcos, right in the centre of town. Unfortunately, it was out of bounds today which meant a slight detour around the city to the middle of nowhere, a small pueblo, (village), called Hurchillo, where, the rather grandly titled Ciudad Deportiva was anything but. The place was accessed only by seven odd kilometres of teeth jarring cobble stoned road, in England you'd be picking up stones and dog shit from the playing surface before attempting to stage the game. Surrounded on all four sides by a head high wire fence just three feet from the touch line, a reasonable crowd turned up to watch, all of whom sat on their car bonnets to view proceedings. With no cantina or loo's, (I took a wazz in the stinging nettles behind the decrepit changing rooms), I knew straightaway I'd not be hurrying back. After a brief chat with the Mutxamel coach to suss out his team, we were joined unexpectedly by one Domingo Grau, the Santa Pola manager who had the same idea as me.  A last minute goal by Orihuela B's ginger haired full back Rojo shared the points in a 2-2 draw, shortly after I put my gum shield back in ready for the journey back.

This weekend, what should have been the footballing highlight became the second lowlight, Santa Pola lost at home. It was a weekend of curious results; leaders Horadada, seven wins from nine starts, lost at home to bottom club Hercules B who took eight games to earn their first points, so clearly 'Pola were in good company. It didn't start too badly, the Santa Pola back four, static and with arms raised appealing for offside, were ignored by both lino and ref as Polop opened the scoring five minutes in. Adriano, him again, equalized with a simple header from a corner to send the teams in level at the break. Five minutes after the restart, Polop took the lead and never relinquished it, Giorgio hammered in a free kick from outside the box to grab all three points for the visitors. Santa Pola, with a good forty minutes to make amends never even got close.
Full time 1-2

After a quick dash home to knock up some words and email a couple of photo's it was back to Santa Pola to pick up my mate Mark for the third of three games, the Tercera group 6 clash between Torrevieja and Elche Ilicitano at the Vicente Garcia in Torre'. At the start of my Spanish odyssey I lived in Torrevieja for two months and hated it without ever being tempted to visit the local team. FC Torrevieja deserve all the plaudits that come their way, the club were almost bankrupt and out of existence just a couple of years ago, thanks to financial mis-management by the previous board. A fantastic effort by fans, a new group of Directors, local businesses and well wishers got the enterprise back on it's feet and they're now thriving. Santa Pola C.F. could certainly learn something from the commercial acitivities run by Torrevieja.

As always in football, events off the pitch are not always matched by those on it, in front of a couple of thousand people, a crowd two locals I got chatting to assured me was disappointing for them, Torre' and Elche B slugged it out in an at times quite feisty game that ended two apiece.

Elsewhere, and unlike Harry Redknapp, the two Segunda A teams I follow and watch closely did really well. Elche travelled to Madrid to take on Rayo Vallecano, the only second division team with a female President, Maria Teresa Rivero, and came away with an excellent 0-1 win. At the same time as Santa Pola meekly surrendered to Polop, Hercules took on Real Sociedad at home and spanked them 5-1. A bit of a mixed bag then really with the two most important games a bit crap.

Top - Santa Pola coach Domingo Grau
Middle - Captain Monsa, out of luck for 'Pola
Bottom - Alvaro for Elche B fends of Gustavo (3)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The magic of the cup......

......unless you live in Spain where not many people bother to go and the teams field their rezzies.On Wednesday, it was the turn of Hercules C.F. to a do little bit of giant killing, okay maybe not giant per se, but definitely the killing of a fairly tall bloke. The competiton was the Copa del Rey or Kings Cup, and no, it isn't what Juan Carlos I slurps his tea from.

Mid-table La Liga side Almeria were the visitors and, to be honest, their manager hasn't quite achieved in the hot seat what he accomplished as a player.These days Hugo Sanchez, public enemy number one in Barcelona, kind of resembles a bit of a Mexican Tom Jones. Quite how he got to score all those trillions of goals for Real Madrid is a mystery, he's only about five foot nine. As it happened, he could have laced up his boots, played for twenty minutes or so and showed his strikers for the evening where the goal was.

Curiously, the entire Hercules bench will all be playing at the weekend when Real Sociedad visit the Jose Rico Perez in the league. For now though their understudies did all right, the away side were given a goal start, found themselves pegged back and conceded late on to lose the thing 2-1. Fortunately for the visitors, they get to try again in a couple of weeks when Hercules travel south for the second leg.

It's always baffled me why so many Spanish fans leave before the end, tonight I almost joined them, the first half was so bad I was tempted to give it up as a bad job and make myself scarce at ten to nine. To cut a long story short, I hung around and in the end I was pleased I did. Hercules owned the second forty five and could have ended up winning by three clear goals.

Former Tottenham man Noe Pamarot can't get a Segunda game for Hercules, strange that because he's one of the highest paid players on the staff and tonight was excellent. Apart from the goal, Almeria's forwards never really had so much as a sniff, possibly because they had to circumnavigate Pamarot's thighs which are absolutely enormous, so big in fact they'd make Stuart Pearce' legs look scrawny.

Talking of trillions, perhaps Real Madrid could have spent all theirs slightly better; the evening before they took on nearby Third Division Alcorcon, also in the cup, and were humbled four nil in a match later described as "Galacticos humiliated by village team"  So, not all bad then for Almeria, at least they scored.

Top, Copa del Rey trophy
Middle, Hugo Sanchez, dreaming of the green, green grass of Almeria
Bottom, Noe Pamarot - only specially cut shorts accomodate his vast thighs

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Please can we have our idiot back?

Santa Pola meekly surrendered their unbeaten start to the season with a low key performance against a mediocre El Campello side who played very well but, for sure, will not be in the shake up at season's end.
Missing key players through injury and suspension 'Pola never really got going and had to contend with a referee who struggled all game long to assert any kind of control over proceedings.

At regular intervals, pint sized plonker Francisco Paya Moya, had both sets of fans shrugging their shoulders at each other in utter bemusement. Presumably, the Alicante official thought ahead and included in his match day kit a pencil sharpener, he really didn't enjoy his best ninety minutes.

It mattered not, even the most one eyed Santa Pola aficionado, (me), knew from early on today was always going to end in tears. Tears though are cool, but most certainly not when brought on by exasperation and frustration. For reasons known only to himself, Sr.Moya had a bit of a Saturday evening spelling lesson, booking eleven players and the Santa Pola physio. A little later, to make his job even easier, dear old Francisco flourished a couple of red cards too, thereby ensuring only eleven visiting players and nine locals ended up subject to his curious interpretation of the rules.

To be honest, Santa Pola were never at the races and the eventual 3-2 scoreline flattered them, disjointed for the most part, only when a fortuitous point against a weakened local side presented itself did they come to life. In the end, a valiant El Campello rearguard protected all three points, ably assisted by painfully slow substitutions and a time wasting effort reminiscent of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Meanwhile, concerned villagers were delighted to see their resident retard back in the neighbourhood, with luck, they'll schedule their next "care in the community" project during the months of June and July when there is no possibility of something important like a football match being spoilt.

Images: Top - "busy" Campello and 'Pola team sheets and right - the clueless match ref'

Monday, October 19, 2009

Smells like one of yours darling

On Sunday October the 18th Segunda A leaders Hercules of Alicante took on Real Murcia from just down the road in the neighbouring province and I missed it! Once again those thoughtful planning types at an un-named pay per view television company chose to move the kick off forward to noon, presumably to grab some of the Spanish pub punters. Surely there must be some disadvantage for both teams having to play at lunchtime on a bloody hot weekend, when everybody else in the league starts of an evening, but I digress.

The reason that Herc-Murcia was off limits was of course because Santa Pola were also at home and for years now nothing in my footy world is more important than 1130 every second Sunday. Having learned the hard way a fortnight ago, yesterday not a lot was left to chance and I smothered myself, head to toe, in the most vile smelling insect repellant. Fifty times bitten, twice shy or something like that.

In the end, thanks to some indiscriminate fumigating by the lads at the parks and gardens department of the local ayuntamiento, (town hall), only about four rock hard mozzies survived to tell the tale. Had I been aware, I definitely wouldn't have left the house stinking like trap two after a hungover bloke had just parked last nights curry.

With nine days since my last 'Pola fix I looked forward, just like last time, to a bit more Brazilian style football, what I ended up with though was something more akin to Bolton. Altea were the opponents, sitting comfortably mid-table after a reasonable start to their season, this really should have been three more points nailed on, not so.

Santa Pola centre back Miguel Tari opened the scoring with an exquisite volley from a corner the goalkeeper didn't even see, unluckily for him his stunning finish, reminiscent of Glenn Hoddle in his prime, was buried into his own net. Whoops, that wasn't supposed to happen, sorry lads! A goal behind at the break, the game turned inside the first five second half minutes. Santa Pola lost a player, Dani, to a straight red card and conceded a penalty which Jose Salero, one of twin brothers in the Altea side, stepped up to take. Pazos guessed correctly and turned the spot kick around the foot of his right post. The resulting corner was cleared with ease to set up the counter attack from which Santa Pola equalized. That man Tari again was on hand to hook in from close range following a spot of hesitant Altea defending. Final score 1-1

Meanwhile over in Alicante, Hercules and Murcia also grabbed a point each following their own 1-1 draw in front of a gate of more than eleven thousand so they probably didn't miss me.

PHOTO'S: top, have a guess which pay per view company - bottom, Miguel Tari didn't cost his team-mates all of their win bonus

Friday, October 16, 2009

Betis lead the way

In amongst all the tabloid dross served up on slow news days for football, once in a while you get summat to read that really catches your eye. Yesterday, Thursday, Diario informacion, the leading Elche local newspaper, published a list of season ticket holders (abonados)  for each of the twenty two Segunda A clubs. Way out in front with a healthy, no make that a mighty impressive 33500, is Real Betis, Seville's second side.

That quantity alone would be sufficient for the faces of most club Chairmen to crease into a smile; the thing is, Real Betis Balompie, to give them their proper title, really haven't been hugely successful in recent seasons. At the end of the 2008/09 campaign, a dismal 1-1 draw at home to Valladolid, doomed Betis to eighteenth place in La Liga and at least a year in the Spanish second division. After the game, quite a few thousand angry "Beticos" took to the streets to voice their dismay, clearly they didn't stay pissed off for too long because most of them renewed their membership.

The difference between Betis at the top and lowly Castellon is a whopping 29600 potential bums on seats. In fairness, the capacity of the Estadio Municipal de Castalia is only 15,500 but still, less than four thousand season tickets is a bit dismal. Villarreal B are excluded from the Segunda A table because their senior squad do the business in La Liga.

Somewhere in the middle of the statistics sit fierce Alicante rivals Hercules and Elche, with near neighbours Real Murcia flogging over ten thousand season tickets for their stunning Nueva Condomina facility to end up seventh best. On the upside, the hardy souls who make the effort to visit the Martinez Valero in Elche, (pictured above), every second Sunday get a whole seven seats each to themselves becasue the club could only manage to shift 5,500 season tickets.

The full list

Team /Abonados

1. Betis 33,500
2. Real Sociedad 17,000
3. Celta de Vigo 13,682
4. Recreativo 13,000
5. Cadiz 12,200
6. Las Palmas 11,364
7. Real Murcia 10,175
8. Cordoba 9,563
9. Rayo Vallecano 9,500
10. Hercules 8,500
11. Cartagena 8,187
12. Levante 5,500
12. Gimnastic 5,500
12. Girona 5,500
12. Elche 5,500
16. Salamanca 5,000
17. Real Union 4,500
18. Numancia 4,484
19. Albacete 4,400
20. Huesca 4,000
21. Castellon 3,900


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You try it, it's not that easy.

One of the staples of being a football fan in Spain is somewhere, somehow you'll get to watch Real Madrid or Barcelona live on telly at some point during a typical weekend. It matters not who the big two are playing, your local team won't get a look in, even with a semi attractive looking home fixture. Once or twice a month Canal+ intervene and put a bit of a spanner in the works of any smaller club hoping for a decent gate, because, with complete indifference, the locals frequently prefer to head off to their favourite bar to get a fix of the Spanish equivalent of Rangers versus Celtic.

The only thing that comes close to matching the national obsession with two of the world's wealthiest football clubs is the opportunity to guess the result of fifteen carefully selected fixtures for a weekly cash prize; La Quiniela. A combination of La Liga and Segunda matches, "La Kinny-ella", features a column of football games and the choice is simple, home win, away win or draw. Game number fifteen, which also needs to be correct to have a chance of trousering a healthy wedge of cash, is almost always a bit of a killer.

It's a simple but devilishly difficult concept. Every Saturday morning over coffee and toast, I spend an hour or so analysing the fixtures and league tables from that days Marca before heading off to make my investment. Unfortunately, that will be the last I'll ever see of the Euro coin I've just parted with, so far it has always ended up in the pocket of a bloke from somewhere like Ciudad Real or Jaen.

In 2008/09 Sevilla Athletic for example, rustled up just two Segunda A wins in forty two attempts, (their season at one point also included an 8-0 away defeat), they eventually finished bottom of the table, sixteen points off the team above them. Doubtless, on one of the two occasions they somehow grabbed three points last year Pedro from Jaen called it right and is still living off the interest.

You'll notice I thoughtfully posted this blog entry and last weekend's losing coupon after the event so nobody would be tempted to to copy it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sack the kit man

You'd have thought that a club like Recreativo de Huelva, who've been at it longer than anyone in Spanish football, could have dug out eleven shirts that that actually matched wouldn't you? Not so it seems because at least three of their players in yesterdays match away to Elche sported last season's change shirt. Perhaps not such a big deal I grant you if the team in question are representing The White Horse pub on a Sunday morning, but come on, this is the national second division we're talking about.

In the end, Elche ignored the contrasting colour schemes of their opponents, gave them a goal start and responded with three of their own before conceding a dubious penalty with fifteen minutes remaining. A 3-2 win earned the struggling Franjiverde's a very welcome three points as they start the climb away from the Segunda 'A' basement with only their second win in seven attempts.

Six days into his new job, Elche manager Jose "Pepe" Bordalas can afford to smile, not though because of the bungle by Recre's
"utillero" but much more to do with the way his new charges responded to going a goal behind. Showing character hitherto unseen, they had the lions share of possession in the second half and looked considerably more confident than in recent weeks.

Aside from the "wardrobe malfunction" Elche had a bit of an embarrassing moment of their own too, courtesy of Brazilian full back Carleto, a close season loan signing from Valencia C.F. Mid way through the second half, after a lengthy spell of treatment, the defender went down again and signalled to the bench he couldn't continue. Concerned Huelva forward Barrales politely bent down to ask after his welfare and accompanied his gesture with a gentle slap on the face, at this point the mortally wounded South American leapt to his feet and squared up to his assailant before collapsing in a pile a second time amidst hoots of derision. Cock!

Next time Recreativo appear live on telly check out what they're wearing.

Top - Odd man out Raul Camara
Middle - Three much needed points for The Mister
Bottom - Carleto, up and down quicker than a whores drawers 

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reasons to be cheerful, or not, in some cases.

The good folk on the board of Alone de Guardamar FC, all of whom are British, very thoughtfully scheduled their home game against Santa Pola for five o'clock on a Friday, which also happened to be a local holiday. Their reward for thinking ahead was a huge crowd, two thirds of whom went home a bit disappointed having just witnessed the Marineros systematically dismantle their local favourites.

0-3 was the final score and yesterday saw youthful and lanky striker Adriano shove his colleagues roughly aside and grab the glory after a virtuoso performance during which he scored a couple and made the third. Maybe I'm a bit of a simpleton, but that's the kind of result, against a decent team in their own backyard, that has me gurning from ear to ear all weekend. I'm sure football fans amongst my readership understand how little it takes to put a gormless look on your face for three days at the beginning of the new working week, I certainly hope so!

Adriano's goals came either side of a strike by Chema he helped to create from a delicious through ball with the outside of his right foot that caught the Alone back four square. The twenty two players, assorted subs and three officials could all have saved themselves forty five minutes by not bothering with the second half because the score at the break was also the final result.

At about five past seven, just as the sizeable Santa Pola contingent were heading back to the car park with an interesting selection of facial expressions, the club President, Jose Manuel Gonzalez, was overheard bemoaning the fact that Santa Pola, playing so well and scoring for fun, were starting to cost him a fortune in bonuses. I don't know, some people!

PHOTO'S: El Presidente (by Mark Welton) pictured before Adriano (above) started costing him money

Monday, October 5, 2009

Revolving door policy at Elche C.F. ?

Right, new coach Pepe Bordalas with President Jose Sepulcre - courtesy Mark Welton

Top, the departed Claudio Barragan

Elche C.F., acted quickly to replace the departed Claudio Barragan this morning as President Jose Sepulcre, flanked by Sporting Director Jesus de la Huerta and Vice President Juan Carlos Ramirez, introduced to the assembled media new coach Jose "Pepe" Bordalas Jimenez.
Injury curtailed his playing career at an early age and Alicantino Bordalas comes to the club with an impressive looking management CV. Prior to the Elche gig, Bordalas tasted success with Valencian rivals Alicante and Hercules. His most recent role was also a decent effort, managing Segunda 'B' side Alcoyano to the 2008/09 title where they fell at the first play off hurdle.
Six games into this season, Elche sit second bottom of the Segunda 'A' classification with a single win. The new "mister" put pen to paper on a deal until the end of the season and takes charge of his first training session with the Ilicitano's tomorrow morning, Ocotber 6th. He'll need to act quickly to turn things around, starting this Saturday with the visit of Recreativo de Huelva to the Martinez Valero.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shock and awe

PHOTO: Marcos (19) looks petrified, he needn't have worried, this Aspe free kick eventually sailed yards over.

Santa Pola C.F. ushered in October with a thoroughly deserved 4-0 win after a faultless display against Aspe. Today was the Chema and Paloma show, each of whom scored to cap brilliant individual performances. Quite simply Aspe had no answer to the slick passing and movement of a Santa Pola side where all ten outfield players shone for the entire ninety minutes.

Missing regular starters Jose Fran Molina and Mario Fernandez through injury, Santa Pola, after a nervy opening settled quickly and the confident swagger borne of a five match unbeaten run was soon evident. In recent games the signs have been there and today everything clicked, Aspe copped a pasting and were lucky it was only four.

The way Santa Pola were playing it was surprising the opening goal took so long to arrive, even then it was a tad on the scruffy side. Judging by his exuberant celebration, that didn't seem to bother scorer Miguel Tari in the slightest as he stuffed a miscued clearance from a corner over the line from a yard out.

By now Paloma and Chema were starting to enjoy themselves just a bit, a superb ball by Carlos Fernandez found Paloma in space, an inch perfect cross and Adriano did the business close in for 2-0. Paloma again was the provider for goal number three, Chema got on the end of yet another pin point cross with his head to give Aspe the good news. A sickening and unpunished body check on Chema, who, by now was running the Aspe back four ragged, sparked an ugly and avoidable melee. The kind of skirmish the logical award of a penalty would have strangled at birth.

PHOTO: Paloma (left) and Chema celebrate

Scorer turned provider with five minutes remaining, when Chema did the Aspe full-back for pace, squared the ball into the box for the gleeful Paloma to slap home side footed. Four-nil was the final score, it could easily have been fourteen, 'Pola were that good! Shock and awe? Yup, Aspe were shocking and Santa Pola were awesome. Even a plague of starving hungry mutant mosquitos the size of small birds couldn't put a dampener on things.

Final score Santa Pola 4 - 0 Aspe

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Not even close

PHOTO: All smiles before the start, captains Willy Caballero (Elche) and Tote (Hercules) pose with the match officials.

After a six day build-up "derby day" eventually arrived, and, as with Christmas, it was over in a flash. Following a week of intrusive interview and photo requests, both sets of players and their coaching staff, just like Grand Prix drivers cocooned in their cockpits on the grid, were at long last granted the sanctuary of the pitch and technical areas.

For the visiting fans and the objects of their desire, the respite was shortlived, Hercules were on their game from the moment Sr.Francisco Ramon Hevia Obras blew to start proceedings, from then on Elche were on the back foot. Twice in a one sided first half Montenegrin striker Andrija Delibasic ruptured the visiting rearguard, thereafter the result was a formality.

In fairness two would have been plenty, so short on confidence were Elche, in the end that man again notched his third and took the match ball home as Hercules delighted their Alicante faithful. As much awaited derbies against the hated local rivals go this, to say the least, was quite a tame affair. Eighty five innocuous minutes flew by before the briefest hint of handbags, Elche defender Marti Crespi made a token effort to square up to Hercules counterpart Rodriguez. When you're three nil to the good though it's hardly surprising most confrontations can be sorted with a smile and a pat on the head.

Final score; Hercules 3 - 0 Elche

Huge credit is due to the 1500 or so visiting Ilicitanos, impeccably behaved throughout, their team was outplayed and never had a chance of winning. Not for them though the age old disruptive tactic of hurling missiles or punches. Word of mouth was the weapon of choice and even during the thirty minutes they were detained behind closed doors at the end of the game their supportive voices continued without interruption.

Unfortunately for coach Claudio Barragan, defeat in the "Clasico Alicantino" was his last contribution to the Elche C.F. cause. Just hours after this dispiriting reverse he was sacked after less than a year in charge. President Jose Sepulcre finally lost patience with the man, who, in November 2008 turned the club's fortunes around after a similar dismal start to the 2008/09 campaign.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Only three days to go....

........until Hercules and Elche square up to each other in the Costa Blanca's fiercest local derby, "El Classico Alicantino." It may not have the cache of Barca against Madrid, but for local fans from either city, it's the first of two seasonal must win games.

Five matches in, thirteen teams and six points separate these Valencian rivals in the Segunda 'A' classification. Elche, after a disappointing start, recorded their first win last weekend when seeing off Cordoba at the Martinez Valero. For their part Hercules have lost once so far, away to Villareal B three weeks ago.

In 34 previous second division meetings between the two, the head to head record is identical, 11 wins apiece and twelve draws, Elche have found the back of the Hercules net 38 times and conceded 36.

In 2008/09 both matches ended all square, a ninetieth minute equalizer by Columbian Abel Aguilar, who has since left the club for La Liga side Zaragosa, earned Hercules a point in a 2-2 draw away and neither side could break the deadlock in a goal-less result in the return fixture at the Estadio Jose Rico Perez in Alicante.

Today, in a hot and crowded Hercules boardroom Elche President Jose Sepulcre and his opposite number Valentin Botella were all smiles as they fended off questions from the local print and TV media. In amongst the usual platitudes, both men expressed their desire to keep a clean sheet and not only win, but do so playing well.

In this regard Elche will be severely hampered by suspensions, Manager Claudio Barragan will view the game helpless from the stand after collecting a red card for dissent late in the recent victory of Cordoba. His energetic midfield playmaker Jose Luis Acciari was dismissed in the same match and will take no part in the derby and the home game a week later versus Recreativo.

PHOTO: Both club Presidents pose with the shirt of their opposite number

Monday, September 28, 2009

My kind of weekend

Just for once yours truly had one of those weekends football wise, seventeen goals in total with only a couple for the opposition. On Saturday afternoon Tottenham got things off to a flying start with a five goal thriller, are they still called that when one team bags the lot? Anyway, Robbie Keane did the business, taking home the match ball and a third of the next one with four goals. Jermaine Jenas chipped in with the second to see off a hapless Burnley.
Final score Tottenham 5 - 0 Burnley

Next up midfielder German was the toast of Santa Pola, tonking in a free kick from the kind of range David Beckham would think twice about to smuggle three points home from Hercules B of Alicante. Those two results by themselves helped the San Miguels go down a treat later that same evening. Unbeknown to me things were about to get even better.
Final score Hercules B 0 - 1 Santa Pola

Sunday morning dawned and the sun put in a very brief appearance before giving way to the rain, bloody loads of the stuff too, all day long it absolutely hosed down. Something to do with a northern Costa Blanca weather phenomenon by the name of "Gota Fria." Undeterred, off I trotted to see game three of my personal accumulator; Elche Ilicitano versus Torrellano, a good old fashioned Third Division tear up between two near neighbours separated by about the length of six large fields and an industrial estate. Apart from the quantity of goals, eight, but not equally shared, the only surprising thing was Torrellano didn't kick anything off. By the time their goalkeeper, Pepitiu, retrieved the ball from his net for a sixth time the Torrellano players looked like they just wanted to get home. Visiting centre-back Alexis had the right idea, he avoided pissing about in the torrential rain for ninety minutes by getting himself sent off just before the end.
Final score Elche Ilicitano 6 - 2 Torrellano

Just time to fit in a cheeky Segunda 'A' game then as Elche CF, still searching for their first win in four, hosted Cordoba CF. Assisted by two of the sexiest goals I'm going to see all season, Elche didn't even need top gear to see off a lame looking Cordoba. Fernando Usero staked his claim for goal of the season by lashing an unsaveable shot into the roof of the net from outside the box. Midfield partner Andres del Campo Santos had a good go at matching the feat to give the patient and sodden locals even more cheer on a miserable afternoon to make it a couple nil. Even the own goal by Cordoba defender Ceballos was quite tasty, a "first time" shot into the far corner.

The 3-0 win for Elche was just the tonic, two red cards however, took some of the gloss off an excellent performance. Shortly after Elche had sewn up all three points, Argentine midfielder Jose Luis Acciari saw red, a decision that so enraged manager Claudio Barragan, himself on a dogs chance after a wretched start to the season, he too was banished to the stand. Both player and coach intend to appeal their expulsions in order to be available for the must win local derby away to sworn Alicante enemies Hercules in five days time. Watch this space.
Final score Elche 3 - 0 Cordoba
PHOTO: Saul (17) rides shotgun as Santos celebrates his goal

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The day we went to Alicante

Spain's most wanted;

Top row left to right, Pazos, Hugo, Tari, Dani, Mario Fernandez.

Bottom row left to right, Monsa, German, Marcos, Paloma, Molina, Carlos Fernandez.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Welton

Californian rockers Green Day once implored their listeners to "Wake me up when September ends" For Santa Pola coach Domingo Grau, the ninth month of the Gregorian calendar can't last long enough, you see, he's had quite a good one. His expensively(ish) assembled squad have yet to be beaten and along the way a miserly defensive effort has conceded a single goal, even that was down to some dopey refereeing that allowed Albatera to have another go when they cocked up a free kick. Sure, one or two other Preferente sides have won all four but they're bound to aren't they when they have the easy teams first.
For the first time 'Pola played on a Saturday on a plastic pitch and it seemed to agree with them as they snuck in and out of Alicante with three more points, via the gloomy and rather uninspiring Ciudad Deportiva, home ground of Hercules B. Had the sun been rising and not setting, the impressive Estadio Jose Rico Perez, the shared home of Alicante and Hercules just a stones throw away, would have cast a giant shadow over proceedings. It mattered not, Santa Pola did the business in a tetchy game of football characterized by quite a few "take no prisoners" tackles which saw at least two players depart before they were quite ready.
Left midfielder German, Santa Pola's sniper for the evening, caned in a free kick from yards outside the box with which he got the hang of both power and accuracy, useful attributes when trying to propel a football towards their goal. That was the only time said ball nestled in either onion bag legally, the upshot of which was Hercules B slipped to their fourth defeat in four games. In fairness their coach was politely requested by the referee to "sit down and shut ya noise" he declined the offer and then spent the rest of the game making the same racket from the stands.
So, September will shortly end but not before Domingo Grau Macia ends up King for a day
Full time Hercules B 0 - 1 Santa Pola

Super Mario, an old friend and the shite referee.

Mario Fernandez, the elder of two American brothers Santa Pola had the good fortune to sign during the close season settled the third game of their regular season, diving in, as all decent strikers should do, amongst boots and bodies to connect with a free kick expertly headed on by central defender Hugo.

Try as they might, Pinoso gave it a good go, particularly in a bit of a one sided second half, but they came up just short and a single goal was enough to grab all three points for the home side as Santa Pola entered the third week of September unbeaten. Two wins and a scruffy goal-less draw were the sum total of their efforts, sufficient to hoist the Marineros into the top five of the classification.

The sub plot to a hard earned win was the return to Santa Pola of former coach Anselmo Serrano, a decent and knowledgeable football man quickly snapped up by Preferente rivals Pinoso. Dismissed by Santa Pola in March 2009 following an indifferent run of results, Serrano was greeted by fans and players alike with great warmth as he interrupted his match preparations to chat with old acquaintances and most of his former team.

In truth, little either coach attempted would have mitigated the dismal performance of match referee Sr. Antonio Andreu Sabuco. Beforehand, the Elche official pulled up in his big car and strutted about the place full of self importance, once under way though, he had the look of a rabbit caught in the full glare of a car headlights. The only thing he imposed upon the match was his own lack of authority. Cowering behind his yellow card, Sabuco would have struggled to maintain order at a whist drive.

On the upside, the long awaited new home kit finally found it's way to Santa Pola and the team took on an altogether more familiar appearance. I was beginning to think those ghastly pink things would be permanent.

Full time Santa Pola 1 - 0 Pinoso
PHOTO: Not Super Mario or an old friend

Friday, September 25, 2009

Next stop Rojales

Rojales, pronounced "Ro-harlez", was the next stop on Santa Pola's bi-weekly Costa Blanca tour. Thankfully it's only thirty minutes away, it wouldn't have done to travel for hours and then endure, what was, a pretty mediocre ninety minutes of football.

First things first though, the match won't take long to describe, Roharlez is one of those small inland towns very popular with the Brits and others in Spain which, in spite of the influx of large numbers of different European residents, manages to retain it's unique Spanish charm and character. A picturesque eighteenth century bridge spans the Segura river, which, during the heat of high summer trickles it way through the town on it's journey to the sea at nearby Guardamar. To the south of the town are four sets of cave dwellings, one hundred and fifty odd years of age, the most popular is El Rodeo, which these days houses exhibitions and small craft shops for local artesans.

Unfortunately, the skills of the resident artists weren't transferred to the nearby football pitch on which Thader de Rojales and Santa Pola ground out a goal-less draw. To be charitable Santa Pola weren't at their best and had goalkeeper Julio to thank for keeping the Thader forwards at bay. Deep into the second half, the game had nil-nil written all over it, you can kinda tell can't you? The home side did manage to prod the ball over the line fifteen minutes before the end, but our eagle eyed referee spotted something everyone else present missed and to the evident relief of the thirteen travelling fans, the 'goal' was chalked off.

Typically, having talked Santa Pola and their prospects for the season up, today was the day a friend of mine Derek Bevan, a scout for West Bromwich Albion FC, chose to come and see them. With a sterling effort Del boy managed to stay awake until five mintues before the final whistle, he later assured me he always leaves before the end "to beat the traffic." I couldn't help thinking this time he meant to say monotony!

It seems as well that without a pen or camera in my hand I might not be the greatest football watcher, if so, I apologise to the English bloke and his son who's view I kept interrupting by pacing around, arms folded, during an anxious last ten minutes. Sorry mate!
I don't think I swore.
Full time Thader 0 - 0 Santa Pola
PHOTO: Jose Fran Molina in a natty pink shirt