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.