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!!