Monday, January 4, 2010

A nice day out until about ten past four.

For the second successive year yours truly had quite an agreeable day in Algueña, by a long distance one of the nicest towns I'll visit on my travels following Santa Pola C.F., a nice day that was until the football, the whole reason I went, kicked off. First things first though, I'm going to try and skip through the soccer quite quickish, and a little more about Algueña, pronounced al-gen-ya. Only about 1600 people live there which I can well understand because if you lived there you'd want to keep it secret too. It seems the only criteria to be an Algueña resident is that you have to be extremely nice, I thought last year was a bit of a fluke but nope nothing had changed by 2009.

About an hour away from Elche, Algueña sits at about 2000 feet in the shadows of the Reclot hills, which, on the day we travelled there, one of those cloudless and crisp winter afternoons, were covered in a light dusting of snow. Being at the centre of the regions vineyards and olive groves, it would have been a bit rude not to visit one of the numerous and top quality Bodegas whilst I was in town. Before it's exported overseas and Sainsbury's unsuspecting customers stump up about six quid a bottle, it's possible to pay less than a euro a litre for some top notch hootch locally.

Next up was the important task of some scoffs, not being forearmed with local knowledge, it was a case of "ooh this looks nice, we'll give it a bash" It can't have been that bad, the place was full of Spaniards which is the best recommendation you can have. Tucked away almost out of sight was a large circular table of eight very familiar faces, co-directors of Santa Pola C.F., clearly great minds think alike. They seemed to be the lucky ones though, judging by the quantity of empty wine bottles scattered around, most of the group were half way through anaesthetising themselves perfectly against the footballing pain we were all about to endure.

Under a rapidly setting sun with the temperature sinking just as quickly, Algueña and Santa Pola kicked off their third versus fourth Preferente fixture and for the first five minutes we had quite a game. 'Pola competed well and more than matched their hosts for endeavour. Then, Algueña scored and the Santa Pola wheels came off and were last seen bouncing towards the picturesque walled cemetery high on a hill overlooking the ground. Two defensive blunders gifted the home side a couple more and at the half, Santa Pola were three nil down, out of it and simply playing for pride. Only a couple of visiting players emerged with any credit, for American striker Mario Fernandez and his younger brother, midfielder Carlos, the word quit doesn't exist in either of their vocabularies. Unfortunately a football team consists of eleven and not two!
Full time Algueña 3 - 0 Santa Pola.

A miserable car journey home in pitch darkness and icy roads ended the final day out of 2009 following Santa Pola and for most of the ride I regretted not getting stuck into the local vino at lunchtime.

Top - Local produce at ridiculous prices
Middle - Centreback Hugo (16) gets a hard time in the Algueña box at a 'Pola corner
Bottom - Not his day - Juan (23) was withdrawn at half-time

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