Friday, May 21, 2010


How many words can I use to describe an uninteresting goal-less draw with barely any decent action? In about five minutes you're going to find out. Actually, what I'll do is write enough to cover the depth of a photo and then stop. The match I was referring to is Santa Pola's most recent home game against Alguena.
Nobody scored, nobody seemed to even try to score and it was refereed by a bloke called Mut Bolufer, no seriously, that's his name. Actually, it's a bit harsh saying no-one tried, so I apologise to the Santa Pola players, none of whom shirked their responsibilities. In the end, however hard you work, as the saying goes you can't polish a turd, or something like that. I attempted to here with my match report, so see for yourselves whether or not I managed to add a lustre to some of the brown stuff.

Santa Pola 0 - 0 Alguena

Anyway, back to the original question, the answer is one hundred and seventy nine!!

Photo - Mut, (or was that gut), Bolufer.

The bird who loves football

I've only ever been to Alfaz del Pi once before and on that occasion I got completely lost in what seems to be a very attractive small town. On the second occasion the same thing almost happened, and, but for my travelling companions I would have done too. In fairness, the polideportivo municipal in Alfaz del Pi doesn't appear to have been designed to be easy to find and I can't believe I'm the only person who's had a job getting there. Once you stumble across it by chance, like we did, it's a pretty nice place though, a big old swimming pool, raised sun terrace, cafeteria's and an athletics facility, it's also home to a huge peacock, (Pavo Real - Turkey Royal if you want the literal Spanish translation), who shouts the odds all day from the roof of one of the sites storage buildings.

No doubt the twenty or so locals who bothered to turn up were quite used to it, but Santa Pola CF weren't there to admire or listen to the peacock, and their travelling squad definitely didn't admire the incessant racket the facking thing made all game long. Thankfully, it didn't seem to put "our" boys off, and, during that unseen transition from Sunday afternoon to Sunday evening, Santa Pola did just enough to head off on the hour long journey home with another three points and their unbeaten run standing at twelve games. Alfaz del Pi paid the penalty, literally, for some poor defending and finished the match two men light, the only goal of the game coincided with the dismissal of full back Adrian for mis-behaving in his own area. German then stepped up to use the sledge hammer in his left foot to great effect from the spot mid-way through the second half.

The referee, Verde Calderon from Alicante, wasn't much cop, and, to be honest neither were Alfaz, they're going to be relegated and it's easy to see why, at times during the first half they looked reasonably good going forward and combative in midfield. It's at the back where they seem a bit iffy, and that's curious because their captain and centre-back, Benjamin, looks a class act; defending well, reading the game and moving the ball out of defence frequently and without wasting it, often charging upfield himself. Unfortunately, just like ex England captain, (good), John Terry, Benjamin appears to have a few character flaws. Inside the first ten minutes something, or more probably, someone had narked him and he was the first of fourteen yellow cards. The energy he then spent chipping away at the match official would have been better spent berating one or two of his colleagues, who at times, looked somewhat shaky. Somehow, he lasted all game without being sent off, a ninety minutes in point of fact where he barely put a foot wrong.

Only after going behind did Alfaz exhibit any sense of urgency and with just fifteen minutes remaining, Santa Pola were forced to up their concentration levels as the home side, urged on by their blue chested and preening fan club, enjoyed a spell of possession. Failing to adequately defend four successive corners, Santa Pola twice almost blew it in the last five minutes, Vicente's mis-hit defensive header came back off his own bar before being hammered out, and, just like a few weeks ago, Julio steered a goal bound shot round the foot of a post at full stretch in the dying seconds.  Full time 0-1.

Apparently, the peacock is present at every home game, I wish my bird was!!

Photos -
Top - The peacock with a season ticket  Mark Welton - foto23
Next - German was on hand, again
Second bottom - Benjamin, a very talented nutcase
Bottom - Vicente got this one right but was lucky later

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crowd congestion at Elche CF? ...............don't be so daft!

You didn't dream or imagine it, and neither did the club's officials, it actually happened although, not to the extent kick off was delayed. One or two, (thousand), Spanish latecomers, (serve them right - no sympathy), missed the beginning though. Somehow, and I'll explain more shortly, Elche Football Club, whose attendances so far in 2009/10 have fallen to as low as about five thousand and maxed out at almost nineteen thousand, managed to fill their sizeable stadium for a Segunda A league game. The guest list of more than thirty two thousand, also included the usual free loaders, (me and a few others), who got in for nothing and sat pitchside in the best seat's in the house.

Not surprisingly, the second biggest gate of the year involved their hated local rivals, Hercules of Alicante. With every coach in Alicante province booked for the lucrative roundtrip between Alicante and Elche, 18704 people watched the green and white clad local team inflict revenge and a 2-0 defeat on their guests to send the daytrippers home a bit pissed off. At the other end of the scale, much nearer to five than six thousand braved the raw February weather to watch Elche grind out a goal-less draw against Valencia side, and reasonably near neighbours, Levante. Now, pay attention - the match with the biggest gate all season actually took place on a Friday evening and, was televised live by Canal+, the local equivalent of SKY tv in the UK who decreed Elche and Villarreal B had sufficient about it to broadcast as it happened.

It doesn't usually take much to persuade a Spanish footy fan to stay at home at watch a match on telly, so great credit is due to Elche CF, the power of t'internet, where someone successfully ran a viral campaign to boost the attendance, and of course, all the locals who got off their arses and remembered their way to the ground. That in itself is some feat because, judging by the state of some of the replica shirts on show, the people wearing them obviously hadn't been to the Estadio Martinez Valero for quite a few years. In point of fact, some of the garments were so old, the sponsors on the front of them had long since gone out of business.

The last time I'd sat in that ground with a crowd that big making such a racket was for a friendly a couple of years ago when Spain beat Italy, in that game though people travelled to Elche from far and wide including Milan and Rome. For Elche and Villarreal no-one needed Alitalia, just the route E bus from the city centre.
The visitors, themselves a decent side in a handy league position, hadn't read the script though and raced into a two goal first half lead. Unfortunately, local Argentine legend and Elche keeper Willy Caballero had a bit of a nightmare, he slipped watching a Jefferson Montero, (top name mate), corner come winging it's way into his box, while he was laying prone on the ground the ball continued its journey into the far corner after just two minutes. With the same amount of time left before half-time Villarreal B doubled their lead to go in at the break a couple up and Elche looked out of it. Not so though as soon you'll see.

Segunda A leading scorer, Elche number 9 Jorge Molina, halved the deficit early in the second half to increase the already deafening decibel level to ear drum damaging. At about a quarter to eleven, the preparations for bed of the genteel folk of Santa Pola, twenty minutes down the road, were interrupted by the Elche equalizer. No seriously, it was an absolutely incredible din as Perera did the business with thirteen minutes left. At this point the place was rocking louder than a Motorhead concert as Elche surged forward in search of a remarkable third goal on a remarkable evening. In the end it was a bloke with a remarkable name who delivered a sucker punch from a Villarreal B breakaway as Elche committed too many men forward. Just minutes after the Franjiverdes levelled things up, dear old Jefferson spoilt the party by scoring the final goal of the game to rack up a 2-3 win for the second string of the Primera team known as The Yellow Submarine.

As is customary at Spanish footy, ever so many people left before the end, I would have put it down to a fear of the wide open spaces which are normal at Elche matches, but tonight the place was rammed and the local side had chances up to the very end to earn a point. Curious. Ninety minutes after the final whistle I at last made it across town to home just four kilometres away with my ears still ringing. I also understand, that, after their initial scare, the Santa Polero's eventually drifted off to sleep too.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Seconds out - round two

Way back in November, on my Mum's birthday actually, I was feeling like crap having unwisely chosen to take a flu jab and dreading a lengthy trip up the road to watch Santa Pola play in Javea. In the end a 2-1 away defeat on a miserable rain sodden afternoon did nothing whatsover to lift my spirits and the journey back was not a happy one. The next time the same two teams squared off everything about the occasion was altogether better, the weather, no man flu, the form Santa Pola were in and best of all the venue, the Manolo Macia stadium just fifteen odd kilometres from home.

Taken one at a time all the ingredients were in place for a nice morning out, a gorgeous sunny April morning, the kind where it's perfectly possible to get sunburnt without realizing, no need at all for the Frenadol, the team full of confidence after a decent away show the previous week and a good crowd in, bolstered by a few vociferous Javea types. On paper the match looked to be between two somewhat mis-matched teams, Javea, scrabbling for points in the lower reaches of the Preferente table versus Santa Pola, likely to just miss out on a play-off place should have been a bit lop-sided, in the end it was anything but.

Fifteen seconds after the start, Javea were ahead courtesy of an unfortunate slip by goal-keeper Julio, last week's hero, attempting to clear a routine back pass "topped" it whilst losing his footing, the lurking Javea forward Oscar gleefully filled his boots as Julio could only check his. In games gone by conceding first roused Santa Pola from their slumbers and sluggish start, not today though, a still sleeping Marcos saw his weak penalty easily saved by Javea 'keeper Ortola as Santa Pola squandered a golden chance to level things. With the visitors in the ascendancy in a largely uneventful game, a well below par Santa Pola equalized with a good hit by debutante Hucha to send the sides in square at the break.

The second half though, was where all the fun was to be had, for the second time Javea went ahead and looked good value for the lead when the influential Ivars demonstrated to 'Pola midfielder Marcos how to take a penalty, 1-2 Javea. An hour into things the realisation they were behind suddenly hit Santa Pola and at long last they began to play like they can. Astute substitutions by coach Domingo Grau meant they would finish the game with four strikers, Adriano, Chema, Hucha and Mario Fernandez, two of whom were later to turn the match. After a spell of pressure, a second goal for the home side wasn't long in coming, the energetic Paloma found Adriano just inside the box for two two with not long to go. Any normal football team, offered a point playing well below their best, would bite your hand off, but, as they've done all season, win, lose or draw, Santa Pola did things their way.

Santa Pola were ahead only once in the match and that was for exactly the length of time it took for them to go behind, fiteen seconds. Deep into added on time referee Romero Lopez awarded the home side a penalty, for quite what wasn't entirely clear, especially to the orange shirted guests who were furious. With snapping and snarling by both sets of players the usual handbags was quickly quelled and Chema stepped up to win the game from the spot. Very shortly after, the 3-2 Santa Pola victory was met by more ugly scenes near the centre circle as the warring factions, abetted by a livid Javea technical team, kicked things off very nicely.

I was right too, it was the kind of morning to catch the sun without knowing. Two sun glass shaped white bits on my red forehead can vouch for that.

top - A busy day for the match official
next - Marcos, the penalty miss didn't prove crucial
second bottom - The furious Javea players
just above - Ugly scenes at the end

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Arabian night

Following their surgical dissection of a hapless Orihuela B, Santa Pola headed back up the Autopista to take on league leaders and probable Preferente Group Four champions Benissa. Four points clear at the top of the pile, Benissa have looked the part all season, except for the first match against 'Pola back in November which they lost 4-3.

About seventy kilometres north of Alicante, Benissa is an agreeable little Spanish town that would be even more so if anywhere was actually open in the place on a Sunday afternoon. An hour or so before kick off, at about four thirty, the only signs of life were a team of scaffolders busy erecting, or maybe even dismantling, a huge sound stage and lighting rig that, presumably, were just about to be used for one of those open air gigs the Spanish do so fantastically well. Most of the small bars and cafeterias in the immediate vicinity weren't just closed they looked suspiciously empty too. Eventually, just as the need for a pee was becoming slightly more pressing, my travelling companion and I chanced across a small bar with signs of activity. Suitably fed and watered with a slightly pricey baguette and diet coke, beggars can't be choosers and the owner clearly had this sussed, we headed off to enjoy a spot of footy. And enjoy it we most certainly did!

By now I'm sure I've already mentioned that Santa Pola, in against a decent side, seem to raise their game and perform better than admirably, this is all well and good except that dropped points or defeats against shit teams are really hard to stomach. Today, 'Pola gained one point or dropped two, choose how you want to look at it, but couldn't have done anything more or differently to grab all three. Somehow, the game finished goal-less and it wouldn't be remiss to suggest the home side held on for a hard won point, Santa Pola were awesome with fifteen immense performances from the starting eleven and four substitutes.

Game 29 of the season was something like a frantic cup tie played out in front of a full house with both sides rising to the occasion, the only difference was only about two hundred odd people bothered to turn up and. of those, over half , once again, were visiting fans. Benissa started brighter and for a brief moment, until they found their feet, Santa Pola had to work hard in midfield and defence to stay level. Once they'd composed themselves, particularly after a goal less first half, the Marineros played their best football of the season, such was their fluency and high tempo, they made an extremely good side very uncomfortable for long periods.

Thankfully, in an end to end match of high quality the referee for the day was also up to the challenge, perhaps the game was as good as it was because of his officiating. Both sides pinged the ball about with some style and not once did man in black, Alberola Elena from Gandia, fail to keep up with the pace of things. Twice in the final five minutes he made key decisions in the Santa Pola penalty area which could haved influenced the result. Benissa forward Xabi Torres went down under a fifty fifty challenge by 'Pola centre-back, the outstanding Miguel, and was harshly booked for simulation.  With a minute or less to go, visiting hearts sank, Monsa upended the same player and this time the 'Pola captain was yellow carded and  argued in vain as Sr.Elena pointed to the spot. Faced with all their hard work and effort coming to nothing and a point less journey home, Monsa and his colleagues had goal-keeper Julio to thank for making the afternoon worthwhile. Diving low to his left he pawed out the weak penalty Xabi Torres had just side footed towards the base of his left hand post. There was no time for the resulting corner.
Full time Benissa 0 - 0 Santa Pola

Afterwards, a different route home yielded far quicker success in the hunt for a cafeteria in which to knock up four or five hundred words describing the match for the English newspaper. I don't even remember the name of the place opposite which we parked up on the busy N332 road, but I'll never forget the clientele, we were the only two people in the place with parents not of Bedouin origin. It was like a bleedin' Kasbah, complete with one or two insolent looking North African youths each taking their turn on ornate hookah pipes. I stuck out like a dogs nob!  An hour or so later we headed for the car, my laptop and camera still in my possession, not daring to look back. If there are any blunders in the match report you can probably understand why.

PHOTOS - from top to bottom
The laws of supply and demand also include Diet Coke.
Mario Fernandez - an immense performance, again.
Julio with a last minute penalty save.
Complicated looking but very popular.