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.

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