AAAAAAND we’re back! I freely admit that this has been low on my list of priorities in the last couple of months, what with the Christmas holidays and the exam season at work, but it’s finally time to share what happened at my other game during my December trip to Madrid.
Of course football in the capital goes beyond the giants at the Bernabeu and the Calderon. Five teams from the city and its surrounding areas have competed in the top flight in recent seasons and four of them were playing at home that weekend. Bad scheduling prevented me from making the trip to Leganes, I wasn’t sufficiently interested to sample the delights of Getafe on a cold Friday night, so it was to the southeast of the city that I would head, for a Sunday lunchtime appointment with Rayo Vallecano.
In contrast to the huge corporate entities that the two main Madrid clubs are, Rayo are a proudly left-wing club from a working class neighbourhood. Famously, a couple of years ago, the club hit the headlines when they offered to pay a local woman’s rent for the rest of her life after it emerged she was going to be evicted from her flat after he husband’s death. The club and its supporters have also been involved in numerous campaigns aimed at eliminating prejudice in football. This reputation as an “alternative” football club added to an attractive style of play in recent years led to *sigh* many so-called “hipsters” claiming them as their team of choice. Me? I just love that they play Europe’s 80’s rock anthem The Final Countdown after every goal.
This wasn’t my first visit to Vallecas, in fact it was the third time I’d taken in a game there, having previously seen the perennial strugglers overcome the odds to defeat Valencia and Villarreal in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Alas, last season, Rayo’s luck had finally run out and they dropped down to the Segunda Division, where they continued to struggle.
Talking of struggle, my day didn’t get off to the best of starts as I significantly overslept and left myself with little over an hour and a half to get ready, tidy up and check out of my hostel room, catch the Metro over to Vallecas and buy a ticket ahead of the 12pm kick off. This was achieved with moments to spare, as I took my seat in the (thankfully covered) main stand just as the teams were being read out. As with the previous evening, it was raining, so I was glad of the cover this time, but somewhat confused that the uncovered seats were more expensive.
The part of the stand I was in was also shared by a sizeable contingent of fans from the day’s opponents, Alcorcón, from one of the many metropolitan areas on the outskirts of Madrid. Segregation wasn’t in force as a look around the stand revealed a healthy mixture of Rayo’s white and red and Alcorcón’s yellow and blue.
The game got underway after another minute of silence for the Chapecoense plane crash victims and it was Rayo who enjoyed the best of it, but were mostly limited to shots from distance which the Alcorcón ‘keeper dealt well with meaning the first half finished goalless. I was 45 minutes away from a fourth consecutive 0-0 draw (two Recre games and the previous evening’s Atletí-Espanyol stalemate) Then five minutes into the second half, Javi Guerra changed all that. His glancing header from a deep cross, was just enough to beat the ‘keeper and meant the celebrations could begin. It’s hard not to enjoy the sight a set of fans jumping up and down, singing along to The Final Countdown in celebration of a goal. Unless it’s against your team I suppose, the Alcorcón fans dotted around the stand definitely weren’t entering into the party spirit.
Alcorcón had opportunities to level matters, but the result was put beyond doubt in the 80th minute. Rayo’s Miku danced past a couple of defenders on the left flank and although his low cross was easily cut out, the clearance only went as far as Cristaldo, who rolled his shot low into the corner, beyond the despairing dive of the Alcorcón ‘keeper. Cue The Final Countdown again.
Perhaps I’m a lucky mascot for Rayo. Three games, three victories without conceding. Victories have been rare enough for them this season and they run the risk of a second successive relegation, which would see them drop into the regionalised Segunda B. There’s still a long way to go and in a league as unpredictable as La Segunda, a couple of victories can make a huge difference, so all is not yet lost for this fantastically unique club.