Monthly Musings (June 2020)

Greetings again from Madrid!

A year ago I was looking forward to going to the Champions League Final here in the city, that feels like a lot longer ago than just 12 months to be honest. Things have changed so much in the last three months and it’s going to be a long time before we are back to anything close to normality.

Spain has begun the transition to what the government has described as “the new normality” with different regions moving at different speeds and Madrid, as the worst-affected part of the country has been lagging behind.

Where I’ve Been

We can go outside again!

Last month I told you that from 2nd May the most extreme part of the lockdown in Spain was being lifted, allowing people to go for walks or to exercise outside for the first time in 48 days.

It wasn’t complete freedom, we were still limited in when we could go out (between 6am and 10am in the morning and 8pm and 11pm in the evening) and we had to stay roughly in our local areas. But it was better than nothing and it certainly helped my mood at the start of the month.

I’ve mostly stuck to the Paseo de la Castellana area between the Bernabéu and Plaza de Castilla mainly because the main part of the road has been closed at weekends and we’re able to walk down it, which is a slightly surreal experience.

Thankfully Madrid eventually moved into Phase 1 of de-escalation last Monday (25th May) which meant non-essential shops re-opening and most importantly, we are able to go out and meet friends again and go for a drink at a terrace. Social distancing has to be observed and we are required to wear face masks in public, but after such a long period of indoor confinement, these are small sacrifices to make.

Most Popular Post

It’s been a close one this month with a couple of contenders for this much-coveted title.

But ultimately it was my look at the cinematic disaster that is Goal III which won out. Undoubtedly this is the only thing the film will ever win, having been recently described by star Kuno Becker as “a piece of sh*t”.

For a film which is supposed to be about the World Cup, the plot is more like an extended episode of a terrible soap opera with equally wooden acting and over the top plotlines including *SPOILERS* killing off one of the characters about three quarters of the way through. Oh and Mike Ashley is in it for some reason.

I’ve also spent a bit of time working through some flashback posts, looking at past trips to Valencia, Lisbon and Granada as well as starting a new occasional series looking at some of my favourite football shirts from my collection, starting off with Coleraine’s Irish Cup-winning shirt from 2018.

Book of the Month 📚

As I mentioned last month, I had just started reading Ultra by Tobias Jones. I finished it within a few days of the new month starting and thoroughly enjoyed it!

Although mostly a history of the Italian Ultrà movement, it takes frequent detours to the present day to follow the ultras of Calabrian club Cosenza and focuses on the different characters in that group, the most notable being the Franciscan friar Padre Fidele, not usually the kind of man you’d expect to find in the Curva.

That was definitely my pick of the month, but I also enjoyed reading Green Shoots: Irish Football Histories by Michael Walker (picked up for a bargain £2.99 for Kindle). It’s a collection of stories, mostly focusing on notable people from the history of, you guessed it, Irish Football. Though not always the most obvious ones!

The parts I enjoyed most were the chapters concerning the Irish players and coaches who had worked abroad, including Patrick ‘Don Patricio’ O’Connell, the man who coached Real Betis to their only La Liga title and later helped keep Barcelona alive during the devastating Civil War and then the chapters focusing on Gareth McAuley and Wes Hoolahan, both players who started out in the domestic leagues in Ireland, but went on to become heroes for their respective national sides. 

Talk of the political background is unavoidable, but unlike some other books on the topic, references to sectarian violence don’t overwhelm the narrative. 

Inspired by ITV’s Euro 96 Relived coverage this month, I also read When Football Came Home (Michael Gibbons) which looks at that tournament very much through an English perspective – from the disastrous end of Graham Taylor’s tenure in San Marino in 1993 up to Gareth Southgate’s fateful penalty miss. Once the narrative gets to the start of the tournament it treads an awkward line between continuing the England focus and giving a general overview of the tournament as a whole.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing, but watching some of the old games online has shown that it wasn’t as brilliant a tournament as ten-year-old me initially thought. Euro 2000 though, now that was a proper tournament. Someone should show that in full over the summer.

Kit of the Month

I’ve wanted to pick up one of Deportivo La Coruña’s shirts for a long time, having lived in Galicia for over two years and picked them as my local team.

Sadly I never did buy a shirt while I was there, partly because the current shirts were always too expensive and when I found a shop selling an older one at an acceptable price, finding the correct size was always difficult.

So I was delighted this month to discover that to celebrate Día das Letras Galegas, the online store was selling the third shirt which, as long-term readers will know, is one of my favourites, with 20% off. So I naturally took advantage of the offer. It was delivered the next day as well!

Food Glorious Food! 🥘

On 28th May, a full eleven weeks after we last went out to eat together, Sarah and I took a walk down to the Nuevos Ministerios area and had almuerzo at Dulce de Chimenea on Calle Raimundo Fernandez Villaverde. And a great wee place it is!

We both had their signature snack – the chimney cake, a delicacy I became familiar with when I spent time in Hungary seven years ago. But most of all, it was just nice to be out and about again!

We’ve also taken the opportunity to try a few new places for takeaway and we’d definitely recommend Alfredo’s Barbacoa, a new-to-us burger restaurant. They have a nice selection of burgers on the menu, although the default size is a little small.

What’s Up Next?

 

Well, slowly continuing along the path of de-escalation I hope.

Madrid is a couple of weeks behind most of the rest of Spain, so it’ll likely be next Monday (8th June) before we’re allowed to move into Phase 2.

June will also see the return of football in Spain, with La Liga scheduled to return on June 11th with El Gran Derbí between Sevilla and Betis. A fixture that I would dearly love to go to someday, but on this occasion it will be a surreal experience with no fans in the ground.

As I’ve said before, the idea of football in empty stadiums leaves me feeling a bit cold, I’ve not watched any of the Bundesliga since it started up again, but I’m not really involved in that league. I’m sure I will jump back on the La Liga train once it resumes.

At least the news coming from other parts of Europe concerning supporters being allowed to attend matches again, albeit in limited numbers, lessens the likelihood of a doomsday scenario – no football with fans until 2021 – actually coming to be. Reports circulating in the last few days also suggest that La Liga has agreed to limited numbers of fans being allowed back from the beginning of next season, starting with 30% in September and gradually increasing to full capacity by January 2021. Hopefully lower league games can return with fewer restrictions since they’re never going to attract the huge crowds that La Liga games would. 

Until next time,

All the best,

Andrew

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