Watching Football in the “New Normality”

After six long months, fans were finally allowed to return to football in the Communidad de Madrid this week.

The regional government released new regulations allowing a maximum attendance of 600 people at non-professional sporting events. So while La Liga and Segunda remain out of bounds, Segunda B and below, plus the women’s leagues are allowed to admit spectators.

The first match to be played under these new regulations was Móstoles CF vs Santa Ana and of course I had to go and check it out!

Getting There

Thankfully this was nowhere near as punishing a trip as it initially seemed it would be.

I live in the north of Madrid, in the vicinity of Plaza de Castilla and from there Móstoles looks a long way south. But the journey was relatively straightforward. I just headed to Chamartin station, where I caught a Cercanias train to Atocha and then changed to Line C5, the one which takes in most of Madrid’s southern satellite towns – Fuenlabrada, Leganés, Alcorcón and of course, Móstoles.

I had to travel all the way to the end of the line – the final stop, Móstoles-El Soto is the one closest to the ground but the journey in total was only about 50 minutes, including time spent waiting for the connection at Atocha, and cost €5,90 return.

The end of the line

Upon arriving at Móstoles-El Soto station, it took me a few minutes to find my bearings and see which way I should head.

My route eventually took me along Avenida de Iker Casillas – the Real Madrid and Spain legend is a native of Móstoles and having a road named after him is probably the least he deserves after a career which saw him win three European Cups, five La Liga titles, two European Championships, a World Cup and become Spain’s most-capped player – although he recently lost that record to former team-mate Sergio Ramos.

And indeed he does have some other things named after him in the area – some football pitches opposite the main stadium and a stand in the ground itself!

So what about the ground?

El Soto

This was my first visit to the Estadio Municipal El Soto and I have to say I liked what I saw.

It’s hosting both Móstoles sides, (CD and CF) in the Tercera this season, so will see plenty of action as well as a couple of sure to be closely contested local derbies.

Móstoles CF were formed after the original CD Móstoles, who had a few stints in Segunda B, folded in 2012. CD Móstoles URJC were initially founded in 1996 and went through a merger and a number of name changes before adopting their current one in 2012.

As if all that wasn’t complicated enough, we have the case of Móstoles Balompié, who rose through the leagues to win promotion to the Tercera in 2019, only to split when owner Javi Poves announced he was rebranding the team as Flat Earth FC, with Balompié starting back at the bottom again.

The ground officially holds 14,000 people and features a pleasing mix of blue and white seats, terracing, with a roof partially covering one of the stands – the Grada Iker Casillas.

But above all else, I have to mention the trophy cabinet…

Situated in the middle of the Grada Vicente Del Bosque is a small room, possibly once a press box, with a large collection of trophies prominently displayed in the window.

I don’t know what the trophies are, or who won them but I can’t help but love the idea. Rather than just keeping them in their museum, maybe more clubs could display their trophy cabinets in the stands. It could be a useful way of psyching our opponents…

What’s New?

It’s clear that a few things have had to change in order for the return of football with fans, so here are a few of the most obvious things I noticed.

Sanitise!

The hand-sanitising station (aka a bottle of sanitiser on a table) is now an ubiquitous part of life in Spain and so it was no surprise to see it here as well.

Couldn’t take a photo at the ground, so here’s one from our recent trip to Galicia. Note – it’s Xel in Gallego!

A temperature check was also required before being admitted, mine was conducted after a slight delay due to the battery on the forehead thermometer suddenly deciding to stop working. Again these are fairly common in Madrid, with some bars, restaurants and shops also requiring it before you are allowed in.

And of course, you won’t be admitted without a mask. 😷

No Bar

I can’t be 100% sure if this was a result of Covid-19 restrictions or just because it was a pre-season friendly, but the bar and terrace in the ground were not open.

I do hope that bars and kiosks are permitted to open when the season starts. Those cold winter mornings without a comforting cup of coffee or caldo don’t bear thinking about!

Socially-Distanced Supporters

The official instructions given by Móstoles CF were to maintain a safe distance between yourself and others. Fortunately El Soto is a huge stadium for this level of football, so I had no issue finding myself a seat on my own somewhere.

Most people seemed to be adhering to the guidelines. There were a few small groups of families and people who arrived together but even the singing group amongst the home support spread themselves out across several rows while cheering the team on.

Changing Times

Another regulation meant the away team Santa Ana were not able to use the changing facilities at the stadium.

Instead the players gathered near the dug out before starting to warm up in the clothes they had arrived in. It was only before kick off that the yellow and blue strip appeared and they changed on the pitch before going over to the far side to join their opponents for the walk out.

Socially-Distanced Line-Ups

Getting a good photo of the players lining up before kick-off is going to be a whole lot harder.

The pre-match handshake has also been dispensed with. One of those things that you never really notice normally, but now it seems strange that they’re not doing it.

Masked Players 😷

Undoubtedly the biggest change is that players are now required to wear masks while playing.

This seems to be an initiative being pushed for non-professional sport by the Communidad de Madrid alone. I’m in a group e-mail for weekly 6 a-side football and it’s even required for that, but not should I decide to do individual exercise such as running.

It’s a slightly strange situation – the referee wasn’t wearing a mask, but the two assistants were. Meanwhile, most of the players finished the game with their masks on their chin or hanging around their neck.

This might not be a long-term situation, certainly it seems impractical, but we’ll see how things develop.

Football is still Football

Despite all the surface level changes, it was just brilliant to be able to get back to a football stadium again and see a match in person after a summer restricted to watching on TV.

The game was pretty decent as well. After a bit of a slow start, Santa Ana burst into life just before half time with two goals, the second a sweetly-struck free kick.

Both sides traded goals at the beginning of the second half and that was mostly that aside from a small bit of aggro near the end as one Santa Ana player pulled down his mask to remonstrate with the referee after a late challenge.

“¡Mascarilla! ¡Mascarilla!” chanted the home fans.

It’s reassuring that football is back, and that people haven’t lost their sense of humour about it!

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