Monthly Musings (April 2021)

Greetings from Madrid! It’s currently the Easter holidays and I’m enjoying a well-earned break from work.

Normally Semana Santa is one of my favourite parts of the year as we make plans to travel somewhere interesting for a few days of sightseeing (and if everything goes according to plan, football) but this year, with no end to pandemic-related restrictions in sight, we’re having another “staycation” in Madrid.

Where I’ve Been 🗺

As I alluded to above, the borders being closed for the Easter break has limited our opportunities to get out and about. I had pencilled in a little trip to the village of Chinchón in the south of Madrid for the first half of the week but I underestimated just how tired the exertions of the last three months would leave me.

As such, my only trips outside Zone A this month were to San Sebastián de los Reyes for Madrid CFF v Sporting Huelva and travelling on the Metro Ligero to Boadilla del Monte and Aravaca to assist Sarah with research for her upcoming book.

My best day out of the month was undoubtedly going to Barajas on 14th March for my first visit to the Campo Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. It’s most famous for being the town adjacent to Madrid’s airport, but Barajas has a certain amount of charm of its own. I got a lovely morning for my trip there (I got sunburnt) and the ground itself and Plaza Mayor are really nice. Definitely worth another visit!

Game of the Month ⚽️

It was a close call between the two games I saw in the middle of the month, but I’d give the edge, just about, to Villaverde San-Andrés 3-0 Trival Valderas on 21st March.

Barajas was a great morning out but Villaverde’s win was genuinely important in their ongoing battle against relegation and boasted a great atmosphere (plus pre-match smoke bombs) to go along with a great performance from Botti. It’s also the biggest win I’ve ever seen from them in three seasons in Madrid, so that has to count for something!

Most Popular Post 💻

Nostalgia has been a pretty strong theme with this months’ stop posts…

While reminiscing about my first visit to Lisbon in March 2016, I shared one of my very early posts about my trip to watch Sporting v Arouca that weekend and it was shared heavily by fans of the Lisbon club, along with the short accompanying video of the atmosphere, which I still maintain is the loudest I’ve ever heard a stadium be.

Also attracting quite a lot of attention this month was last year’s post about good old Villaverde, one of Madrid’s best days out as a football fan and my look back at my first visit to the Estadio Riazor, last month’s number one, keeps bringing in decent numbers.

In fact, it’s been a record-breaking month across the site. Friday 19th March was the busiest day in the history of the site, breaking a record which had stood since August 2017, and on the whole March saw more views and more unique visitors than ever before! As ever, I’m thankful for everyone who reads the site and especially thankful to anyone who keeps coming back and shares the posts.

As I’ve always stated, this is just a hobby, but it’s nice to get feedback and humbling that other people enjoy reading about whatever I’m getting up to.

Book of the Month

This month I’ve mostly been reading James Montague’s 1312: Among the Ultras. I’ve long been a fan of Montague’s writing – his books Thirty-One Nil, about the travails of some of the international minnows attempting to qualify for the World Cup and The Billionaires Club about the secretive world of the mega-rich who now control some of football’s biggest clubs, are both worth reading.

1312 sees him visiting some of the most notorious groups of football fans in the world, from the Barras Bravas of Boca in Argentina, to Lazio’s Irriducibles in Italy. Montague’s meets key figures from the groups and sheds light on their history and their relationship with the politics of their country.

It covers some similar ground to Ultra by Tobias Jones, which I read and loved around this time last year, though obviously spreading its focus wider than just the Italian ultra movement.

Recommended Viewing

Football has a mediocre at best record at translating to scripted entertainment. Probably the best example, Escape to Victory, is a cheesy yet enjoyable watch but was never seriously going to be talked of in the same breath as The Godfather. On the other side of the scale, well… you have Goal III.

Thankfully Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso sets a new standard for football on screen. The idea of an American-made sitcom about football, especially one featuring what was essentially a one-joke character from a series of NBC promos for their Premier League coverage, sounds like a bad idea, but the whole thing is so well-done and charming that I was quickly invested in it.

The premise, Jason Sudeikis’ Ted Lasso, a college American Football coach is hired by Rebecca Welton, the new owner of Premier League club AFC Richmond because she wants to destroy the team as revenge on her ex-husband, is a little far-fetched – where’s his UEFA pro-licence?

In spite of his complete lack of knowledge about football, Lasso gradually wins over his players, his boss and the audience meaning that by the end you are invested in whether or not they beat the drop. I’ll not spoil whether they do or not, but there is a second season in production, which I’m greatly looking forward to.

I’m not overly sold on Richmond’s kit though. Blue shirts with a single red stripe, white shorts and yellow shorts is a pretty unique combination for a reason.

Pastel de Nata Day

6th March is an important day. On this date in 1902, Real Madrid was founded – and in 2002, it was the day Depor spoiled their 100th birthday by beating them in a cup final at their own stadium.

But for Sarah and me, on a personal level, it means only one thing – Pastel de Nata day!

This is a nice little private tradition we’ve managed to keep each year we’ve been together in Madrid, commemorating one of Sarah’s past trips to Portugal. And there’s never any occasion where an excuse is needed to go and have a pastel de nata and thankfully there are a couple of great places to have them in central Madrid.

What’s Up Next?

Maybe before the holidays end, we’ll feel up to the task of going to Chinchón!

Unfortunately the Semana Santa football schedule wasn’t quite as loaded as I had hoped for, the holidays coinciding with a blank weekend in the lower tiers and the mid-season split in the Tercera and below, so I won’t be heading off somewhere this morning to watch a game.

Those mid-season splits have created a lot of interesting fixtures and I’m looking forward to trying to fit in trips to some of the remaining Tercera grounds which are open to fans that I haven’t visited yet this season, especially as a good few of them won’t be in the league next season. The format of the relegation group means that seven of the 11 teams will be dropping down to the Preferente, so there’s a real sense of jeopardy.

I’ll be back at work on Monday – I really miss the long Easter holidays I got when I was at school and university back home – and that’ll pretty much be it until June barring a few public holidays here and there. At least there will be football going through to the end of June!

Until next time,

All the best,

Andrew

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