Welcome to 2020/21 in Review! This has been a long, often frustrating and at times extremely weird season but in the midst of all that I’ve been extremely lucky to see a lot of live football.
First things first…
The Stats 📈
Brought to you as ever by the excellent Futbology App.
Games – 38
Goals – 102
Goals per game – 2.68
Most visited ground: Estadio Boetticher (7 times)
Grounds visited – 21
New grounds – 15
Teams seen – 47
Most seen team – SAD Villaverde San-Andrés (9 times)
Highest scoring game – Two games with 6 goals (Barcelona Femení 4-2 Levante Femenino and DAV Santa Ana 4-2 SAD Villaverde San Andrés)
Most common result – 1-0 (7 times)
My map 🗺
Again, brought you you courtesy of Futbology App.
An inability to travel between regions in Spain for most of the season obviously limited the scope of my travels.
I am sad that I wasn’t able to get to a game outside of the Communidad de Madrid. That’ll have to wait till next season.
Futbology badges 🏅
The Futbology app allows you to collect badges for milestone matches or significant games. This year I reached both my tenth game watching Villaverde and tenth game at their Estadio Boetticher (which remains one of my favourite lower league grounds in Madrid) and due to a number of the matches I attended being on the birthdays of past Ballon D’Or winners, I collected six of the special player badges too!
I also collected my first Cup Final badge from outside Northern Ireland with my trip to the Copa de la Reina Final last month and my milestone 100th ground at Los Yebenes-San Bruno back in December.
There were a number of contenders, quite a few from the final few weeks of the season too.
Real Aranjuez 2-3 Paracuellos Antamira was an end-to-end thriller – and well worth the higher than normal €12 entry. The visitors took a first half lead but two quickfire goals from Aranjuez turned it around early in the second half before two red cards either side of a Paracuellos equaliser had them clinging on until a last minute penalty won it for the visitors – much to the disgust of the home crowd.
And although the stakes were low, the final day encounter between Santa Ana and Villaverde produced lots of goals and incidents to round off the season.
Both times I visited La Mina, home of RCD Carabanchel this season produced excellent, closely fought games as the home side drew with Alcorcón B and Real Aranjuez either side of Christmas.
And the occasion of the Copa de la Reina Final was brilliant – even if the match was only truly competitive for about 13 minutes in the second half, such was Barcelona’s dominance.
Speaking of them…
Take a bow Barcelona Femení!
Three trophies, over 150 league goals, they didn’t lose a match which really mattered all season – unless you include the SuperCopa, but there’s a case for saying that doesn’t really count.
Plenty of people outside Spain dismissed their achievements as a result of a weak Primera Iberdrola, but the way they took apart an expensively-assembled Chelsea side in the Champions League Final had the doubters eating their words.
I was glad that the cup final gave me an opportunity to see them in person after the snow had cancelled the game I was scheduled to see in January.
Game I’m most gutted about missing
Going all the way back to August last year, Coleraine went on a European adventure behind closed doors.
After a 1-0 win over San Marino’s La Fiorita in the preliminary round, the first qualifying round proper saw the Bannsiders travel to face NK Maribor of Slovenia. In normal times, this would have been the stuff of dreams, but in light of the pandemic, I was left to watch on my laptop (as the BBC feed wouldn’t connect to my TV for some reason) in my living room in Madrid.
It was no less dramatic watching from there as James McLaughlin fired Coleraine in front, before the hosts rallied and equalised, then missed a penalty in extra time meaning the game would have to be decided on penalties.
Parkhill, Kane, McConaghie and Bradley all scored for Coleraine so when Rudi Požeg Vancaš missed for Maribor, it fell to Ben Doherty to win it and secure what is probably the club’s best ever European result.
At least I do have souvenir of the game in the shape of a rather lovely purple and yellow Maribor scarf, sent to Madrid by friend of the blog Scott Smyth.
The European odyssey sadly ended in the following round, but it was another memorable night as they battled back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Scotland’s Motherwell after 120 minutes, only to lose the shootout thanks to a great performance from Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Trevor Carson.
An ill-fated trip to Móstoles in November was probably the least satisfying experience of my season.
The game was abandoned at half time due to home side Móstoles CF not reporting a breach of Covid-19 protocol. No refunds were given (entry was €12 too, one of the more expensive tickets in the Madrid Tercera!) and the game was never replayed, Villaverde being awarded the three points in a walkover.
Or best/only 0-0. It took until the first day of May for me to experience my first goalless game of the season, but it was in some ways, worth the wait.
Atlético Madrid Femenino had a pretty rotten campaign overall, failing to get anywhere close to challenging Barcelona for the title and indeed, even failing to qualify for the Champions League.
Their 0-0 draw with Rayo Vallecano succinctly summed up why. Lots of possession, lots of chances, but spectacular wastefulness in the final third.
There were so many chances in this one, added to two lengthy injury stoppages while the Rayo goalkeeper required treatment and the eleven minutes of stoppage time almost saw me miss my bus back to the city.
The closest I’m going to get to the Wanda Metropolitano in the next couple of months is if I’m called to go there for my Covid vaccination appointment! The Santiago Bernabéu has been a building site all season and by the looks of things, isn’t even going to be ready for the start of next season.
Thank goodness for the Copa de la Reina Final allowing me the opportunity to visit one of my favourite grounds in Madrid after more than a year away. Butarque wasn’t full for the game, but there was a real buzz among the crowd as it was by some distance the largest attendance I was part of all season.
Best new ground
Of the 15 new grounds I visited in and around Madrid, a couple really stand out.
Colonia Moscardó’s Estadio Roman Valero is somewhere I really should have managed to tick off my list long before the end of February. It’s easily accessible on the Metro, it is great open stadium and has a superb bar – more on that later.
Th there’s El Soto in Móstoles. A fantastic ground and the one where I returned to watching football back in September of last year following six months away.
It’s not the most convenient ground in the world, being located all the way on the fringes of Madrid’s Cercanias network, but it’s hard not to appreciate the size, the open expanses of terracing and of course, the blue and white seats.
Looking forward to paying another visit next season to watch CD Móstoles in their Segunda RFEF campaign.
Most unique ground
I’ve never seen anything quite like CD Barajas’ Campo Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. The rickety yet charming stands are similar to others in Madrid, the murals outside are cool but not uncommon.
It’s the gravel pitch. In a world where even real grass is becoming less common, the fact that there are still teams playing on this is amazing. Only the bravest players are going to go in for a slide tackle anyway!
Most rustic ground
It has to be the Estadio Los Prados in Parla. Uncovered concrete terracing on one side, an out of commission athletics track partially overgrown with grass and a tree in one corner of the pitch.
It was one of my favourite grounds of the season and I’ll definitely be back once 2021/22 gets underway.
Independiente de Vallecas’ fans certainly know how to add noise and colour to the game. I was extremely impressed with what I saw when I visited La Unión back in April, from the pre-match team huddle in front of the fans, the smoke bombs, the constant vocal backing and the post-match celebrations between players and fans.
As top level football becomes ever more sanitised, it’s good to know that there are clubs like Independiente are keeping the spirit of football fandom alive.
Most festive ground
RCD Carabanchel’s La Mina was suitably decorated when I visited the weekend before Christmas. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Christmas tree in the stands at a ground before.
The binoculars required award
There are a few grounds in Spain with an athletics track surrounding the pitch but few feel as far away from the action as Real Aranjuez’s Estadio Municipal El Deleite.
The stand is so far away from the pitch I almost felt like the people who watched through a gap in the fence outside had as good a view as me!
The old favourite I keep going back to award
Oh Botti! One of the ever-dependable this season – I would probably have been to far more games here but for numerous postponements related to snow and Covid which led to games being rescheduled midweek.
€5 tickets, a kiosk that serves good sandwiches and cheap coffee, always pleasant company on the terraces and one of Madrid’s most welcoming lower league atmospheres. Sure the football isn’t always the best, but they still provided a few great memories this season.
Kits, Merchandise, Food etc 👕 🧣 🥪
Getting the bias out of the way early on, Coleraine released a triumvirate of lovely shirts this season. The red third kit was worn throughout the European run in August and September while the pinstriped home and away shirts recalled the club’s first great period in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.
Atlético’s home shirt was a kit worthy of winning La Liga in, so it’s just as well they did.
Depor unfortunately wasted a lovely kit, paying tribute to a 1990’s classic, on an awful team which failed to trouble the Segunda B play-offs, Colonia Moscardó won me over with an extremely classy Atlético-style effort from Hummel, Los Yébenes-San Bruno’s yellow and red stripes with blue sleeves stood out as one of the most unique kits I saw all season.
And because I’ve spent the last few weeks fixated on the Euros, I have to admit my love for Italy’s home shirt and the ornate pattern on the front. If the trophy was handed out on the strength of kits alone, Italy would walk it, even taking into account their largely unmemorable away shirt.
As far as kits go I have two real pet hates. Lurid colour schemes and kits “inspired by” something which only has a tenuous relationship to the team in question.
Thus Atlético’s neon yellow third kit, part of Nike’s range drawing inspiration from AirMax trainers, is an easy pick as my number one worst.
Leganés also deserve a dishonourable mention for releasing a home kit that’s barely blue and white striped at all and in my lower league odyssey, CF Santa Elena stand out for their eye-popping neon green/black cross shirt.
Also, to any team anywhere in the world who released a “blackout” kit. It’s getting boring now. Stop it.
Madrid’s football pyramid contains a large number of teams who couldn’t think of a more inventive kit design than all white – I blame a certain very famous club based not far from my flat.
CD Paracuellos Antamira just picked the blandest plain white Nike template with a bit of black from the catalogue and ran with it. A shame as their parent club Rayo Majadahonda have a habit of picking neat, distinctive designs.
It wasn’t a vintage year for “scarfhopping” (as I’ve somewhat awkwardly dubbed it) for a number of reasons. Firstly because travel was limited I had very few opportunities to visit new cities where buying a scarf from the local club is an acceptable souvenir even in the absence of a match, and secondly because a lot of the clubs I did visit for the first time are very small and have little in the way of a merchandising operation.
This is not the case for Independiente de Vallecas, who offer a full range of replica shirts and this quite exceptional scarf in the club colours bearing the “No Pasarán” slogan made famous by Dolores Ibárruri during the siege of Madrid in the Spanish Civil War.
The “el bocata se come en el descanso award” for best sandwich
Tough competition but I’m not sure anything I’ve had tops the chorizo frito bocata with added chips from the bar at Orcasitas. Special mention to the lomo bocata at Villaverde and the barbecue-cooked chorizo served up at Santa Ana.
Colonia Moscardó’s Estadio Roman Valero was one of my finds of the season, but in many ways the real revelation was the bar. It’s open and serving food throughout the week, not just on match days and it’s absolutely huge. You can eat in the bar area itself, the large covered annex or on the terrace.
Sadly Moscardó just fell short in their bid to reach the Tercera, but the bar is reason enough to make a visit to one of their Preferente games next season.
And yet the prices at Atlético Madrid’s Centro Deportivo Wanda in Alcalá de Henares were more than reasonable.
Miscellaneous Awards 🏆
Biggest disappointment of the season
Without a doubt, Northern Ireland’s Euros play-off defeat at the hands of Slovakia in November which meant there’d be no repeat of the wonderful summer of 2016.
I had a ticket for the group game in Bilbao which would have been Spain v Northern Ireland if things had gone differently but gave it up back at the start of the year, partly as I had little faith in the game going ahead in Bilbao and fans being allowed to attend even if it did but mostly because I had absolutely no enthusiasm for travelling all the way to Bilbao on an overnight bus wearing a mask, wandering around the city all day before watching a game that really meant nothing to me before getting another bus home.
And in the end, the fixture was moved to Sevilla’s La Cartuja stadium with a limited capacity.
I guess it’ll have to be Euro 2024 then! Or indeed next year’s Women’s Euros in England which Northern Ireland defied the odds to qualify for.
Frustration of the season
The weekly grind of trying to find out which grounds are actually open to fans on that particular weekend.
There have been your ever-reliables such as Villaverde, Santa Ana and Canillas, the ones where capacity limits make it a bit risky, like Carabanchel, but the biggest problem comes from the ones who don’t announce any details at all. All it takes is a couple of extra words in the tweet or on the website.
Things did get better the longer the season went on but all too often I held off making a trip to a place I wanted to go because I didn’t want to waste time and money going there to find out capacity had been reached or that it was only for club members or invited guests.
Fingers crossed that the new season will see things back to normal.
The views of the mountains north of Madrid as seen from the back of the stand at Santa Ana.
Runner Up: Madrid’s iconic Cuatro Torres (soon to be Cinco) as seen from the Polideportivo Rodríguez Sahagún.
You may remember I wrote a big post about some of my favourite himnos a couple of months ago. Sadly a good few of the best ones were inaccessible to me this season.
So thank goodness that my trip to watch Atleti Femenino allowed me to hear one classic anthem.
All together now… “Yo me voy al Manzanares, al Estadio a Vicente Calderón…”
There ain’t no pile-on like a Parla pile-on. Especially after a late winner!
Best trophy cabinet placement
What better way to intimidate your opponents by having a packed trophy cabinet in full view of the pitch throughout the game?
“We’ve won all these, you don’t stand a chance.”
It must have worked for CD Móstoles, who won promotion to Segunda RFEF through the Tercera Play-Offs at the end of the season.
Rumour has it that the delay in the Bernabéu renovations is down to Real Madrid making space in the stand to display their thirteen European Cups.
Most unnecessary yellow card
Shout out to the Paracuellos B player who scored a consolation goal in their heavy defeat at CD Barajas. Already 4-0 down with only a few minutes left on the clock, as he jogged back to the centre circle for the restart, he removed his shirt and promptly earned himself a booking.
It’s the kind of thing you almost expect to see back home on the Saturday before Christmas where a player knows that a booking will rule them out of the Boxing Day game and mean they can actually enjoy their Christmas dinner for once.
Most ill-disciplined performance
CD Barajas must have collectively got out of bed on the wrong side on the morning of 21st February when they made the short trip to play AD Esperanza.
The first half was a relatively sedate affair but things took a turn when Esperanza went 2-0 up early in the second half. Barajas disputed whether the goal should have been allowed to stand and one of their players earned a couple of yellow cards in quick succession when he continued to protest.
Although Barajas pulled a goal back, the goalscorer was sent off within a few minutes when he picked up his second yellow card and after Esperanza scored another controversial goal, the visitors’ heads were truly gone. There was a straight red for an off the ball altercation and another second booking – which could easily have been a straight red itself – for a wild lunge from behind.
Had there been more than five minutes left to play, there would surely have been more red cards and the match would have had to have been abandoned. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in over 20 years of regularly going to football.
Runner Up: A couple of weeks later Trival Valderas tried their best to out-do Barajas by having three players sent off in losing 3-0 at Villaverde.
Sadly absent from Leganés’ matches through the season, at least Super Pepino was able to expand his horizons thanks to the club’s shop finally introducing a Super Pepino which you can take home with you, accompanied with this fantastic Twitter advertising campaign.
Here’s hoping that when fans return to La Liga in the late summer, the Cucumber Knight will be back in his rightful position.
Coming up with a mascot for a pan-European tournament was never going to be easy, but surely UEFA could have come up with something a bit more inventive than Skillzy.
This creepy-looking freestyle footballer doesn’t speak to me on any level. Goodness knows what FIFA’s marketing bigwigs have in store for Qatar 2022…
On 9th May, Recreativo de Huelva were relegated to the Tercera, meaning that from next season the grandfather of Spanish football will be playing football in the fifth tier.
When I lived in the city they spent almost the entire time flirting either with relegation or complete extinction, but seemed to have got their act together in 2018/19, where they challenged unsuccessfully for promotion and then finishing mid-table in last season’s Covid-disrupted campaign.
But this time, nothing went right. Promotion never looked like a realistic prospect but Recre were in the mix to make the Primera/Segunda RFEF play-offs, but needed to beat Cádiz B away at the end of March to make the cut and in the end could only draw 2-2.
In the relegation group, only the top three of eight were guaranteed to stay in what would become the Segunda RFEF and Recre were abject, losing seven matches in a row.
Most pointless Covid-related safety measure
The socially-distanced team photo enjoyed a brief period of popularity early in the season even though it was quickly rendered irrelevant when the players lined up in a defensive wall, marked closely at a corner or embraced after scoring.
Second-most pointless Covid-related safety measure
The directive by regional health authorities in Madrid that players below Tercera level needed to wear face masks while playing has mostly just created a trend for players sporting a type of neckwear during games.
The Super League.
The plan to turn top level European competition into a virtual closed shop for an elite group of rich teams was received about as well as you’d expect and was essentially finished after a few days when nine of the twelve founding members pulled out.
At least we got a few hilarious “old man yells at cloud” style interviews from Florentino Pérez to laugh at.
Best shrine devoted to a Champions League winning manager
The ancient rivalry between Rafa Benitez and José Mourinho stirs again! At least Parla have a justification for honouring Benitez in the bar at the Estadio Los Prados (he spent part of his playing career there before going on to much greater success as a coach), I’m not quite sure what the connection between CD Canillas and Mourinho is.
The “going out with a whimper” award.
RIP Flat Earth FC: 2019-2021. It was fun while it lasted.
Javi Poves, the owner behind the Flat Earth rebrand, had already sold up long before the end of the season with new owners coming in and targeting immediate promotion to the Segunda RFEF.
It didn’t work out and the terraplanistas ended up playing a number of meaningless games in front of small crowds minus the ball-juggling astronaut and laminated A4 print-outs of Flat Earth memes (sample: Buzz Lightyear? More like Buzz Lied for years!) that made their games interesting last season.
Now the season is over, we await the latest rebrand with interest.
If you’ve ever complained about your team going through a bad run, spare a thought for anyone who has followed Espanyol Femení over the last couple of seasons.
They went through the 2019/20 season without winning a single game and would have been relegated but for the pandemic bringing the season to a premature end. In total, they had gone 525 days without tasting victory when they travelled to face Madrid CFF in mid-October.
Manuela Vanegas headed them in front just before the half hour, slightly against the run of play and with something to hold onto, they were inspired. As the minutes ticked away the substitutes in the stand filled the role of their absent supporters, kicking every ball with their teammates and screaming encouragement until the final whistle brought a spontaneous outpouring of joy.
They ended up being relegated at the end of the season anyway, but they’ll always have that one moment.
Best alternative to a stretcher
With no stretcher available at Colmenar Viejo v San Agustín del Guadalix at the end of May, the visitors’ physio was forced to improvise when one of his players was forced off on the far side of the pitch, giving him a piggy-back all the way back to the dressing room.
Best pitchside accessory
Las Rozas’ players can watch the action while warming up on an exercise bike. Not just stretches and a bit of jogging for them. Alas it didn’t do them much good as they were relegated from Segunda B and will be back in the Tercera next season.
Strangest piece of memorabilia
Found at AD Esperanza, this scarf which says “Real Club Recreativo de Recre”.
Big fan of them. Along with Deportivo La Depor, they’re my favourite Spanish team.
Overall Rating 🎉
I’ve thought long and hard about this and I’d probably give the season overall a 7/10.
It was about as good as I could make it considering the limitations imposed on me in terms of travel and top level games still being behind closed doors.
I saw plenty of good games and great goals, ate lots of bocatas (en el descanso of course) and shared the experience with lots more football lovers from Spain, the UK, Ireland and beyond.
This is probably as good a time as any to thank those of you who joined me on mis viajes, either in the stadiums, through social media or being one of the people who reads the posts on this blog – and if you’ve made it this far, I salute you!
Here’s hoping that next season is something closer to normal – and that I can actually go and see Coleraine play again