Monthly Musings (July 2021)

Greetings from Madrid at the start of the summer holidays!

Things were a little busy towards the end of term, so forgive the late appearance of this update.

So here we go!

Where I’ve Been 🗺

After finally escaping Madrid at the end of May, June was another month where I didn’t actually leave the boundaries of the city.

A couple of reasons for this. Firstly, I had a lot more admin work over the final couple of weeks of my school year, so it was harder to justify taking time out to travel somewhere, and secondly, once the Euros started in the middle of June I was determined to watch as much of the tournament as possible.

I’ve already got some travel plans locally for July, so next month’s section should be a good bit more interesting!

Game of the Month ⚽️

I rounded off the 2020/21 season with a couple more Tercera games and one of them was a cracker.

I went up to Santa Ana v Villaverde on 20th June requiring four goals to reach my personal century for the season, but not exactly expecting much. After all, the previous meeting of the teams had been a drab 1-0 and they were propping up the relegation section with nothing to play for.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. What I got was an extraordinarily open game with six goals and both teams having so many chances that there could have been many more.

It was a great way to round off the season of in-person matches, ahead of writing my end of season awards post.

Most Popular Post 💻

Spanish TV’s Euros intro. Not quite the same

Unsurprisingly, it was a massive month for my post rating BBC and ITV’s Euros intros (now fully updated to include their Euro 2020 efforts) which finished well clear of its nearest challengers, my Copa de la Reina Final photo special and Monthly Musings.

In fact, June set a new record for the most hits and most unique visitors in the site’s history, beating the record that was only set in March this year.

Thoughts on the Euros so far 🏆

Despite the absence of Northern Ireland, Euro 2020 has been excellent so far.

In terms of open, exciting games, it has mostly been an improvement on the last Euros, Netherlands 3-2 Ukraine and Germany 4-2 Portugal were standouts from the group stage but everything else paled into insignificance compared to the events of Monday 28th June and Spain 5-3 Croatia and France 3-3 Switzerland three with the tournament favourite crashing out after penalties, the decisive miss coming from golden boy Mbappé.

This is the first tournament since I’ve been in Spain where La Roja have actually performed well, following their group stage elimination in 2014 followed by largely underwhelming showings culminating in a last-16 defeat in both 2016 and 2018.

Initially the public feeling towards the team here was extremely negative. Luis Enrique’s squad selection was extremely divisive (dropping Sergio Ramos, not selecting any Real Madrid players) and Spain’s two opening performances in drawing against Sweden and Poland were not at all well received.

Yet here they are in the semi-finals and people actually seem to be behind them. No doubt the knives will be back out if they lose to Italy, who for me have probably been the outstanding team of the tournament, but for me they’ve already gone further than I expected.

What hasn’t been excellent is the coverage on Spanish TV. There’s no in-studio team to do build-up, they cut directly to adverts about 10 seconds after the whistle at half time and full time and the commentators slip in a plug for a film made by the same company which apparently “the whole world is talking about” (spoiler: it isn’t) at least once a game.

Still, at least it’s all on free to air TV. In 2016, they only bothered to show one game a day, Spain’s game or the evening kick off.

Goodbye Masks (sort of) 😷

On Saturday 26th June, the Spanish government finally lifted the requirement for all people to wear a mask in public.

Well, as long as you are in an open space and a safe distance with other people can be maintained.

I’ve not totally got out of the habit yet, I generally spend a lot of time using public transport or in the classroom, both places where masks continue to be required and although the Spanish news seems to specialise in finding large groups of maskless young people to interview, I’ve generally found most people here are continuing to wear them.

It has to be said, it makes taking photos outdoors a lot easier and is an incentive for me to shave more often than I have done over the past 12 months!

Shirt Hunting at El Rastro 👕

Shocking confession time…

I have lived in Madrid for almost three years, as well as having visited numerous times beforehand and until last Sunday, I had never been to the city’s iconic flea market, El Rastro.

Of course the highlight for me was going through the stalls stocked with old football shirts from all over the world. There were plenty of vintage Spain shirts, including a rather nice Euro 2000 one I would have bought but for a very noticeable stain under the collar, but my best find was the 2002/03 Deportivo La Coruña home shirt worn by, among others, Juan Carlos Valerón, Diego Tristán and Roy Makaay, who won that season’s European Golden Shoe.

I didn’t purchase it in the end because the size wasn’t right and also because years of washing has led to the blue stripes fading into a shade of purple. I thought that was only something that happened to Coleraine’s Joma shirts, so I at least came away reassured that there’s another potential bond between the Bannsiders and Depor.

Kit of the Month 👕

The Euros have obviously dominated my football watching for the last few weeks and I just want to take another opportunity to share my love for the Italy home shirt.

It’s pretty much the perfect football shirt. The shade of blue, the gold logos, the navy collar, the ornate Renaissance-inspired detailing on the front. If the tournament was decided solely on the quality of the teams’ home shirts, Italy would walk it.

Book of the Month 📚

After not having a huge amount of free time for reading during June, I finished off the month/started July by reading The Fix by James Dixon all about the first season of the UEFA Champions League.

In a world where the European Super League met with outrage it has to be remembered that the modern Champions League is essentially a super league in all but name – and future reforms will make it even more so.

I particularly enjoyed the early part of the book and its focus on teams from the smaller nations, who are now pretty much shut out of the Champions League completely. The idea of an Irish League representative playing the eventual champions, as Glentoran did with Marseille in 1992/93, is pretty much impossible. As is a last eight with teams like Rangers, IFK Gothenburg and CSKA Moscow rubbing shoulders with AC Milan. Definitely the kind of fixtures that Florentino Pérez believes would have young people switching off.

And of course the title has a double meaning – the fix partially being how UEFA and the big clubs went on to load the Champions League in such a way that they profited at the expense of clubs from smaller nations, and partially how Marseille’s success was infamously tainted by a match-fixing scandal.

And I couldn’t let this section pass without mentioning that Sarah has finally released her first e-book.

It’s a guide to the public transport system of Madrid and is perfect for anyone visiting the city or moving here for the first time and needing some advice on how to get the most out of getting around, or even experienced travellers or long-term residents who want to learn something new about the systems they use every day.

It’s available to buy now from Sarah’s website.

What’s Up Next?

At long last, I have a date for my first Covid-19 vaccination.

On Friday, I’ll be off the the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano for the first time since October 2019, not to watch Atlético Madrid, but to take a huge step towards that becoming a reality again.

Getting vaccinated will also open the door for me to travel home at some point this summer – providing the UK government eases the quarantine requirement. The turnaround between doses is quite short here, so hopefully by the end of the month, I’ll either have received my second dose, or at least have a date for it.

July might be something of a football-free month, but I’m hoping that some pre-season friendlies will pop up around the city (or even further afield) before the month is out.

Of course, I am disappointed to again be missing out on Coleraine’s European campaign, which will see them play FK Velež Mostar from Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s a tough tie (I had been hoping for a team in Gibraltar to give me half a chance of making the away leg) but fingers crossed that the players can build on last year’s impressive run and extend their involvement into August.

Until next time,

All the best,

Andrew

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