Greetings from Northern Ireland! Oh how sweet it is to be able to write those words!
I’ve been enjoying a summer holiday away from the oppressive heat of Madrid and even better, seeing family and friends for the first time since before the pandemic started.
I’ve got loads to recap this month, so I won’t waste any more time with the introduction!
Where I’ve Been
Compared to previous months, this has been quite the month for travelling.
The first part of the month was reasonably quiet as I mostly stayed in my area in Madrid. Then on 9th August, Sarah and I went and took a Covid-19 test, tidied up our flat and set off for Málaga on an overnight bus from Mendez Alvaro.
The journey south was incredibly unpleasant. We were stuck at the back of a packed bus, it was incredibly warm with no functioning air conditioning and the people next to us hardly stopped talking the whole trip. After that though, things were plain sailing, a short taxi ride out to the airport, a mercifully straightforward check-in and then a bite to eat before boarding.
The flight was hands down the least busy one I’ve ever been on. In total there can’t have been more than 16 passengers on the plane, which made for a very peaceful experience. We were even moved into the extra legroom seats. Sarah slept while I read a bit and watched Die Hard. As you do.
Then upon arriving at Belfast International Airport, my Mum met us and drove us off to begin our mandatory quarantine.
Once quarantine was over, we set out to make up for lost time. As well as visiting familiar haunts on the North Coast, I’ve taken Sarah on a day trip to Derry/Londonderry on the train, a visit to friends who live in Newtownards, incorporating a walk up to Scrabo Tower, followed by a quick stop off in Belfast to show her the Stormont Estate and a quick history lesson at the home of Northern Ireland’s Assembly.
Game of the Month ⚽️
I was delighted to finally get back to watching Coleraine in person after over 600 days of having to follow them via streams and Twitter updates – it was one of my eight things I was most looking forward to about the new season after all!
The first game of the season, away to Larne, was a great match, packed with incident and controversy but alas, missing the right result at the end of the 90 minutes. Coleraine still played pretty well and I’m reasonably confident about their prospects this season.
Most Popular Post 💻
This month’s most-read post was my guide to the new museum at the Wanda Metropolitano, Territorio Atleti, which I went round at the end of July while waiting for my second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
As an experience, it definitely stands up alongside some of the best football museums I’ve visited. Some of the more interactive exhibitions weren’t functioning when I was there (they’re not really aimed at people my age anyway) but there’s a lot to see in just the museum, even if you don’t get the full package incorporating the stadium tour.
Book(s) of the Month 📚
One of the advantages of a ten day home quarantine was that I had plenty of time to read!
And I was able to order a few new books to be delivered just after I arrived. Since I moved to Spain, the vast majority of my reading has been done on Kindle, so I loved having physical books around again.
First up was Danish Dynamite by Rob Smyth, Lars Eriksen and Mike Gibbons, a profile of, as the cover says, football’s greatest cult team. This has been on my list to read for quite some time and it was great fun, illuminating a team I knew very little about beyond their adventures at the 1986 World Cup. And just look at that cover, based on the iconic Hummel shirt they wore in Mexico.
Simon Kuper’s Barça is perhaps the newest book I’ve ever reviewed in one of these posts, it actually came out the day after I returned to NI and once it was delivered, I flew through it. Incredibly topical, given the events that transpired just before I left Spain, it follows a familiar path to a lot of Barcelona-focused books, the Cruyff legacy, the glory years under Guardiola, but then takes a sharp turn into the chronic mismanagement of the past few years which has landed the club in mountains of debt. I expect there’ll be an extra chapter covering the Messi situation added when the paperback version comes out.
And finally, one thatI’m still reading. Christopher Hyland’s Tears at La Bombonera (brilliant title by the way) is a collection of the authors experiences living and watching football in South America, with plenty of focus on the lesser-known names of the continent. With the amount of books about South America and its history and football I’ve read in these last few years, it’ll be a real failure for me if I don’t make a trip there soon.
Season Ticket Idea of the Month 🎟
How do you prove you are one of your club’s biggest fans? How about by buying your dog, cat, hamster or goldfish a season ticket?
No joke, this is what Deportivo La Coruña are doing this season with their “socio mascota” card.
Of course, this isn’t a real season ticket allowing owners to bring their pets to Riazor with them, but rather a symbolic club membership, entitling the owner to discounts at certain local businesses and with 15% of the €25 cost going to animal protection charities.
It’s a fun idea and one that I wholeheartedly endorse. Even if only for the fact you can get a membership card with your pet’s face on it.
Most Potentially Confusing/Exciting League
In most leagues of 20 teams, tenth position would represent the dictionary definition of mid-table mediocrity.
Not in this season’s Madrid Tercera!
Because of a directive from the Spanish football federation to reduce each of the Tercera groups to 16 for next season, a large number of teams are going to have to be relegated this year. Madrid is already behind on this front because, while a number of the other regions have already dropped down to 18 teams, a number of legal challenges has left Madrid with 21, the same number as last season.
With four teams definitely being promoted from the Preferente, it means there will be a minimum of seven teams going down – providing one of the play-off sides joins the champion in getting promoted to the Segunda RFEF.
But if only one side goes up and all four Madrid sides in Segunda RFEF go down, there could be as many as TWELVE relegations. So tenth place could end up being a relegation spot.
It’s all set up to be an exciting season starting this coming weekend and I’ll likely be seeing my first game the Sunday after I return to Madrid. Can’t wait!
What’s Up Next?
We still have just short of a week left in Northern Ireland before we go back to Madrid and we still have a couple of places to tick off our must-visit list in Northern Ireland, so we’ll be doing them before we start packing in earnest and hoping we still have enough room to fit in all the Northern Irish products that are impossible to find in Spain.
Then I’ll be back in the Spanish football routine as soon as possible!
Until next time,
All the best,