The Path of a Lightning Bolt (Rayo Vallecano)

Ah Rayo Vallecano, red sashes (“Los Franjirrojos”, what a nickname!) on their white kit, a great three-sided stadium shoehorned into the urban sprawl of Vallecas and fantastic ultras in the Bukaneros, what’s not to love about Madrid’s very own “cult” club?

Well following a very public fall out between Rayo owner Rául Martin Presa and the Bukaneros and a wily manager in Paco Jémez who is constantly forced into sell his key players then you have a club lurching headlong into crisis.

According to posters around the ground the Bukaneros had called for a boycott of the match and forthcoming matches for a number of reasons. High on the list of complaints against Presa were the ban on materials used for the ultras famous animations (police recently raided the Bukaneros HQ and confiscated 400 flares) and alleged “discrimination” against anyone sporting any form of Bukaneros imagery. The ultras are also up in arms over the investment in Rayo OKC a new club based in Oklahoma City owned by Presa and licensed to compete in the NASL.

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The fans argue that their own club needs investment with the likes of Léo Baptistão (Atlético Madrid), Michu (Swansea City) and Borja López (AS Monaco) and several other quality players being sold in recent seasons to balance the books.

The story of Rayo Vallecano starts back in 1924 with the formation of Agrupación Deportiva El Rayo. They played in local leagues at a ground called Campo de la Calle de las Erillas which was very close to the current stadium. This was home until 1940 when it was required for urban expansion, and the club relocated to the Campo de El Rodival. The immediate post war years were pivotal for the club, they were now called AD Rayo Vallecano and had become effectively a subsidiary of Atlético Madrid. In 1949 the Rovidal was used by River Plate of Buenos Aires as a training facility ahead of a prestigious friendly against Real Madrid. To thank Rayo for their hospitality the Argentinians donated a full set of their kit to the club which created the long association with the iconic red sashed shirts.

In 1957 Rayo moved into the renovated Campo de Vallecas, a former home venue of Atlético. This remained home until the current venue was built between 1972 and 1976 which meant Rayo spent three seasons at the Campo de Vallehermoso in Chamberí.

During this period the club had bounced in between the Tercera and Segunda Divisions but after a record breaking unbeaten season in 1964/65 secured a return to the Segunda Rayo became a force to be reckoned with. Their return to the Nuevo Campo de Vallecas for the 1976/77 was topped off with a first ever promotion to La Primera.

The club continued to climb and enjoyed a first season in European competition in 2000/01 when wins against Constelació Esportiva, Molde, Viborg, Lokomotiv Moscow and Bordeaux saw Rayo in the Quarter Finals of the UEFA Cup. Paired against compatriots Deportivo Alavés. In a memorable pairing it was the Basques who won 4-2 on aggregate.

The club was run in these times by Teresa Rivero a President who failed to endear herself to the Vallecans by renaming the stadium after…herself! She also presided over the double relegations of 2002/03 and 2003/04. By 2011 Rivera was finally gone, the stadium name restored to Campo de Vallecas and better still the club had won promotion back to La Primera. The only downside was debts amounting to €22 million which has prompted the cautious housekeeping of recent years.

Today’s game sees both hosts and vistors, Málaga, perilously close to the drop zone and while there is still colour and noise from the home support the Fondo occupied by the Bukaneros is somewhat sparsely populated and palpably subdued. Rayo fielded Bebé and Manucho both remembered in England for their comically short careers at Manchester United. Bebé threatened at times but looked heavy and was outshone on the opposite wing by Lass Bangoura whose trickery produced the opening goal early on for the impressive Javi Guerra. However, the hosts failed to capitalise on their lead and Málaga deservedly secured the points with a winner late on in the match from the Croatian striker Duje Čop.

Rayo Vallecano is a club with a heart and a conscience in an increasingly murky sport. This is the club whose away kit and third kit are sold to support anti racism/homophobia charities and breast cancer awareness respectively. This is a club whose players agree to come to work on the metro to reduce their carbon footprint. This is a club who declared their support to the 2012 General Strike in Spain as a show of solidarity with its working class ethos. This a club whose coaching staff and players pay the rental costs for life on an apartment for 85 year old Vallecan resident Carmen Martínez Ayudo who was unceremoniously evicted after her son defaulted on loan secured on her property without her knowledge. This is a club who knows football without fans is nothing, a well used strap line President Presa would do well to remember.

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Sunday December 13th 2015 – La Liga Primera Division

Rayo Vallecano 1 (Javi Guerra 7)
Málaga CF 2 (Charles 59, Čop 87)

Att: 9,423 (at Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas)

Admission: €30 Programme: Free

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Rayo ticket

Deep Blue Something (Getafe CF)

The original Getafe club were formed in 1924 but were disbanded after just nine seasons. After the Spanish Civil War, to bring senior football back to the southern Madrid suburb, a meeting was held in a bar called La Marquesina, and Club Getafe Deportivo were born. A board was elected consisting of local men Enrique Condes García, Aurelio Miranda Olavaria, Antonio Corridor Lozano, Manuel Serrano Vergara and Miguel Cubero Francés, and a lease on a pitch was organised. The ground, known as Campo del Regimiento de Artillería, was rudimentary to say the least and even initially lacked goalposts! The ground proved so inadequate the club soon moved to another ground called Calle Vinagre.

As the club looked to progress they moved yet again, this time to an enclosed facility at Polideportivo Municipal San Isidro. Within five seasons the club had climbed into the then third tier Tercera Division for 1957/58. Remarkably they won the league at the first attempt but succumbed to Almeria in the promotion play-offs to the Segunda.

Getafe’s nomadic existence continued and in 1970 they moved to the newly built Campo Municipal de Las Margaritas. Six years later a first promotion to the second tier was finally secured. However, that was the zenith of their achievements, huge debts and unpaid wages saw the club demoted to the Tercera at the end of the 1981/82 season. A season later, having failed to win promotion, the board threw in the towel and the club officially folded.

Today’s club, Getafe Club de Fútbol, were formed as an immediate replacement and were officially a fusion of Getafe Deportivo Promesas (the old club’s reserve team) and Club Peña Getafe, who themselves were originally a team formed by the Getafe branch of the Real Madrid supporters club!

The club hovered around the nether reaches of the new third tier, Segunda B, on one occasion surviving the drop on an FA reprieve. At the end of the 1995/96 season their luck run out and relegation coincided with the final season at Las Margaritas which had been claimed for urban redevelopment.

After two seasons at the municipal stadium, Estadio de Juan de la Cierva which was almost adjacent to the old ground, Los Azulones (the Deep Blues) moved to the newly built Coliseum Alfonso Pérez. Named after a player that never actually played for his hometown club, Pérez played for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Betis and won 38 caps for Spain also winning a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics. A bust of Pérez is sited in a somewhat solitary position on the other side of the car park to the stadium.

By 2003 the club had been taken over by Ángel Torres Sánchez and the influx of new money had an immediate impact, Getafe reaching La Primera with a play off win over Tenerife. Having finished eleventh in the first ever season at the top flight the club expanded the still relatively new stadium. The fondos at either end were enlarged and the original roof on the west side was replaced by the much superior current arched cover. To their immense credit Getafe have remained a top tier club ever since.

The club thrived in their new surroundings and two losing Copa del Rey finals in 2007 and 2008 saw the club compete in Europe for the first time. In 2007/08 the club enjoyed a fantastic run in the UEFA Cup beating FC Twente, Tottenham, Anderlecht, AEK Athens and Benfica before bowing out to Bayern Munich in the quarter finals on the away goals rule.

Tonight’s match sees both Getafe and visitors Real Sociedad struggling at the wrong end of the table. The visitors, still reeling from the disastrous tenure of David Moyes, look the better side in the first half and lively winger Bruma really catches the eye in a pretty turgid opening period.

The second half sees the hosts up the tempo from the off and they score immediately when Pablo Sarabia’s header loops into the net. Sociedad though have some seasoned pros, Asier Illarramendi, Carlos Vela and Esteban Granero, and the class showed in the equaliser. A training ground free kick routine worked perfectly and front man Imanol Agirretxe tapped in unmarked at the far post right in front of the 300 or so travelling supporters. The match petered out into a draw which did not really help either side in their quests to stay in the top flight.

Much has been chronicled about the soulless nature of the Alfonso Pérez and the lack of atmosphere at the stadium, but I liked the stadium and two small pockets of noisy fans in the end I was sitting in tried to make some noise in what was a very poor crowd. Sociedad have a long standing reputation for travelling to away games in reasonable numbers and they also added to the spectacle.

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Friday December 11th 2015 – La Liga Primera Division

Getafe CF 1 (Sarabia 46)
Real Sociedad 1 (Agirretxe 68)

Att: 5,567 (at Coliseum Alfonso Pérez)

Admission: €30 Programme: Free

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Getafe ticket

Goodbye Gerland (Olympique Lyonnais)

The magnificent Stade de Gerland has a history long before Olympique Lyonnais took up residency in 1950 when the club was formed after a splintering of the Lyon Olympique Uninversitaire Club, themselves formed in 1899. That club had played at the Stade des Iris so the rebel group needed a new home and they found it across town at the Stade de Gerland.

The stadium was planned as long ago as 1910 when the mayor of Lyon, Édouard Herriot enlisted one of the nations most esteemed architects and urban planners, Tony Garnier, to build a new athletics track and velodrome in the seventh arrondissement of Gerland. Building got underway in 1914 just before war broke out and promptly bought a halt the plans. By 1920 using the labour of German prisoners of war the stadium was operational although it was not officially inaugurated until 1926. The amphitheatrical design echoed Garnier’s studies of ancient Rome but that in itself would become problematic in later modernisation attempts such was need to preserve his work yet cater for changing needs.

The record attendance at the ground came in 1982 when the derby against arch rivals Saint-Étienne attracted 48,552 to the Gerland.

The stadium and velodrome remained untouched until a revamp was needed for the 1984 European Championships. René Gargis’ plan included two new tribunes named after Jean Bouin (a famous French Olympian) and Jean Jaurès (former leader of the French Socialist Party). The Euros also saw the removal of the cycle track.

The present incarnation of the Stade de Gerland comes from the hosting of the World Cup in 1998 when both end stands were replaced with their twin rakish stands known as Virage Nord and Virage Sud, crafted impressively at the hand of architect Albert Constantin. The second tiers of the virages are particularly eye catching and resemble the opening of the petals of a flower. The entrance to the Stade de Gerland and its neighbouring swimming pool is guarded by two statues of lions.

The Gerland of course was the scene of the tragic collapse and death of Cameroon’s Marc-Vivien Foé during a match in the 2003 Confederations Cup.

Despite an impressive capacity of 40,500 the Gerland only holds a UEFA three star rating and it was this factor that has prompted the construction of a new 60,000 capacity stadium, Parc OL, in the suburb of Décines-Charpieu. This new stadium should be inaugurated when Lyon return to action after the brief winter break in January and it will, of course, be a host venue for Euro 2016. It is thought that the immediate future of the Gerland will be as a rugby venue.

Lyon are attempting a revival after a relatively quiet decade by their own high standards, having fallen behind the moneybags club from the capital, Paris St Germain. The first decade of the new millennium saw “Les Gones” (the kids) win no less than seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles between 2001 and 2008 which was a record unbroken run of titles for the French League.

Today’s game starts with a magnificent tifo in the Virage Sud, a stand covering flag descends as the players finish their warm up. As the players return to the pitch the whole stadium holds up blue and white paper for an “animation” that spells out he words “Stade de Gerland Lyon”. Then just before kick off red, white and blue flags are vigorously waved creating quite a spectacle.

Sadly for the hosts the current surprise packet in Ligue 1 this season, Angers, were in no mood to surrender the points in what was the last League match at this great old stadium. Lyon huff and puff and apart from Mathieu Valbuena’s effort that somehow hits the bar and bounces down the wrong side of the goal line before being cleared, the hosts seem to lack a cutting edge. Current darling of the Lyon crowd is Alexandre Lacazette but he looks desperately out of form. His performance is well and truly eclipsed by visiting attacking midfielder Cheikh Ndoye who scores two identical goals in either half, powerful headers when arriving unmarked in the Lyon goalmouth.

The defeat aside this is magnificent send off for the old Gerland. More than hundred former players are announced as they wonder around the pitch at the end of the match including legends from the seven title years like Juninho Pernambucano, Sonny Anderson and Sidney Govou. How the current team could have done with their creativity earlier!

Then dramatically the stadium is plunged into darkness as the floodlights are turned off. The ultras from the Virage Nord then light hundreds of flares for a tremendous pyro show. Then in the centre of the pitch five stages launch hundreds of fireworks into the night sky. What a rousing finale for this historic old stadium.

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Saturday December 5th 2015 – Ligue 1

Olympique Lyonnais 0
Angers SCO 2 (Ndoye 18,80)

Att: 36,068 (at Stade de Gerland)

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Lyon ticket