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.


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.


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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The Madding Crowd (Real Madrid)

A trip to the Santiago Bernabeu is high on the list of any serious football fans “must do” stadiums. This classic stadium was inaugurated in 1947 with a match against Portuguese side Os Belenenses and had taken nearly three years to complete. The new Estadio Chamartin was built close to Real’s former Chamartin stadium had been designed by renowned architects Manuel Muñoz Monasterio and Luis Alemany Soler. Within five years the new stadium had been renamed to honour long term Real president Santiago Bernabeu. The new stadium initially held 75,000 but by 1954 had been expanded to a mind-boggling 125,000. Three years later floodlighting came to the Bernabeu and were switched on for the first time in a special match again Brazilian side Sporting Recife.

The stadium remained essentially unchanged until renovations were needed for Spain’s hosting of the 1982 World Cup tournament. In a pleasing symmetry and nod to history and continuity Real engaged the sons of the original architects, Rafael Luis Alemany and Manuel Salinas. Roofing for two thirds of the stadium was a major undertaking as well as the installation of more seating, thus reducing overall capacity to 90,800. The great stadium hosted that memorable final between Italy and West Germany.

In the 1990’s there was further major renovation which saw the now familiar corner towers completed and major works on the foundations to enable the near doubling of the height of the stadium with fourth and fifth tiers. The work was undertaken by Gines Navarro Construcciones and gave the Bernabeu a huge capacity of 110,000. The latter part of that decade saw the stadium move to an all seater arena and a reduced capacity once again of 75,000. Improvements and expansion throughout the 2000’s and even as recently as 2012 has seen the stadium settle at it’s current licensed capacity of 85,454.

The club itself had been formed in March 1902 as Madrid Football Club, the royal ascent was given by King Alfonso XIII in 1920 and the current name of Real Madrid Club de Futbol was adopted. Almost uniquely the club has been member (socio) owned since its inception. The club of course grew into a global phenomenon with a record nine European Cup/Champions League wins which included the first five competitions in a row. Three World Club Cups and no less than 32 Spanish League title gives you an idea of their incredible success particularly in the post World War II years.

From Di Stefano, Puskas, Hugo Sanchez, Butragueno, Juanito through to the Galacticos period of the likes of Raúl, Zidane, Ronaldo, Figo, Roberto Carlos and Cannavaro the club have always attracted the greatest players in the world. Of course the latest star signing Gareth Bale has joined a small group of British players to have worn the famous all white kit. David Beckham, Michael Owen and Steve McManaman all graced this particular stage but less well known is Scotland’s contribution to the long history of Real Madrid.

John Fox-Watson was one of the first British players to move to a high profile foreign club, joining Real Madrid as player/coach in 1948. His transfer from Fulham was many years before the likes of Jimmy Greaves, John Charles and Denis Law left the shores of Great Britain. His career had started modestly with Waterthistle and later on with Douglas Juniors. Via spells at Bury and Fulham he arrived at Real as the club was moving into their new stadium. Fox-Watson only stayed in Spain for a single season and only played one match for the All Whites, away to Celta Vigo, but remains the only Scot to have represented the Spanish giants. He returned to England in the summer of 1949, joining Crystal Palace.

So what is the whole match-day experience like at one of the sports most revered and historic amphitheatres? While many criticise Real Madrid for its juggernaut of commercial enterprises, what is abundantly clear is its embracing and idolatry of its past. I see as many “Juanito” shirts as I do those of current favourites like Isco. The hubbub around the stadium is fascinating to be part of, allsorts of souvenirs are being sold and the Spanish match staple of nuts, nuts and more nuts, are profusely available from stall after stall. Suddenly the chatter is broken by loud whistling, the clopping of horses hooves and the wailing of police sirens. Has trouble broken out? Have the Málaga fans gotten too boisterous? No, none of that it’s the Real team coach sweeping up the road. A sea of humanity parts amid a myriad of camera flashes.

The game itself starts and its high octane stuff from the hosts but they find visiting keeper Willy Caballero in scintillating form. Save after save denies the hosts in the first half with a Ronaldo shot that hit the bar the only one eluding his grasp. Immediately after the break though Málaga are caught cold and the Argentine Di Maria nips in to give Real the expected lead. And it is expected, the relief around the Bernabeu is palpable. They are of course expected to win by a landslide but it does happen, Caballero remains solid as a rock. Malaga fans greet the substitution of their former hero, the wonderfully talented Isco, by bowing en masse in the rafters of the fifth tier. It’s one of the visitors own substitutes that nearly causes an upset when their Ivorian striker Anderson burst clean through only to fire narrowly wide of the home goal. The game is settled in injury time when skipper Weligton upends a marauding Bale. As expected, Ronaldo dispatches the penalty with his customary swagger.

While a trip to the Bernabeu is indeed a wallet emptying experience, and a magnet for tourists from around the world, there is absolutely no denying that the Santiago Bernabeu is truly one of the games greatest stadiums.

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La Liga Primera Division – Saturday October 19th 2013

Real Madrid CF (0) 2 (Di Maria 46, Cristiano Ronaldo pen 90)

Málaga CF (0) 0

Attendance: 78,362 (at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu)


25. Diego Lopez; 15. Daniel Carvajal; 3.Pepe; 4. Sergio Ramos (c); 12. Marcelo; 6. Sami Khedira; 22. Angel Di Maria; 24. Asier Illaramendi; 23. Isco; 7. Cristiano Ronaldo; 21. Álvaro Morata.

Subs: 1. Iker Casillas; 11. Gareth Bale (for 21,76 mins); 16. Casemiro; 17. Álvaro Arbeloa; 18. Nacho Fernandez; 19. Luka Modrić (for 22,72 mins); 20. Jesé Rodriguez (for 22,81 mins).


1. Willy Caballero; 2. Jésus Gámez; 3. Weligton Oliveira (c); 5. Vitorino Antunes; 21. Sergio Sánchez; 18. Eliseu Pereira; 12. Fernando Tissone; 6. Ignacio Camacho; 7. Mounir El Hamdaoui; 8. Francisco Portillo; 24. Samu Garçia.

Subs: 1. Carlos Kameni; 9. Roque Santa Cruz (for 8,77 mins); 10. Bobley Anderson (for 24,70 mins); 14. Pedro Morales; 17. Duda; 23. Roberto Chen; 30. Sergi Darder (for 5,78 mins).

Yellow Cards: Carvajal (Real); Gamez, Weligton, Antunes, Sánchez, Eliseu (all Málaga).


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