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Showing posts from April, 2017

Welcome to The Hinchas y Jugadores project! (30th April, 2017)

The Hinchas y Jugadores project was founded with the aim of bringing fans and footballers together. It is convenient to think of fans as fanatics and footballers as pawns on a tactics board.

It is convenient. It is also wrong.
Behind the scenes, fans and footballers are people, and their stories deserve to be heard. And what makes it beautiful is that all those stories, no matter the source, are connected by the sport they love.

This project will last 19 consecutive days. Why 19, you ask?

Because 19 is the number of autonomous communities and cities in Spain, a regionalism that is often contentious in its existence yet celebrated for its diversity. Because it was in 1919 that King Alfonso XIII of Spain came to the throne - the last monarch until the proclamation of the Second Republic in 1931. Because Spain's U-19 team is one of the most successful in the world. Because La Liga players have accumulated a record 19 Ballon d'Or awards. Because I discovered a surprising number o…

"Scum of Catalonia" - a comment on offense and free speech. And Tito. (29th April, 2017)

Warning - this is not a Rayo post as per usual. Also, if it offends you you can either hide in your safe space or debate it.

I'm not going to beat around the bush. I'm confused.

I'm confused because whether in politics or sports or any other topic, there apparently has to be one right way and every other line of thought is labelled as wrong. I'm confused because the same people who talk about free speech and defending it are the same people who in the same breath will call people who express a differing opinion as racist or sexist or any of the thousands of words that have lost meaning because of overuse.

The right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint. That's free speech.

Social media has encouraged this culture of "offense". You don't like something said on Twitter? Click the report abuse button. Block 'em. Books with warnings - "this is likely to cause offense". Seriously?

Here's a musing - offense is subjective.…

A great Piti performance, a great Javi Guerra performance and bit part players (28th April, 2017)

I found it interesting going through past games and highlighting individual performances - so here's more of them...

It’s 2012, Paco Jémez’s first season in charge and it’s a mess. Three wins and a draw from nine games leave them in 15th place.

Meanwhile, Málaga had lost just once in that same period, were 12 places above in the league table, were playing in the Champions League and hadn’t dropped a single point.

A team that contained Demichelis, Joaquín, Isco, Saviola, Camacho and Jesús Gámez, were beaten at home by a team that had cost a total of €0 to assemble.

The win was symbolic of a huge change in fortunes – Málaga were winless in their next four fixtures and Rayo were on the ascendancy, finishing in a record 8th place with a record 53 points – only to be cruelly denied a Europa League place due to financial difficulties.

If you really want to understand Piti's impact on Rayo's 2012-13 season, just watch this game. It's not just that he scores both goals, it's t…

600 games for Roberto Trashorras - A look back at his career (27th April, 2017)

So far, he has played 207 games at Rayo, 119 at Celta, 64 at Las Palmas, 12 at Numancia, 75 at Real Madrid B and 122 at Barcelona B.

Yes - if Roberto Trashorras plays this weekend, he would have played 600* professional games in a long and illustrious career. 




I feel bad for Trashorras.

He started out in the Segunda B at the age of 18, reached the Segunda at 24 and then La Liga at 30. His story is one that shows that hard work and dedication can take you places, and that age is no barrier to success.

And then after five years of La Liga glory the club that put in faith in him got relegated.

Of course, I'm happy and grateful that he stayed as a Rayo fan - but I wouldn't have begrudged him if he'd taken that offer from Deportivo. He deserved to stay in La Liga.

I wrote about him here, but that is just a snapshot of his career - a career about which I'm finally going to write about. So, let's "continue" that article...

Trashorras took his first steps in Barcelona…

Rival Watch: Levante. And Patrick Ebert's greatest performance. (26th April, 2017)

By the end of next weekend Rayo could still be mathematically in contention for relegation. By the end of next weekend Getafe could solidify their position in the playoff spots. 

But by the end of next weekend, Levante could be promoted to La Liga.

On the last day of the 2015-16 season, Levante were already down to La Segunda, down 2-0 at Vallekas, down partly due to bad luck, mostly due to mediocrity, down with an away record worse than even Sevilla - the only team that managed to do that - and, in the 31st minute, down a man with injury.

Than man, a man who warned he would cry if Levante went down, was 40-year-old captain Juanfran.
As he pulled out with a groin injury, he did cry. His final game in professional football was a game where his most sacred team were going down. Both sets of coaches and fans applauded, for that was the end of an era.

That was the image which Levante took with them. The only one.

That was the image Raimon took with him. The man who proudly assembles the fl…

Brazilian players at Rayo and obscure nationalities (24th April, 2017)

It seems like every club has that one signing from a Brazilian team that looks fishy.

Sueliton Pereira was to Rayo what Douglas is to Barcelona. On 2 June 2011 it was announced that 25-year-old Sueliton was joining newly promoted La Liga side Rayo Vallecano as the club's first signing for the upcoming La Liga season.

He wasn't a nobody - he was signed from Campeonato Gaúcho side São José EC where in his one season with the club, he appeared in 13 matches and scored 2 goals, being selected as the best right back of the competition.

However, he failed to appear in any league matches for Rayo, and rescinded his link on 20 December 2012.

He is the exception to the rule though - at Rayo Brazilian footballers have thrived. I've obviously written about Diego Costa before (here):

It's funny to think that Diego Costa was once a backup at Atlético Madrid.

In June 2011, he was packing his bags. Beşiktaş had agreed a deal, and he was going to leave. All the papers had been signed. T…

#RayoLugo 2-0 - A solid home performance (23rd April, 2017)

Ernesto Galán's praises have been sung many times. But they're not enough - he gives Rayo the solidity they need and is silently becoming an essential part of the team.

By being a defensive right-back, a complete opposite to his predecessor Tito, Ernesto becomes the third center-back while Rayo have possession, thus freeing up Trashorras who would usually drop deeper as the third center-back to move further upfield.

A subtle change - but it means that Trashorras is able to make his impact felt further up the field.

In a frantic game like the one against Lugo, this wasn't just crucial - it was necessary.

35 seconds in and Patrick Ebert misses a one on one header with the goalkeeper. So much energy in this Rayo side too!!!! #RayoLugo — Sarthak Kumar (@Vallecanos1924) April 22, 2017
This new 4-3-3/3-4-3 suits another unsung hero - Álex Moreno. The left winger turned left back covers the wing perfectly, which suits Patrick Ebert who likes to cut inside with his right foot. Th…

Previewing Rayo Vallecano vs Lugo, and contract expiries (22nd April, 2017)

Gazzaniga
Mejías
Galán
Quini
Rat
Á.Moreno
Amaya
Íñiguez
Trashorras
Baena
Santi
F.Beltrán
Jordi
Embarba
Ebert
Lass
Manucho
J.Guerra#RayoLugopic.twitter.com/KtMhuO5rT4 — Rayo Vallecano (@RVMOficial) April 21, 2017 Compared to last week - Pablo Iñiguez, Răzvan Raț and Lass are back in the squad, and Míchel confirmed that Pablo would play.

Not out of pity, out of necessity - Toño, Pablo Clavería and Dorado are out due to injuries and Zé Castro is out due to suspension. Plus, Miku, Cristaldo, Aguirre and Nacho are out too.

It's a shame - a Venezuela international, a Boca Junior hot prospects, an ex-Toledo hot prospect and youth graduate and Rayo's second captain won't even grace the Vallekas bench, much less the pitch.


Expect a bumpy game, with many cards.

The referee for the game is Jorge Figueroa Vázquez, one of the toughest referees in the division. In the 17 games he has refereed this season he has dished out 75 yellow cards and five reds.

Figueroa started refereeing in t…

The fall and rise of Antonio Campillo, and Rival Watch: Mirandés (21st April, 2017)

A huge thanks to Ignasi Torné for designing the official new logo for this blog! Follow him on Twitter: @groundhopperbcn


Sometimes, you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been to stand back up taller than you ever were.
Born in Madrid, Campillo graduated with Atlético Madrid's youth setup, and made his debuts as a senior with the C-team in 2008, in Tercera División. In the 2009 summer he was promoted to the reserves in Segunda División B.
In July 2010 Campillo moved to another reserve team, Getafe CF B also in the third level. But, in January 2012 he signed for fellow league team UD Melilla, after being rarely used by Getafe. He had been touted as the next big thing for years. But the opportunity never came.
So he went down to the Tercera.
In July 2012 Campillo joined CU Collado Villalba, in the fourth division. After scoring nine goals for the side he agreed to a two-year deal with Rayo Vallecano, being assigned to the B-side in the third tier.
He helped Rayo B get …

Fran Beltrán, San Cristóbal and Vallekas (20th April, 2017)

Fran Beltrán renewed his contract!

The former Getafe youth academy player signed an extension until 2020, making him a professionally paid player. Any club that wants him will now have to pay his release clause of eight million euros.

Is he still a bargain? Yes. Absolutely.

On a small football field in Madrid, Alfredo Di Stefano stepped on for a veterans match. He was retiring, and this was his sendoff. 

Used to large crowds and noisy football stadiums, he probably was thinking - where am I? 

Spain's districts are divided into neighborhoods, or barrios. South west to Puente de Vallecas is the working class district of Villaverde, where a small barrio of about 18,000 inhabitants resides. It has historically been isolated, from the north and east by the railroad, to the south by the old Army Car Park and to the west by the old highway to Andalusia (A-4).

40% of the population is made up of immigrants - in the 1960s, immigrants from Extremadura, Andalucía, Murcia and Castilla La Manch…

On this day, two years ago. And more on Zé Castro (19th April, 2017)

Exactly two years ago, to this very day, Rayo Vallecano played Almería.

On the 19th of April, 2015, a sunny day in Vallekas greeted two squads with very different moods. The previous week, Rayo had been smashed for six at the Balaídos, while Almería had won 3-0 against Granada.

For me, the first goal against Almería was what personified Rayo.

A corner by Kakuta is taken short and the ball finds its way to Zé Castro. Castro ends up dribbling past two players with a feint, crosses the ball into the box, and Antonio Amaya scores a header.

So what's so special about that?

Castro and Amaya are both center backs. Yes, a 32-year-old center back dribbled and crossed the ball to a 31-year-old center back who scored a header. That's the beauty of positional play - any player should theoretically be able to play anywhere. Obviously, at a small club like Rayo that's not always possible, which is why fans should appreciate it when goals like those are scored.

To score is in itself ama…

Alejandro "Chori" Domínguez - Crazy man, crazy passes, true Rayista: part 4 (18th April, 2017)

You can read part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

In the 1949-50 season, Rayo changed their white shirt for the current uniform - one with a red diagonal strip crossing their chest. River Plate visited the city to play a friendly against Real Madrid. The managers of Rayo visited the Argentinians, legends back then, to honor them and the humble club let them their stadium to train, where both clubs played an informal game. Some days later, a box from Argentina found its way to Vallekas - full of River shirts. Even though the shirts had the kid size, the club adopted the River shirt as its own. Despite Atlético Madrid wanting them to wear their shirt, Rayo kept their new shirt and never changed it, since the agreement with the colchoneros only lasted one year.

Corporations are not inherently evil. Some are good to people and benevolent to their employees, but this is not the rule, it’s the exception. The pursuit of profit supersedes everything else.
We don't think of footballer…

UCAM Murcia 0-1 Rayo: The untold story. Oh, and Freddy Adu in Vallekas? (17th April, 2017)

There are many story lines about the 90 minutes of football that took place that can be dealt with. One is the fact that a stadium that can hold 6,500 thundered against the incessant support of 150 fans who chanted Rayo until the game was over and the players had very visible smiles on their faces. Another is the fact that Rayo have picked up 11 points out of a possible 15. Or that they won just their third away win of the season. Or the fact that Gazzaniga saved Rayo from a late UCAM Murcia onslaught. Or that Ernesto Galán may be the most underappreciated defensive right back there is. Or that Fran Beltrán was excellent as usual. Or that Patrick Ebert's free kick to set up Javi Guerra's goal was perfectly set up for Javi's head.

But, once again, Rayo were losing control - Santi Comesaña was having an off game and Trashorras looked tired.
And, once again, the savior was not recognized.
His shirt number says number eight but it is just that - a shirt number. And while it i…

The true Rayistas - part 3 (16th April, 2017)

You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Part 1 dealt with the players who stuck by the club through two consecutive relegations in 2003 and 2004. Part 2 dealt with the players who stayed with the club until they went up in 2008.

Part 3 deals with players who took the club from the Segunda B to La Liga. These players realized a dream - a dream to take Rayo back to La Liga.

The dream took eight years in total, but it happened. And these players made it happen.

Let us first acknowledge that there is a player who makes more than one list - Javier Monsálvez Carazo, aka Yuma, whose praises have been sung in part 2. And he is literally a true Rayista - his cousins are Iván and Antonio Amaya and he even played for Rayo OKC.

Speaking of the Amaya brothers, Antonio Amaya makes this list too. He should have made the previous list (a mistake which has now been corrected). But let's sing his praises here.

Born in the capital of Madrid, Amaya began his career at local San Cristóbal de los Án…

Fates of previous signings, a golden era of coaches and International Rayo by Pitbull/Me (15th April, 2017)

On the 24th of June, 2014, three players were presented at the Estadio de Vallekas. A signing from Real Madrid in the first division, a signing from Mallorca in the second, and a signing from Real Jaén in the third.

As Quini, the right-back from Real Madrid, was being benched by a left-back; as Álex Moreno, the winger from Mallorca, was on loan at second division Elche, Jozabed continued to inspire the biggest success story of the 2015-16 season.

And now? Jozabed left for Fulham for four million euros, Moreno is benching the left-backs who were benching Quini, and Quini himself is back up to Ernesto Galán.

It's funny how life works out.

The missing piece in this story is that of Diego Aguirre - he, too, was signed in 2014 after having made waves at Toledo in the third division. The left-back/left-winger has been rarely used at Rayo this season, despite a successful loan stint at Leganés (2014-15). However, a dismal loan spell at Real Oviedo (2015-16), and the performances of Álex…

UCAM Murcia and Rayo - a new relationship? (13th April, 2017)

Given the upcoming game against UCAM Murcia CF, here's a list of players who've played for both clubs.

Juan José CollantesSergio Mora SánchezHugo Álvarez QuintasDavid González PlataDiego Torres RodríguezManuel López EscámezJavi Muñoz Arévalo So: I've talked about Collantes before (here).Central midfielder Mora was born in Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid. A product of hometown club Rayo Vallecano's youth ranks, he appeared in 21 games for its first team during 2002–03's La Liga, in an eventual relegation. His debut in the competition came on 6 October 2002, in a 2–2 home draw against Villarreal CF. Subsequently, competing mainly in Segunda División B, Mora went on to represent CF Gandía, Getafe CF (both on loan), Hércules CF, Benidorm CF, CD Alcoyano and AD Alcorcón, helping the latter promote to Segunda División for the first time ever, in 2010 and an amazing 4-0 win against Real Madrid, about which I've written before (here). He scored his first professional goal on …

Fuck ESPN (12th April, 2017)

The title really should be "The history of ESPN screwing over Rayo and good journalism in general" but, you know, what the hell.

So here's a list - and bear in mind, this is just Rayo, a club few news outlets even bother reporting about.
Count the first!
Rayo win against Getafe 2-0. The headline? "Rayo Vallecano hang on with 10 men to defeat Getafe". Guess what? The player who was sent off was Yoel, the substitute goalkeeper who was ON THE BENCH. 
Yeah, RAYO NEVER PLAYED WITH TEN MEN. Talk about shoddy reporting.

The link to it still exists - it's here.
Count the second!
When Rayo lost 10-2 against Real Madrid, Craig Burley went off on a rant about how it's shameful for the league that Rayo lost by a heavy scoreline.

That's his opinion. I disagree, and that's OK. What's not OK is that it's a misinformed opinion. Rayo attack not to win but to play, in a country where the aesthetic is valued, where playing de tú a tú is appreciated, where …

The story of Adrián Embarba (11th April, 2017)

Football is cruel. Hype is often wrong. And history forgets quickly.

It's easy to forget that Embarba was the least heralded of three signings for Rayo B in 2013. Miki Ruiz was a striker heralded for his pace and strength, his finishing and his shot power. He was from Córdoba, he was ex-FC Barcelona, ex-Real Madrid, ex-Valencia and ex-Hércules, and he had already played for the U-20 Spain team, alongside Jesé Rodríguez and Derik Osede.

He, at just 19, had a bright future ahead of him.

So did Sergio Parla, ex-Getafe, ex-Real Madrid and ex-Alcobendas. The 21 year old center-back, whose ball-playing skills and pace made him a perfect Rayo defender. His future was bright too - sharing hydrotherapy pools with Ronaldo and, despite a torrid time with Alcobedas, his ability meant regular appearances for the first team.

Embarba? Released by Real Madrid, then by RSD Alcalá, then by Getafe, he made his debut for Marchamalo in 2011, then played next season with Carabanchel. Yes, out of the p…

1-1: Rayo Vallecano and Tenerife share the spoils (10th April, 2017)

I see what he was doing.

Pep Guardiola used to bring on Keita, a defensive midfielder, for David Villa to defend the left flank. In the 2009-10 seasons, Mourinho played Chivu, a midfielder, on the left wing for a suspended Pandev to - successfully - block Dani Alves' runs in the second leg of the Champions League.

So when Míchel put Fran Beltrán on the left-wing, it wasn't totally without reason. Suso Santana had to be stopped.

It was the only major surprise of the evening - Jordi Gómez and Zé Castro replaced suspended Ebert and Amaya. But despite the creativity of Jordi and the talent of Trashorras, they were defensively weak and on the left wing Aarón Ñíguez wrecked havoc - it was his pass that set up Amath Ndiaye for the first goal.

And that was just three minutes in.

Slowly, but surely, Rayo grew into the game and the players grew into their roles, but it was a first half to forget - even if Embarba equalized after a Santi diagonal pass to Ernesto was blocked.

The second …

Rayo's managerial academy (8th April, 2017)

While Rayo has a strong youth academy that produces some top quality, La Liga-caliber players, it is also a club where many managers start, and in most cases boost, their careers.

Here's a list of those managers and how their careers have progressed since then:

Míchel (José Miguel González Martín del Campo)

After a long and successful career at Real Madrid, being part of the legendary Quinta del Buitre and a season at Celaya in Mexico, he retired in 1997 and took charge of Rayo for the 2005-06 Segunda B season - it was the only season out of the four spent in the Segunda B that Rayo didn't even qualify for the playoffs. He would go on to take charge of Real Madrid B as a coach while also being director of Real Madrid's sports city, the entire youth system. He would coach his son, Adrián, but get relegated to the Segunda B in 2007 and left.

His career went upwards from there - in 2009 he took over at Getafe for two seasons, beating the drop both times (he would coach his so…

The Rayo mediapunta, the forgotten goalscoring machine, and troubling Vallecas news (6th April, 2017)

In Rayo's attack, a dizzying array of white and red, it is typically the player who plays "in the hole" who ends up scoring most of the goals, often playing as a deep striker.

In modern times, Emiliano Armenteros will be credited as the first to perform admirably well at this role. His 20 goals in the 2010-11 season proved critical to Rayo's promotion to La Liga. The next season, it was Michu (15 goals). The season after, it was Piti (18) and for another two seasons it was Alberto Bueno (11 and then 17). 
And while And while Michu, Piti and Bueno were already Segunda caliber players, immediately making an impact on La Liga outfit (Rayo), it was Emilio's story that really stood out.

Emilio Armenteros, after having played as a starter from ages 19 to 21 at Independiente, was signed by Sevilla but largely played for the reserves. At 23, in 2009, Armenteros moved to Xerez on loan but only played 1560 minutes as the Andalucians were relegated. He would then move to S…

The true Rayistas - part 2 (5th April, 2017)

On the 14th of March, 2017, I wrote an article called the true Rayistas (read it here), honoring those who stuck with the club from the 2002-03 La Liga to the 2004-05 Segunda B:
We seem to think that footballers form emotional attachment and loyalty to their clubs, but being a professional footballer is a job - and that job is their means of survival. Which is why we celebrate, and revere, and treasure those who genuinely care about the club, put their money where their mouth is and stay on.
They didn't need to. They weren't expected to.  And yet they did.
There is no heroism in it. It damages career prospects, takes a toll on the bank account, and history won't remember much about the club, much less the name.
But there are three more people to honor - those who stayed with the club from 2004 all the way till 2008, when Rayo jumped out of the well and into the Segunda.

The first is Miguel Albiol (yes, Raúl Albiol's older brother), who arrived at Rayo in 2004 after gradu…

The hiring and firing in Rayo's managerial department (4th April, 2017)

Going from having one manager for four seasons to having three just this season, I thought, to feel good amidst the institutional chaos to detail the times Rayo have had more than three managers at the helm.

The first was in the 1995-96 season, when Rayo Vallecano were promoted to the top flight in 1995. This was the season they were jokingly called "Rayo gaditano", as four of Rayo's players (and starters) were from Cádiz: Jose González, Calderón, Barla and Cortijo. Additionally, the interim coach between Zabalza and Marcos Alonso on matchday 8, Francisco Baena, was from there too.

Zabalza had taken over at the start of the season, but was sacked after just seven games - having picked up just one win (3-2 at home against Valencia), and with Rayo at the foot of the table. Baena's game in charge was a 2-2 draw at Tenerife.

But it was Marcos Alonso (aka Marcos), the father of current Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso, who steered the ship. In his first ever managerial exp…