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Visiting Vallekas - with Roddy Cons (28th July, 2017)

Travel blogs have always fascinated me. These are people who take time out of their lives to travel, explore, and then document the various corners of the world that many will never see. Being a travel blogger, therefore, is even more important in a world where information is accessible but experiences are not.

This is an interview with football travel blogger Roddy Cons, founder of the travel blog The Team on Tour, or TTOT.

You can follow this amazing blog on YouTube here, Facebook here, Twitter here and Instagram here.

A little bit about yourself and your background

I'm a Scot who has been living in Madrid for the best part of eight years now. Since finishing uni, I've done some English teaching and also worked as a freelance football writer, writing previews and match reports for a host of leagues across the world, including the Spanish Second Division.

What made you become interested in visiting football stadiums around Spain and Europe in general?

My writing job kept me cooped up indoors for large parts of weekends during the football season, reading about games online and watching them on TV. I decided that a change was required and that I needed to do the exact opposite and get out and about a lot more.

What was the idea behind the blog TTOT?

It's taken me a while to get TTOT heading in the right direction, but I'm hoping that I'm on the right track now! I had originally planned to do a tactics-based football blog under a different name, but on a family holiday to the French Alps I managed to get along to a lower league match and made the last-minute decision to film the experience. It turned out to be pretty fun to do so I thought I'd turn the blog into a vlog. Until now, I've tried out slightly different types of football-related content with some travel stuff thrown in, but for the upcoming season, I'll be basically be trying to go to as many games I can wherever I can (mostly in Spain and in the Madrid area, unless I find a quick way to get rich!) and put up videos about my visits on YouTube.

Describe your first visit ever to Vallecas and the stadium?

I have to be honest and say that I was slow off the mark in going to Vallecas, as my first visit wasn't until March earlier this year. I'd heard a lot of good things about the atmosphere from various people and I definitely wasn't disappointed, even if the game I saw was a goalless draw against Reus!

Roddy actually vlogged that experience, you can watch it by clicking here.

How would you describe the fans in the stadium, and how intimidating is the stadium for opposition fans and players?

Something that struck me as soon as I arrived at the stadium was just how many fans were wearing replica shirts, club tracksuits, scarves, jackets etc. There's also a real feeling that the club represents the local community; being vallecano is a real source of pride. In terms of the stadium being intimidating, I'd really have to go to a 'big' game there (Primera/derby match) to comment properly, although I can imagine that it would be given the experiences that I've had in 'lower-key' matches.

Just curious if you've noticed - how often do the chants of "Presa vete ya" ring around the stadium?

On the occasions I've been, it's come up numerous times through the match. So very noticeable, yes.

How excited or nervous are fans to see foreigners in the stadium supporting the club?

Funnily enough, last time I was there I got chatting to a Rayo fan sitting next to me who seemed pretty pleased that a foreigner had chosen Vallecas instead of heading along to Real Madrid or Atlético! I also know quite a few expats who are season-ticket holders and have been made to feel very welcome.

What is it about the stadium and the surrounding area that makes it different from others of similar size and stature?

A couple of things stand out. First of all and most obviously, the fact that there are only three stands. I remember a story from last season about a lady who lived in one of the flats behind the goal without a stand. A wayward shot during a training session flew well over the crossbar, smashed one of her windows and woke up her husband who had been sleeping. She wasn't best pleased and seemingly ran down to tell everyone off! Also, the ground is very easy to get to from anywhere central in Madrid. The Portazgo metro exit (line 1) is literally about five meters from one of the stands.

I do remember that story - I covered it here. No word yet on whether the woman actually filed a complaint with local authorities last I checked...

How would you describe the ultras - the Bukaneros?

The Bukaneros are really passionate about everything they do and believe in, which of course isn't always football-related, that's been fairly well documented. They believe that the controversy that has followed them around has been unjustified and they want to show that 'ultras' don't always have to be associated with violence. Something they feel the footballing authorities in Spain and sections of the media have some trouble accepting.

But one thing is for sure - they absolutely love their club. The fact that one of their most significant periods of growth came when Rayo were in Segunda B back in the 2000s shows that.

So too does their non-stop singing and general rowdiness in the aforementioned game against Reus, a drab 0-0 when their team was struggling at the wrong end of the table!

I've heard that the club hires private security and they're known to be strict - do you see fans having a rough time sometimes, and how would you compare it to other stadiums in Spain?

I haven't seen it first hand, things have been pretty peaceful in the stands (excluding singing) when I've been. In fact, the most obvious example I've seen was when Rayo played against Real Madrid in the Bernabéu - their fans were escorted into the ground and I think there were almost as many security guards as supporters!

I've luckily managed to avoid security when I've been to games in Spain (for now at least!). Most grounds I have been to have done pretty lackluster body searches and bag checks on the way in. There's never been anything particularly heavy handed in the stadiums themselves, although there have been a few clashes between police and fans of visiting clubs in the streets of Madrid since I moved here.

Anything I haven't covered and you'd like me to mention.

Firstly, I'd 100% recommend a game at Vallecas to anybody with even the slightest interest in football, so check it out! I'm really looking forward to my next visit already.

Secondly, thanks a lot for featuring me on PoV, I've really enjoyed discovering the blog, there's some fascinating stuff about Rayo and other clubs who are rarely written about in English.

Appreciate it mate! A huge thanks to you for taking the time to do this!


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