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Real Madrid - El equipo del gobierno, la vergüenza del país. Zhang Chengdong. And the Fear. (12th August, 2017)

When Spain was internationally isolated under Franco, Real Madrid's European Cup titles provided political capital for the dictator - a way of showing success and prosperity. One minister even went on to say "Real Madrid are the best ambassadors we've ever had". Talk about out-of-touch with the country.

It was Atlético - the team of the working class at the time, that regularly chanted that Real was "el equipo del gobierno, la vergüenza del país".

The team of the government, the shame of the country.

It's amazing to think that were it not for the rise of the modern ultra movement, and Rayo Vallecano's rise into professional football which meant they became known as the "true" left-wing club in Madrid, Atlético would have been the sole symbol of resistance in Madrid.

But they are an important symbol nevertheless, perhaps undercut by Atlético moving stadiums. The location of the Vicente Calderón symbolized local engagement, being near a brewery along the Manzanares River. In contrast, the Santiago Bernabéu is alongside banks and businesses on the upper class Paseo de la Castellana street.



He was imposed on Rayo Vallecano by their shirt sponsor Qbao. Paco Jémez was furious, saying that the signing "suits me like a hole in the head". A furious battle ensued - Felipe Miñambres, the sporting director, saying that Paco "had known for a long time that such a signing was likely", that it hadn't happened for two years and that Felipe had asked for the player and the sponsors delivered on his request - and if they hadn't then another year would go by without having a Chinese player. Paco later said he never denied that he was aware about the circumstances, called Zhang "one more player" and commended his performances in training - while at the same time noting that Zhang plays "a little in a position where we have a lot of players."

And all of that - for what?

Nine minutes.

For nine minutes, history was made. Zhang Chengdong, aka Dudú, made his La Liga debut against Atlético Madrid, coming on for Dorado. He became the first ever Chinese footballer in La Liga.

A La Liga career spanning nine minutes was the result of a Chinese sponsor and a player who was spotted by a Rayo sporting director who saw said player play in Portugal for three seasons. But more importantly, it sparked a bitter feud that exposed both superficial problems at the club on a sporting level, as well as systemic problems in how the club was being run and where it was getting its money from.



"As long as you got this job, you’ve got nothing pushing you to get another one. 

You need the fear."


-Friends

This blog was a way for me to get off my arse and write more. And I'm really happy I did - but there is a dark side to it.

You see that button up there? The Hall of Shame? That is my fear. I'm scared of not writing on a particular day, and have that etched permanently, and then come back the next day with a feeling of dread. Heck, I'm even more scared of that shame becoming normalized. Routine. Banal. 

Running out of ideas is normal. Running out of energy is OK. Running out of words to write, perspectives to share, and stories to tell? That's unacceptable.

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He was short. Very short. At 5'3", the left winger sometimes played in an over-sized shirt.

The ball never left his feet. His feet were tiny but they had magic. A dizzying array of body feints, close control, direction changes and sheer speed, often resembling a roller-coaster, left opposition defenders outwitted. And yes - sometimes, he frustrated. Sometimes, he was irregular.

But when he turned up, the world was at his feet.

If Juan Quero plays against Real Madrid he'll be playing against the club that let him go. The club that didn't think he had it in him to become a La Liga player.

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