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The Rayo aficionado - with @DonDiegoVaula (9th August, 2017)

@DonDiegoVaula is a 30 year old Norwegian who lives in Oslo and has been passionate about football since the age of six. His local team is SK Brann from his hometown Bergen. Go ahead and follow him on Twitter!

How long have you been a fan of Rayo and what made you support them in the first place?

I've been a proper fan of Rayo for four years now. I used to write for a Norwegian football site, and because everyone else supported either Real Madrid or Barca I chose to write about the other teams. I had my own section where I would write previews and summaries every round about a match not involving the two "big" clubs. I watched an enormous amount of games that year, and I was intrigued by Rayo both because of the fans and the style of play. One of my first special features was on Rayo and I read up on the club and its history, and that was it. I decided they would be my club from then on - it all just appealed to me.

Describe your first visit ever to Vallecas and the stadium? How would you describe the fans in the stadium, and how intimidating is the stadium for opposition fans and players?

My first visit to Vallecas was this January, I had wanted to go ever since I was a fan and finally found the time and money to do it. The stadium is charming, but also sad to see how much in decay it is. The fans were incredible though, even though the stadium was half-full. It was a pretty bad match, we snatched a draw against Elche. Still, the atmosphere was vibrant and it must be very intimidating for an opposition player to walk onto a packed stadium at Vallecas.

To an outsider - how would you describe Rayo's playing style, what it means to be a fan of the club, and what it means to be a player of the club?

I am often asked "why Rayo?" and my first answer is that they represent football as it should be. The style of play is possession based and attractive, and it reflects the fans and the club: Whether Barcelona or Alcorcón, Rayo will play their own way and do things the right way. To be a fan of the club is not just to enjoy good fotball, it is to identify with the ideals of the club. And the same goes for the players. It is not enough to be a good player. You have to show that you hold the same values of spirit, equality and pride in being different.

How would you describe the last few seasons for Rayo fans?

The year we were relegated, I felt like everything went against us. The injuries, all the close games we deserved to have won where we lost points, it was as if we were cursed to be relegated. The chaos that ensued was depressing. The exit of Paco and Miñambres, players that lost their spirit and that awful signing of Rubén Baraja, it was all terrible management. It was a downward spiral until Míchel came in. The worst part was the Zozulya-case though. It was an absolute disgrace, and the way the board handled it was catastrophic.

What is your opinion on the utilization of the youth teams? How would you rate the opportunities that youth players get in the first team?

I feel it may be improving now, but in general I feel that a lot of players were signed that ended up playing fringe roles at the club and we should have promoted youth players instead. I am encouraged by Fran and Embarba though, they prove that there is a lot of talent in the youth sides.

List some things you appreciate and some things you can’t stand about the club management.

Hahaha, is there anything good to say about the board? I have plenty of negative things though. The whole Rayo Oklahoma disaster exemplifies that the board does not understand the entity of its club. Rayo is a club first and foremost for its neighborhood, outsiders like me will always have to respect that and yet the board doesn't understand it. Before you splash away money abroad, you have to invest in your own. Why is the stadium in decay? Why is there barely any money for the youth and ladies teams? If they really want to branch out, they have to refine their identity as a neighborhood club that does things it's own way. That is what has given Rayo a cult status. If they want to reach out to us "outsiders", they can create websites in English and make it possible for fans abroad to buy from the club tienda. That reaches out to new fans without taking money that should be spent at home.

What are your thoughts on the Bukaneros? How would you describe them and their political affiliations? How would you characterize the board's support to them?

I am very much on the left side of politics myself, and the vocal political opinions of the Bukaneros was part of what convinced me that Rayo was my club. I may not always agree with some of the things they do, but they represent the club's identity. The board should look to include them in decision-making, rather than go into public conflict like they have done recently. If the board had understood Bukaneros and the clubs identity, we would have avoided the whole embarrassing Zozuya-episode.

Now, for some fun:
Any favorite Rayo song/chant?

A las armas, hands down. Always gives me goosebumps.

Do you belong to a particular penya? If so, which one?

There is no penya in Norway, so unfortunately no. I have toyed with the idea of starting a supporter group here.

How important is it for you that Rayo wins versus Rayo plays well?

I think every football fan wants to win, but I am as idealistic when it comes to football as I am about politics. I want the team to control the game and play attractive football. To me, that is part of Rayo's identity. It doesn't matter if we face Majadahonda or Barca, Rayo will play their brand of football because that is the clubs way: Defiant and proud of our own ways.

Best signing Rayo has made? Worst signing Rayo has made?

Best signing is difficult, but perhaps Trashorras. Even though he has not been as dominant the last couple of years, he was absolutely vital in some of our best seasons. Worst signing is a tie between Zhang Chengdong and Abdoulaye Ba. Both were awful and never anyway near the quality needed to play for the club.

Favorite player? Favorite manager?

Perhaps Trashorras. He was so good he could have played for larger clubs. Bueno, Michu and Fuego were also good, but Trashorras stayed and that means something. Favorite manager is without doubt Paco Jémez.

What is your favorite thing about Rayo, and why?

My favorite thing about Rayo is that it is a neighborhood club with fans that have proved so many times that a football club is about so much more than sports. The club is there for its community and all its people, and the fans know that. They are not just consumers like fans of so many other clubs.

Is there something that the media doesn't (or maybe doesn't want to) talk about Rayo Vallecano that you think is worth mentioning?

Depends on what media we talk about. Where I live, Rayo is barely known at all so any mention of the club is a win. But I would wish that Spanish media could focus even more on the fact that Rayo is the last of the real "barrio clubs". It is so important to the clubs identity, and for me that is what football clubs should be.

Which websites/newspapers/people do you get your Rayo information from?

My most important go-to sources are on Twitter. I follow Rayo Herald and Unión Rayo and get a lot of info there. And people like Robbie Dunne and Paul Reidy who provide a lot of info for those of us who are not as fluent in Spanish yet.

Your thoughts on the season ahead?

I don't really know what to expect this year. There was much improvement when Míchel came in and I hope he has been able to implement his style of play this summer. That is the positive aspect. The squad is still thin though, and that is worrying. In particular, I still feel we lack attacking power. And of course, I don't think the club will get on a real good track until we get people in the board room that understands the club.



Thanks to @DonDiegoVaula for taking the time to do this! 

Not to take away from what is a brilliant perspective, but this is the 200th blog post I've published so far - in 175 days. The magnitude of that is hard to believe. 200 times I've edited a post. 200 times I've formatted a post - which includes removing a surprising number of obscure HTML quirks. And 200 times I've tagged a post and hit the golden button that converts 200 drafts into 200 blog entries. It's a daily, thankless, painstaking process.

I love it.

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