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The Rayo aficionado - with Tapani Olkku (2nd August, 2017)

Tapani writes about Spanish and English football, including Huddersfield and Rayo, on his Finnish blog Mania Fútbol. You can read it here. Also, you can follow Tapani on Twitter here.

A bit about yourself and your background

I'm your average Joe, living in Finland, aged 35, having watched football since Italia 90. I watch a lot of local football, but have also always followed the English game (Huddersfield being my club in England since mid-90s). Football in Spain was, for a long time, something I had an interest in but didn't really see too much of. I always liked the national team but didn't really get to grips with the league until 2014 when I got to spend the spring in Madrid as part of my study leave from work.

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

One distinction has to be made first: I don't think I can really call myself a "fan". I see the Bukaneros, and all the others, supporting Rayo, following them day by day and doing their stuff, and compared to them I'm just a random football lover with great fondness for Rayo. Yes, Rayo for me is more than just having a soft spot for, but there is a difference.

My relationship with Rayo started during the spring in Madrid. I knew the club beforehand by name (from European matches and Football Manager I guess), but not much more.

I was keen to watch as much football as possible, and so I tried to see every match I could. When I first got to Madrid Rayo were doing badly, almost destined for relegation under Paco Jémez, but then they had that great resurrection and, in the end, almost qualified for Europe. The first time I went to see Rayo at Vallecas - for a match against Málaga in February 2014 - I felt right at home. The tone was set. I did see A LOT of football that spring - Rayo, Real, Atlético, Alcorcón, Spain, you name it. In the end I found myself going to many matches as a football lover (and enjoyed it thoroughly), but there was always something about Rayo. While I went elsewhere for the football, I went to Vallecas for Rayo. There was a feeling of belonging. (And - national stereotype here - we Finns like to think we always bond with the underdog. Rayo were very much the underdog when I first got to Madrid).

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?

So it was against Málaga in February 2014. The first I'd been there was the day before, to buy a ticket, and I liked the area, the stadium (being a stadium fanatic too), the sole idea of the club actually being a part of its community, right at the heart, nonchalant, a bit scruffy, but down to Earth and very real. Rayo won the match 4-1. Iago Aspas started scoring on the 25th minute, Arbilla made it 2-0 and then the cult hero Larrivey 3-0.

What really made an impression was the crowd, in two ways. First, the people clearly were there to enjoy themselves. Enjoy the game, have a good time with their friends and families. Second, the Bukaneros. They never stopped going. (And third, there was a set of Málaga fans, seated in their own area, but not separated from anyone else. There was no hostility or bad blood, just everyone enjoying a game of football, everyone mixing freely on the concourse.)

It must be said I had no idea that Final Countdown is Rayo's song when they score. I absolutely loved it. The guts the club has to do that. The crowd to sing along. It was great.

As for it being intimidating - I can't really say. I prefer to look at things from a "pro" point of view instead of "anti" anyway. I think the crowd was great - and has been in every Rayo match I've seen - in supporting their own. The players must feel that too.

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 don't think I'm really in a position to comment on this. The Rayo I've seen was Paco's Rayo. When we went down it's been impossible to see the team play over here in Finland (on the TV). Paco's team was always entertaining, even if it'd been sensible to step back and first make sure you don't concede before doing something else.

As for being a fan... that's a very interesting question and I'll be looking forward to hearing what others have said. I mentioned people enjoying themselves at home games - well, that's one thing. Another is that I really like, in principle, the fans' (and to an extent the club's) stance against social injustice. There'd be a lot more room for that in football. It's not a separate part from the rest of the society, quite the opposite. As an example: I was proud to see what the fans - and the club and players, fair play to them - did on the whole Carmen case back in 2015 when she was being evicted from her home in Vallecas.

As for the players, I guess it's divided. There are some - Trashorras being a standout example - of some being Rayo through and through, even if "adopted", while some are there to make a living. I see no problem in either way.

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

It's definitely been a roller-coaster on the pitch. The only match I saw last season - Rayo vs Oviedo in March when I was visiting Madrid again - the fans were the same as they were in the Primera, though. I see that as a great strength in the way that the fan base and atmosphere is not dependent on the division or how the team are doing. I see now that there's been plenty of season tickets sold for this season, too.

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 have no idea, really. I hope there's a real chance of a local youngster to break through, but I've no idea how the juveniles are doing.

List some things you appreciate and some things you can’t stand about the club management. Rant away :)

Not much to say here, either. I know the president's not too popular, and the club seems to be run... well... badly. Not professionally at all. But it'd take a lot more insight than I have to be able to comment on this. (And maybe more fluent Spanish than mine! I can follow what's going on but miss all the finer details when it comes to reading texts in Spanish.)

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 love the Bukaneros. Like I mentioned before, I like their way of thinking of things outside of the football pitch, but also their support during the matches (that I've seen). As for the board, I've no idea.

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

Nope. Sorry! 😊 (except Final Countdown, which is always great!)

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

No.

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

From a purely selfish point of view I wish Rayo'd do well enough to get back to Primera so I'd be able to watch them on the telly. I think, if it's to happen, it'd need to happen by playing some good, attractive, attacking football though.

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

I couldn't say, besides Trashorras. He feels like a proper club captain now.

Favorite player? Favorite manager?

Now, Trashorras. When I was in Madrid, Larrivey. He seemed to embrace the fans too. I'm really looking forward to see how Míchel will do as manager this season after last spring going so well.

What is your favorite thing about Rayo, and why?

It must be a sense of belonging, and a sense of being "at home". It's the romantic underdog with great potential.

Also, the fans, and not just at home.

Back in 2014, I did go to one away game, at Valladolid. By myself, I entered the coach (one of many), found a seat and sat down. A minute later someone comes up to me (first in Spanish, by which I get by but am far from being fluent with), asking if I'm travelling alone. "Cool, then you're with us", said the fellow. In the end I ended up spending the day with a small group of fellow Rayo supporters who adopted me right away, doing Valladolid before going to the match, feeling completely welcome even though I was a total stranger.

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

No idea. But then I work in the media myself, I guess I see things differently than some others 😉

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

Rayo's own Twitter feed, AS and Marca, Paul Reidy on Twitter. I'll add yours on the list too, so I'm happy you got on touch, never too much info on Rayo in English. The Spanish Football Podcast with Sid Lowe and Phil Kitromilides is great, they seem somewhat fond of Rayo too, though they barely cover Rayo now we're in the Segunda.

Appreciate it mate!

Your thoughts on the season ahead?

I just hope the team will progress under Míchel and continue from where the finished last season. Promotion? If things go well. But it's not the be-all and end-all. Personally, I hope I'll be able to visit Madrid some time during the season. I'm sure it can be done.




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