The Rayo aficionado project continues! This is the story of a Rayo fan, one that involves a transformation from being a Real Madrid fan to being a Rayo Vallecano one...
A bit about yourself and your background
I grew up in the north of Madrid as the smallest of three brothers and as far as I remember I got my brothers taste for Real Madrid. My mother took the opposite position of supporting Atlético Madrid and my father has been a proud supporter of Sporting de Gijón since he was a child. Anyway, I was the one who loved football the most - my brothers chose basketball as their favorite sport.
I lived really close to the old training field of Real Madrid, and to the stadium, so for me everything revolved around this club, including my first match at the Santiago Bernabéu. It was February of 1998 and my father took me to watch the game against Sporting, who were already set for relegation to the 2nd division (they won just two games all season) and I can remember two things: the expensive price of the tickets and the disrespectful attitude of some fans towards the opponent. I'm sure my father hated that match and I didn’t thank him for it!
But I remember something about the stadium before that match. Two years earlier, a small team which I barely knew, from a neighborhood in the south of Madrid, commanded by a Brazilian called Guilherme, won 1-2 there. From what I remember (I could be wrong here), I wasn’t angry but happy for them. Curiously, that was the last time Rayo won against Real Madrid so I have never enjoyed a victory against them as a Rayo supporter.
But football has given me more than just memories, it gave me my current friends. We use to play together at Unión Barrio del Pilar since we where kids. Years later this club become Union Adarve (the union of Union Barrio del Pilar and Adarve Barrio Del Pilar) and last summer they got to the Spanish third division (Segunda B) and became the fourth team in the city! There are other clubs surrounding the City of Madrid such as Getafe, Leganés, and Alcorcón, but strictly speaking they are only behind Real, Atléti and Rayo.
Nowadays, I am a Software Engineer and I live in the same hood, just 500 meters away from my parents house and I still love football.
How long have you been a fan of Rayo and what made you support them in the first place?
I guess that I could call myself a Rayo fan since the 2010-11 season, when Rayo surprisingly returned to the first division at a difficult time due to their economic problems. I used to follow their achievements many years before that - like the incredible season playing the UEFA Cup (we received an invitation as via the Fair Play system), and I remember how hard it was to come back from the third division (Segunda B), but at that time Real Madrid was “more important” than Rayo.
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?
I cannot remember the first match I went on this season 2010-2011, but I remember that we won easily and we sang “La vida pirata” (looking on the Internet I'm assuming my first match was Rayo - Huesca which ended 4-0). I became crazy with every song and I discovered a different way to watch football - singing and clapping for 90 minutes and just enjoying and supporting the team no matter the result. We were truly the 12th man and I found that I didn't mind paying for that feeling - sometimes I don't like players when they don’t understand how special this is, not the money they earn.
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?
Rayo's playing style became significant when Paco Jémez was the coach. He tried to play as Barcelona used to do, with a lot of ball possession. I can say that during some games we played the most interesting football and I enjoyed even when it was crazy to do it against the big teams.
To be a fan means to support the team every time, in the good moments but also in the bad ones. “Rayo alé! Rayo alé! Siempre en las buenas, siempre en las malas, te animaré”, is like a marriage.
I cannot say what a Rayo player feels because I am not one of them, but I am sure some players have good memories about Vallekas and they will never forgot how Rayo changed their lives. For example, this season Óscar “Chocota” Trejo has come back to play with us in the second division when he clearly has the ability to play in the first division. He came back to help us the same way we helped him to be a better footballer, I am really proud of him and he is one of the main reasons we might be able to return to La Liga.
How would you describe the last few seasons for Rayo fans?
It has been a really very situation. We have seen how the president tried to steal Rayo from their fans but fortunately he will not. In my opinion, what doesn’t kill you make you stronger - we will see how the future goes.
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?
On the one hand, we have seen how youth players appeared in the first team and how some of them become important as Léo Baptistão, Adri Embarba and our latest diamond Fran Beltrán. On the other hand, we have also seen how difficult was for them and how other good players didn’t have the chance while the club was buying poorer players. I think Míchel is making this better and I dream about Rayo playing some day with most of the first team being youth players.
List some things you appreciate and some things you can’t stand about the club management.
- The current coach (Míchel) and the current sporting director (Cobeño) both being from "the house" is great news.
- First, second and third kit having social meanings
I can’t stand:
- There are so many things that it is difficult to even start listing them. The stadium conditions, the “Rayo Oklahoma” story, the bad decisions that the president took when going down to the second division (he should have listened to the fans), the fired employees…
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?
During most games (99%, a few times I went up with some friends) I have been seated next to them in the same stand of the stadium - Rayo would be nothing without their presence.
I recognize that many times, because they are so connected with the team, when we score a goal they clap and sing. But sometimes, we concede one or two goals while they are whistling and shouting, usually complaining about things not connected with football (like playing on a Monday). As a friend once told me before entering the stadium: “What’s the reason to complain today?”.
In my opinion, sometimes you have to suffer and sacrifice what you love the most in order to see a bigger achievement manifest that you may not have enjoyed at first.
Now, for some fun:
Any favorite Rayo song/chant?
Any favorite Rayo song/chant?
There is no better moment than a match ending with “La Vida Pirata”.
I must say that the current song against Presa makes me move my feet because it is such a catchy rhythm: “No queremos ver, cómo hundes al Rayo…Escucha al aficionado…Presa marchate!”.
But the whole stadium always "vibes" with the “A las armas!” song.
Do you belong to a particular penya? If so, which one?
We as a group usually meet at the same point before and after the match but we are not a penya yet. Maybe next year…
How important is it for you that Rayo wins versus Rayo plays well?
It depends on which point of the season we are in, but I assume playing well is more important because in the long term it will give us more points. The Jémez style left a taste in every Rayo fan that we will like to recover with Míchel (perhaps modifying some kamikaze tactics he never changed).
Best signing Rayo has made? Worst signing Rayo has made?
Here my friends and I have a lot of fun talking about this topic! Firstly talking about the worst there is a long list that could be headed by Zozulya (political meaning, I never saw him playing), Nicki Bille or Manucho (the worst player I have seen in first division).
When talking about the best one I assume each one has preferences, but I would say the half season of Diego Costa (he saved us from descending), the complete season of Michu (my favorite despite staying for a short time), the Kakuta year (best dribbler ever) or how Saúl Ñíguez was the leader of a team at the age of 17 (no matter the position, he was the best defender, midfielder and striker).
Favorite player? Favorite manager?
Fran Beltrán is becoming a huge player and is my current favorite player, I think he will be our hero for a long time (I hope so).
Paco Jémez was our own crazy coach (others have Bielsa) and I understand what he was trying.
Míchel is becoming better than him because he is adapting that style to a less risky one but still having the control of the game.
What is your favorite thing about Rayo, and why?
Rayo is the “team from the hood”. In a global world where is difficult not to be a Real Madrid or Barça supporter, Rayo is the light in a city like Madrid showing that another football is possible.
Is there something that the media doesn't (or maybe doesn't want to) talk about Rayo Vallecano that you think is worth mentioning?
I think you can find and discover everything if you go deep and don’t follow the masses.
Which websites/newspapers/people do you get your Rayo information from?
I am not a Twitter user so I get all my information from Unión Rayo and the Planeta Rayista forum.
Your thoughts on the season ahead?
I'm usually more positive than realistic. That’s why I believe this will be the last season in the second division for a while!
A huge thanks to Alberto for taking the time to do this!