Skip to main content

From the archives: What were my thoughts on Rayo on May 10th, 2016? (12th November, 2017)

This is a re-post of a piece I wrote elsewhere on May 10, 2016 titled "Rayo Vallecano's grim future", just before the last game of the 2015-16 season.

Just before Rayo got relegated for sure.

I’m sitting in my chair, trembling, wondering how to express what I want to express, wondering how to start this very piece.

I’m lost, because it doesn’t matter and yet it does. I’m lost because Luck has been cruel, Fate has been cruel. Life has been cruel. Even when the aesthetic is wonderful, Hope has been replaced with Fear, and Fear with submission.

Our no. 1 and captain was out for the season before the season began. Our best goalkeeper then followed. Then our star signing. Then our hero who came back in January. Then our only other midfielder. Then our best defender. By the end, six players were out for the season. And that’s not counting the fact that at one point we were relying on a 17 year old from the Juvenil A because our top three goalscorers were out.

Each obstacle was small individually but became almost insurmountable collectively.

This season was wrought with tension at the board level. La Liga’s first Chinese player, a sponsor imposition, caused friction between coach and sporting director. He left prematurely in January, the same month Rayo announced the new NASL franchise in Oklahoma named Rayo OKC. A club that had stood up for LGBT rights was setting up a club in the very state where LGBT restrictions are the tightest in the country.

Forget off the pitch, there was tension on the pitch too. Paco’s demands in terms of work ethic have seen him come to blows with Lass Bangoura and Bebé on two different occasions.

It doesn’t matter, and yet it does.

Because the fans don’t care about which division the team is in - whether La Liga or Segunda B, they’ll cheer with the same passion. The fans don’t care about results. They care about attacking football, and a team that represents their neighbourhood, their barrio. A team that never gives up.

A barrio that never gives up.

Do you know why, after three losses in a row, at the Anoeta, when Rayo are down to 19th with relegation a real possibility and with other results having to go their way, when Rayo look more depleted, more fatigued and more lost than ever, the fans cheered the team with chants of "Vallekas" - the Anoeta crowd paling in comparison?

Because Rayo have fought bravely. Very bravely. No team outside the top 7 scored more goals than Rayo. Outside the top 3, only Athletic Bilbao has taken all 6 points against Rayo.

It really doesn’t matter which division the club is in. But I’m still trembling - for a different reason.

I’m trembling because the board is public enemy number one, and soon fans will be tired of them - maybe they already are. I’m trembling because the last time Rayo went down, they came back up, but only just - that time Pepe Mel was there to save the club but there may be no one this time. I’m trembling because I fear that if nothing changes then the values Rayo stands for will be lost.

I’m hopeful, as any Rayo fan is, that miracles can happen, and the club can stay in La Liga. But that isn’t as important as the fabric of Rayo. A delicately woven fabric that is being overstretched from all sides - from the demands of a fierce fan base, from the values of a working-class barrio, and from a board that wants to run the club as a business.

I’m trembling because I fear that La Liga or not, that fabric has already started falling apart.


It doesn’t matter. And yet it does.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

From Catalonia to Heybridge - the story of an eighth division club (19th October, 2017)

After spending his whole life at UDA Gramenet and a season at Europa, Guillem Ramón moved to Terrassa in the summer of 2014. It was just another Catalan player transferring between two clubs in the Catalan regional leagues - nothing extraordinary.

But it was consequential.

In March 2015, in a match against Sabadell, the full back suffered a complete meniscal rupture, and his season was over. So was his contract - and a big chunk of the 2015-16 season as well. He ended up signing for Cerdanyola, without pay (as he was recuperating), and the doctors said that January would be his return time. However, he debuted in November.

In hindsight, it was a mistake.

After two games, in a training session, on November 25th he got injured again - this time in the quadriceps in the same leg. After two months of recuperation, and still no guarantee of pay, Guillem left for new pastures in February 2016. A trial at Coplestonians FC followed; so did an opportunity at Needham Market FC, in the seventh t…

Non-league Incider: Dulwich Hamlet 2-1 East Thurrock United

When I was more young and foolish I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't visit a football stadium until I visited Vallekas. Frustrated by my inability to plan a trip, I broke that promise by watching a game in the sixth tier of English football.

This is that game. This is my story.

If I've learnt anything, it's this: never make promises to yourself. Promises to yourself are like bonds to an imaginary world - they're not attached to anything. Instead, they only serve to frustrate you, and sometimes those around you.

In 2016, I remember being outside Wembley and not going inside for a stadium tour. In 2014, I remember giving up the opportunity to watch Real Madrid play AC Milan in Dubai. For a year the stadiums of Chelsea and Fulham were on the same street as mine. For three years, every time my friend said he was going to watch Leyton Orient, every time my brother talked about his love for Arsenal, every time I looked at a map of London and saw how close I was to the …

Fuenlabrada - the mighty challengers: Part 2; aka Juan Quero - the roller-coaster (15th October, 2017)

In just a few months, Fuenlabrada have competed for promotion to the Segunda, signed a center-back from a La Liga side, and will now be playing Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey.

This is part 2 of a series about Fuenlabrada, the mighty challengers to Real Madrid, who they play in the cup on the 26th of October.

You can read part 1 here.



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.

The club that was wrong. Very, very wrong - he went fr…