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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.

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