Lost in…Alcorcon

Trival Valderas vs Real Madrid Castilla

La Canaleja, Segunda B (Group 2), February 1st 2015

What was I to do with my second day in Madrid? It was a beautiful, chilly day, so perhaps a stroll in the Retiro? Maybe escape the cold in the Prado or Reina Sofia? I had done all of that on a previous visit, but all were worthy of revisiting. No, with my wife back in San Sebastián, this was to be a (relatively) guilt-free weekend of football. Once the train tickets were booked, I had obviously looked at the possibilities for Sunday and one game fitted in perfectly with my 4pm train back to the Basque Country.

Alcorcon, a city to the south east of Madrid, is easily reachable by metro from the capital and that is where Trival Valderas were taking on Real Madrid Castilla at 11:30am. I woke up early, but was still in two minds about making the trip. After mentioning the stars I’ve missed in the my earlier Madrid post, the problem here was the presence of one.

Martin Odengaard, in case you missed his visit to a super club near you, is the 16-year old Norwegian prodigy signed by Real Madrid early in the January transfer window. An international at 15, big things are expected of Odengaard and Madrid had to beat off the rest of Europe’s elite to get him. For now, they have positioned him with their B team, Castilla, and there were suggestions that he could debut against Trival Valderas.

Trival Valderas play their football at La Canaleja in the San Jose de Valderas district of Alcorcon. They have existed only since 2004 and celebrated their tenth anniversary by clinching the Tercera Division (Madrid section) for the first time. 360 teams play in Spain’s third-tier and the promotion play-off process is a fairly complicated one. Trival lost their champions play-off tie, but successfully negotiated the larger runners-up section to advance to the Segunda B, also for the first time in their history. They have struggled at the higher so far and were bottom of the league going into this game.

The Norwegian starlet’s possible appearance brought unprecedented fan and media attention to La Canaleja and a large crowd was expected at the stadium, whose capacity is listed by various sources as anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000. Did I really want to travel out to the edge of Alcorcon and not be able to get a ticket? Checking Twitter in my bunk bed at the hostel, I saw that Odengaard had been omitted from the match day squad and decided to go.

I sampled the free churros at the hostel and headed out into the city for a larger breakfast. That meant Starbucks, something I’m starved of in San Sebastián and the city’s refusal to corporatise its coffee shop culture raises a sense of equal pride and frustration for me. Then it was a whistle stop tour of Madrid’s central sights- Plaza Mayor, Gran Via, the Royal Palace, and finishing at the Cervantes Monument, where I could get the subway to Alcorcon. It was nice to wander the streets with the joggers, dog-walkers and the most eager of tourists before the city fully awoke.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

A very quiet Gran Via

A very quiet Gran Via

Palacio Real

Palacio Real

Cervantes Monument

Cervantes Monument

With only intermittent 3G access on the metro, I eventually exited Puerta del Sur station a little under an hour before kick-off, but with little idea where I was going. Fortunately, the street-level map had La Canaleja sports ground clearly marked; walk along the Avenida de Libertad and passsed the Castillos de Valderas. It didn’t look like it would take too long and happily it didn’t.

Frustratingly, I did walk past the previous metro station which was closer to the ground along the way, and the castillo proved to be not much of a castle, but as I passed it I began to hear the din of drumming and chanting. Next, the floodlights came into view and I knew I was going to make it in time.

Heading the right way

Heading the right way

Castillos de Valderas

Castillos de Valderas

There were already a lot of people inside the tiny ground and a small ruckus in front of the ticket box, aggressive enough that a police officer stepped in to try to calm the main protagonist down. Thankfully, she was not protesting the sale of the final ticket (from my limited Spanish eavesdropping, it was something about a car), and I was easily able to procure my entry for a reasonable €15. The single stand was already almost full and I took the first available slab of cold concrete.

The opposition may have been lacking their new star import, but here was a chance to see some possible stars of the future. During his initial Galactico project, Florentino Perez famously talked of the “Zidanes y Pavones” model. It didn’t work. The man now tasked with looking after the Pavones in the second Galatico era, and perhaps even creating a Zidane or two, is none other than Zinedine Zidane himself. Having assisted Carlo Ancelotti as Real Madrid clinched La Decima, Zidane moved (Up? Down? Sideways?) to become manager of Castilla in the summer. Although a licensing controversy threatened his presence on the bench, he has recovered to take his team to the top of the league. Without Odengaard in his squad, the only names vaguely familiar to me were Alvaro Medran and Gustavo Varela. Spain U21 international Medran already has a Champions League goal to his name and was an unused member of Real Madrid’s World Club World Cup-winning squad, while Varela, the first signing of David Moyes’ Manchester United reign, is currently on-loan from the Red Devils.

Zinedine Zidane

A blurry Zinedine Zidane

Real Madrid Bus Porn

Real Madrid Bus Porn

The English media like to talk about how Spain has x-many thousand more qualified coaches than England and that’s why Spain have won things recently and England haven’t. I don’t doubt the truth of that, but all those coaches haven’t stopped the two Segunda B matches I’ve attended from being as tough and physical as anything at the same level in England. The tone for this one was set when Castilla’s Afro-haired Derik launched an early long-ball forward, which hung in the strong wind. Despite the wind’s obvious strength, it was a tactic both teams continued to use ineffectively.

Trival, playing with the wind, were coping better. The AstroTurf seemed to also be causing the Castilla players some early problems, slipping and misjudging bounces. The youngsters certainly weren’t allowing themselves to be bullied by their hosts and the referee seemed happy to let both teams get on with things. One Castilla foul gave Trival a free-kick in shooting range. Left-back Herrero, one of the game’s better performers, fired a great curling effort against the post. The two other occasions that Trival brought closest to a goal were also a result of Herrero’s dead balls. One, a dangerous in-swinging corner, was poked narrowly wide, the other a free-kick that hung in the wind and made life awkward for Castilla keeper Yanez.

La Canaleja's single stand

La Canaleja’s single stand

Packed in

Packed in

Getting close to the action (#11 Medran)

Getting close to the action (#11 Medran)

Only in the latter stages did the match look at all like the top-versus-bottom affair I had been expecting. Peruvian international Cristian Benevente began to look dangerous running from deep before being subbed and Medran showed glimpses of the ability that has brought him first team rewards. The youngsters of Madrid didn’t create much and the only time the ball ended up in the net was from a clear offside position. Plucky Trival held out and players and fans deservedly celebrated their hard-fought point against the league leaders.

Trival Valderas seem like a pleasant community club, doing a good job of representing their corner of the city (the city is also represented by AD Alcorcon in the Segunda Division). More than a thousand attended the game, with many wearing scarves in the club’s white, green and red colours, and plenty of youngsters were in various forms of club gear. As for Castilla, I saw enough that I’m keen to see one of the four visits they will be making to the Basque Country before the season is out and see what the team is capable on a better field.

Time to go

Time to go

Anything, you might be thinking, would struggle to compete against the previous day’s experience, let alone a 0-0 draw in the lowly third-tier. My view on live football is, however, something similar to how television presenter Anthony Bourdain talks about food. Bourdain travels the world eating everywhere from south-east Asian street food vendors to the finest Michelin 3-starred restaurants and talks about both with equal enthusiasm, a philosophy, I think, that most groundhoppers share when reflecting on the games they’ve witnessed. This match, sadly, was rather dull in and of itself. It was also the first 0-0 draw I had seen since South Korea’s goalless draw with Peru in August 2013, ending a 35-game streak.

Good: Zidane looks good in a suit; Castilla’s black dragon kits; an excited home crowd

Bad: A poor game with no real stand-out players; ending my run of goal-scoring games 

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