Day 79 – When will I learn?

Football is back. Some football at least.

German football has been back for a while, but we don’t get German football down here. (Yes, I know zat zere are vays und means, but…)

Now, Spanish football is back and Supersport do carry La Liga, so I chose to watch some Spanish football last night. Until really late, which has left me a bit knackered this morning. When will I learn?

Yesterday’s evening game was Valencia against their city rivals Levante in a bawdy, raucous local derby.

Without fans.

I’ve been watching football since before I can even remember. But last night’s experience was a little surreal. Crowd noises (and they were even appropriate crowd noises) over the PA system – volume building as Valencia went forward, an “oooh!” for a near miss – and did I really hear whistles for an unpopular decision by the ref with the lockdown haircut? (ok, that last one might have been the brandy).

Valencia were all over Levante like a persistent duvet for most of the second half, but only managed a well-deserved goal with one minute to go. I was tempted to head upstairs to bed by this time: yes, entertained, but tired now and not comfortable enough to lob another log onto the fireplace. But I stuck it out for the 5 minutes of injury time and was rewarded with some delicious controversy in the 8th minute of those 5(?) when VAR (remember that?) overruled a free kick decision for Levante and made it into a penalty.

The crowd were incensed. Both of it.

The penalty provided a suitably surreal conclusion to an altogether weird experience, with the goalkeeper not even bothering to dive and the striker almost confused as to what to do once he’d scored it.

For the record, it finished 1-1: a last second smash-and-grab job by the boys in red and blue.

There are another four La Liga games on the TV today and I have a heap of ironing to do (OMG! Glamorous life of a top blogger!!!), so I think we can all see how the day is going to pan out.

Of course, real football only starts again on Wednesday…

which is going to be an even weirder experience…


¡Qué sorpresa!

“What a surprise!”

Recently, I had a discussion about the competitiveness of the English Premier League in comparison to Spain’s La Liga.

I don’t deny that in European competition, Spain has definitely had the edge of late. English teams have been disappointing. But I feel no weird nationalistic shame because of this, much as I take no weird nationalistic pride when Man U or Liverpool (and did Chelsea get one too recently?) win anything in Europe. I’m not a fan of European football. I only watch it for the Heineken adverts, to be honest.
No, that’s not what I was talking about, not the inter-competitiveness of the two leagues; I was referring to the intra-competitiveness. The weekly bread and butter stuff that gets those teams into Europe in the first place.

And for that, there’s – if you’ll excuse the expression – no contest. Because each and every week in Spain looks like this:


Barca, Real and Atletico winning by four, five and six clear goals respectively. “¡Qué sorpresa!”.
Unless of course you like that kind of thing. If 3 matches each week with lots of goals but wholly predictable results are your thing, then great: La Liga is your church. But some of us want more than just wondering who’s going to finish fourth each year.

Yes, the EPL had its “Big 4”, but it’s now actually a “Quite Large 6” and it could even be extended to an “Above Average Size 7 or 8”. None of those 7 or 8 clubs is guaranteed to beat any other on any given day. Especially not by 37 goals or anything. That’s what makes it so exciting. 

Compare that with Spain where there’s a massive gulf between the Big 3 clubs and everyone else: the last time anyone other than those three finished in the top trio was 5 years ago, when Valencia scraped into 3rd. It’s a three-way dominance which makes La Liga so very boring.
Look, I mean, I’ll watch it if I’m desperate. It’s still football, but jeez: I do actually have to be literally desperate. A live La Liga match will even lose out to Total Wipeout, and that’s shit. 

If you enjoy La Liga – aside from those six competitive matches they have each season – do you also take great joy in watching Germany playing Gibraltar and stuff like that? Pleasure in seeing Southend Girl Guides Second XI away at Bayern Munich? Rapture at anyone versus Sunderland – utter non-contests?

People are strange, hey?