Archive for the ‘soccer’ Category

A Tyre Barrier, But Where Are The Tray Riders?

Here’s something that came as a bit of a shock to me, but in retrospect is quite obvious; it gets darker earlier in Icod de los Vinos than it does in Puerto de la Cruz – there’s this big hill you see.

The relevance of this is that when we headed up to Icod to watch and photograph the ‘arrastre de las tablas’ on Sunday night, I completely misjudged it… in more ways than one.

I’d hoped to be in position with my camera just at that point when the sky turns a lovely lavender colour as dusk starts to fall. Well it might have been a lovely lavender colour in Puerto, in Icod it was already dark; the sun had already dipped behind the hill which shelters the town. Not only that, there was a seriously angry looking cloud sitting so low in the valley that I felt if I reached up I could grab a handful of storm black, cotton wool – not the best conditions for taking photographs.

To add to the worsening situation, as any resemblance to daylight decided to shut up shop for the day, Icod’s steep streets were devoid of mad lads on trays. It was a ghost town. Except it wasn’t; we could hear the combined moaning, groaning and half excited cheers of great numbers of people, we just couldn’t see them. Then a Canarian friend’s advice crept back into my consciousness:

“There won’t be anyone about for hours on Sunday night – Barcelona are playing Real Madrid.’

It was a Tenerife rookie’s mistake. Forget anything happening when these two play. Most people on the Island will support one, or other of them. The older folks usually opting for Franco’s team, the younger ones for the Catalonians.

As we walked deeper into Icod’s centre, we passed bar after bar packed to the gunwales with locals, some with their San Andrés trays under their arms.

Luckily there is a bar right beside the street where the best examples of ‘arrastre de las tablas’ takes place, so a few lads were splitting their time between squeezing into the bar to check the score and heading up the hill for a death defying ride into a wall of Dunlops.

As it happened, I’d brought my flash gun just in case the light wasn’t great (got that right). Unfortunately it was at that point that the batteries decided to die, so I was left with just the camera’s flash – not good enough for this sort of thing, but it would have to do.

I got in position beside the hill of tyres as the first of the tray riders came screaming down the hill… and the heavens opened. Great dollops of rain bombarded us and Andy and I, along with the handful of non-football loving locals, legged it for sanctuary underneath the nearest balcony.
Sometimes you know when the Gods are against you. This was one of those times. I ain’t no Greek hero like Perseus (shameless plug for Clash of the Titans article in Tenerife Magazine), so I know when I’m beat.

Andy and I pulled up our hoods (at least we had the foresight to realise that November and Icod could equal rain) and headed into the damp, dark night and back to Puerto where I’m sure everyone else was enjoying wine and chestnuts by the harbour…bah humbug.

A Rainy Night In Icod

Incidentally, Icod’s old cobbled streets behind the Drago tree are perfect for a film location. As the street lights cast a soft glow on the wet cobbles I could just see a Gestapo officer’s boots reflected in the puddles, or imagine a Harry Lyme type lighting up in one of the dark doorways.

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CD Tenerife in La Liga...bring on Ronaldo

CD Tenerife in La Liga...bring on Ronaldo

It once seemed like a distant dream, but now it looks as though instead of lining up against Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, the petulant one will be facing the likes of Tenerife. At least he should be guaranteed better weather when he visits. Whether he’ll get a warm welcome from CD Tenerife’s foreign contingent of fans is a different matter.

Yesterday in the 30 plus degrees and no shade of Plaza España in Santa Cruz, we joined tens of thousands of CD Tenerife supporters to watch the blanquiazul achieve the not so impossible dream.

 WATER result

WAT-ER result

It was an electric and hectic atmosphere and actually trying to watch the giant TV screens involved utilising a series of movements that, had there been a ringmaster in the area he’d have immediately signed us up for his circus as a contortionist double bill.

As always here the crowd was a deliriously happy one and the most innocuous incident on the pitch (broadcast from Girona) had the fans going off like a rocket. A ‘non’ goal caused wild celebrations and bottles of cava and beer were sprayed across the plaza. In theory it should have been great material for photos; in reality I could hardly keep my camera out long enough to focus it in case it was drenched.

When CD Tenerife scored and more or less clinched their place in La Liga, the plaza erupted into madness. We’d already moved once for a better view and away from a group of lads who were using their cans of beer like machine guns, but talk about moving from the frying pan and into the fire.

Adelante Tenerife

Adelante Tenerife

Our spot beside Plaza España’s lagoon sized fountain seemed a perfect spot. We could see the screens and also were in the perfect position for photographing ‘aficionados’ celebrating in the pool. Naïve or stupid? When the final whistle blew there was a stampede and twenty thousand or so ecstatic fans swept toward the fountain…and us.

Andy wisely did a runner and deserted me, leaving me stranded at the fountain’s edge trying to take a few shots before things went too wet ‘n’ wild. I was bumped and jostled from all angles; one group of burly lads nearly took me with them straight into the water. Every time I thought I’d found a relatively safe spot a manically grinning fan would come rushing through the fountain kicking water everywhere and I’d have to spin around trying to save my camera from an unwanted bath. It was loco. In the end I snapped a few shots before my nerve broke (rather it than the camera) and I legged it to the higher ground.

I thought I’d witnessed wild crowds in Tenerife before, during Carnaval, but this, like CD Tenerife now, was in another league. And despite there being thousands upon thousands of people soaking each other, I didn’t witness the slightest bit of aggression…only unadulterated joy.

Yesterday history was made in Tenerife and I’m really pleased that I was there to feel a part of it.

The seething cauldron on Puertos seafront

The seething cauldron on Puerto's seafront

For the past few days we’ve been put on a state of alert in Tenerife, with warnings ranging from yellow (low risk) to orange (high enough risk to warrant sitting up and taking notice).

Whilst most of the inclement weather has been confined to high winds and black ice in the highland areas on the cumbres and around Mount Teide, at sea level there’s been very little in the way of noticeable bad weather to report.

In reality what we’ve experienced her on the north west coast was one day which would have been classed as a typical dreary autumn day in the UK.
Although when I mentioned to a Spanish friend that the weather was like a British autumn day, she laughed.

“Not quite,” she corrected me.  “Maybe more like a day at the end of summer, beginning of autumn in England.”

I suppose she had a point. The coldest day was still hovering around the 20 degrees mark.

However, there’s also been an orange band around Tenerife on the weather map on the Spanish Meteorological website and it’s been at the coast where the weather has been at its most spectacular.
The other night we were watching television when I became aware of a loud rumbling. It sounded as though Mount Teide had decided to relocate and had chosen where our house stood as a prime spot.

“What the hell was that?” I jumped up from my seat and went to the front door.

We’re probably about 3 kilometres inland, yet the sound of the waves crashing on the shoreline was deafening. I half expected to see the crest of a Tsunami appearing above the palms (note to self: stop watching ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ during winter months).

Atlantic rollers at Punto del Viento

Atlantic rollers at Punto del Viento

It was only when we went into Puerto de la Cruz to watch Man United initially coast, then nearly self destruct against Derby in the Carling Cup semi-final last night, that we were able to witness how impressive (or frightening depending on your point of view) the sea was.

The Atlantic was putting on a right old show. Waves which must have been 5-6 metres high were making a mockery of the sea defences and crashing over the seawall which runs the length of the town’s free car park. Understandably there weren’t many cars in the car park, so we were a bit nervous leaving the car.

Incredibly there were plenty of ‘thrillseekers’ walking along the harbour wall to get a closer look at the waves. Most looked liked visitors, clearly unaware that the Atlantic likes the odd sacrifice every now and again and it’s not uncommon for people to be occasionally swept off the wall when the sea is throwing a wobbly.

Even the normally sheltered harbour was a seething cauldron and the little fishing boats which normally spend the night on the pebbly beach had been pulled to higher ground.

The best place to watch the Atlantic when it’s putting on a show like this is at Punto del Viento. Where from the safety of being thirty feet above the sea, you get a free show as huge rollers sweep past Plaza Europa (last night above the level of the plaza itself) and crash into the rocks below where you stand, filling the air all along the promenade with a fine mist.

This is an orange alert?

This is an 'orange' alert?

Thankfully the car hadn’t ‘gone amphibian’ by the time we returned, so with Man U winning and nature putting on a free show it was a good night all round.

The orange alert is still in place this morning, but the sun’s shining and although the waves still look pretty impressive, they don’t look much bigger than they usually do at this time of year…and the surfers at Playa Martiánez seem happy to have some big boys to play with.

Last Saturday it was chestnuts, wine and kamikaze youths on wooden trays, this Saturday it was giant Ferris wheels, bucking broncos, a grumpy Sunderland fan and contemplating nature and the universe in a darkened room.

Jesús, our neighbour, had suggested we pop down to his house for a little ‘chill’ on Saturday night, but first there was the small matter of a trip to the Beehive Bar to watch Manchester Utd against Sunderland.

All the fun of the fair

All the fun of the fair

The 17.30 kick-off is a real pain in the rear; it really interferes with Saturday night and is neither here nor there, but what can you do? The first thing that struck us on arriving at the town car park was that there was a colossal green wheel dominating the skyline – a Puerto Eye of sorts.
It was a clear signal that we’re rushing headlong into the prime Xmas season as it was the new addition to the traditional funfair which sets up beside Puerto de la Cruz’ harbour for festive season.

Time was getting on so we decided to investigate after the game which was about as one-sided an affair as you’re likely to see. Sunderland parked their team in front of goal and hoped that the human barrier would hold for ninety minutes. And it nearly worked, but unfortunately for Sunderland, there were more than 90 minutes and seconds into injury time our big centre-half, Vidic latched onto a rebound off the post and won the game for us, silencing a Sunderland fan next to me who had been laughing at every one of our failed attempts to score. It’s nice to see people who are magnanimous in defeat, but this wasn’t the case on this occasion. As I went to the gents, he came across to Andy and grumbled in her face:
“You didn’t deserve that.”

Still, relieved and happy we headed to the harbour to check out the funfair. By this time, 19.45, it was already buzzing and in the darkness the neon lights, especially those of the jolly green giant looked magical and ignited nostalgic childhood memories.

The smell of hot dogs and onions, fried churros, hot waffles with cream, candy floss, popcorn et al added to the buzzing funfair atmosphere and the night sky was filled with those wonderful funfair sounds – klazons, cheesy music, screams mixed with laughter, hissing pneumatics and the crunch of dodgems colliding head on.

Fairground stall - Spanish style

Fairground stall - Spanish style

There were also the usual goldfish stalls, shooting and dart throwing stalls decorated with rows of human sized cuddly toys. At one stall a hairy leg appeared, then another as a life size cuddly ape seemed to bizarrely come to life and be making a bid for freedom. This being Spain, the funfair had a couple of odd additions such as the Jamon tombola; a stall brimming with shanks of Jamon Serrano. There was also a bucking bulls attraction which looked like great fun as these mock Spanish bulls got their own back by dumping their screaming riders, strangely wearing Dalmatian patterned Stetsons, onto the ground unceremoniously.
However, time was getting on and we’d promised Jesús that we’d spend some of Saturday night with him, so we left the fair and headed for home.

By the time we’d escaped the town car park, got home, showered, prepared the chilli and eaten it was after 22.00 and Jesús’ house was in darkness.
With most people you’d take that as a sign that they’d gone out, or gone to bed, but Jesús isn’t most people; we know he likes to sit in the dark and contemplate life, so we grabbed a bottle of wine, wandered the few metres down the path and loitered outside his window. There was no sign of life.
“Hey, Jesús,” I half whispered, half spoke. “Are you awake?”
There was a mumble from inside which we couldn’t make out.
“What?”
Another mumble which we couldn’t make out, then he appeared at his door, everything still in darkness.
“Sorry were you sleeping,” Andy whispered. “We’ll leave you alone, no problem.”
“No, No it’s fine,” Jesús laughed. “Come in…Andy you stay outside.”
Jesús pulled me inside and we looked out of the window to where Andy stood with her small torch giving off a soft blue light.
“Look, it’s amazing isn’t it? It’s like watching a movie.”
Jesús had a point. The moon was out and the silver glow from it combined with the blue light from the torch gave the outside scene a strange dreamlike quality. Once I acknowledged as much, a slightly bemused Andy was allowed to enter.

As it turned out he’d had a visit from his friend, Maria Juanita and visits from MJ always leaves Jesús in a contemplative mood and full of wonder for Mother Nature. So for a couple of hours on Saturday night, we sat in a darkened room contemplating nature. Well Jesús contemplated nature, being British we sat in the darkness feeling quite ridiculous until a decent amount of time passed and we felt it was okay to leave without appearing rude.

It’s typical of the contrasts you can experience here. One moment we’d been in the middle of the bright lights and frantic bustling of a lively funfair, the next we were sitting in a room lit by only the moonlight looking out at a silent landscape whilst our neighbour sought consciousness expansion.

Funny but after we got home I had an overwhelming urge to play some Alabama 3.

Last night when a weather-beaten little farmer in a dry stone cottage deep in the Basque country, where no non-Basque speaker had set foot in the last 10 years, took off his beret, poured himself a generous glass of country wine and sat himself down in his ragged but comfortable armchair to enjoy a Carling Cup football match between Arsenal and Wigan on one of Spain’s main TV stations, TV2, what were we treated to here in Tenerife?

In their infinite wisdom, the people who control what we see on Canarian TV must have decided that, despite the mix of nationalities (a substantial amount of them being British) in the Canaries, a British football match wasn’t the sort of thing the good people in Tenerife and the Canary Islands wanted to see. Instead they must have decided that what the good people of the Canaries would prefer to watch a group of people sitting around talking a load of utter shite! Let me rephrase that…another programme featuring a group of people sitting around talking a load of shite, because let’s face it; we’ve already got shedloads of channels which consist of nothing else.

FFS – Is there not one of them with a brain? It’s not like I wanted to watch the Gooners, god forbid, but having British football on Spanish TV is popular with the Canarios as well and it would have made a nice change from watching people who like the sound of their own voices.

I greeted the arrival of Euro2008 with the mental equivalent of a stretch and a yawn. The absence of England (well done to the alchemist Steve McClaren for his unique talent in being able to turn gold into shite) and Scotland had taken the gloss off the tournament for me, but one week in to the tournament and I’m completely hooked and enjoying every moment.

Holland have been scintillating to watch; by far the best team in the competition. They made the Italians look old and tired (which they are) and the French as easy to cut through as brie (never been ones to put up much of a resistance when under the cosh though, have they). To be fair to the French, they played a lot better than the 4-1 drubbing suggested and may still be a team to be reckoned with a bit of ‘bonne chance’. The Italians usually start slow in tournaments, but this time they haven’t even reached the starting block; arrividerci Switzerland methinks.

Spanish TV’s catchphrase for Euro2008 is “Podemas” (we can) and having watched the Spanish team destroy Russia and show grit and determination (not qualities normally associated with the Spanish national side who usually suffer from perennial stage fright at major tournaments) to beat a decent Swedish team, I reckon it’s a claim that’s not without merit. Spanish commentators are already talking about a Spain – Holland final (although I didn’t think that was actually possible), completely ignoring the other form team, Portugal of course, but that’s a given. During the Holland – Italy game, the Spanish commentators were cooing over Holland’s football when one of them asked the other if they thought the Dutch team’s performance was as good as Portugal’s a few days previous. Roughly translated, the other replied:
“There’s no comparison. Holland are playing the champions of the world, Portugal were only playing Turkey”
God forbid that they’d actually compliment their neighbours and rivals.

I haven’t seen Portugal play yet, so I don’t know if they’re as good as Holland, or Spain, but all of them have that perfect mix of youth and experience in their squads which could bring them glory in a couple of weeks time. Of course, you can’t write off the Germans; you can never write off the Germans.

Quarter Finals Forecast
Portugal v Germany; Croatia v Czech Rep; Holland v Sweden; Spain v France

Yesterday I couldn’t help but think of that episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads’ where Terry and Bob try to avoid finding out the score of a football match until they watch it on ‘Match of the Day’.

Our neighbour had invited us to go to a Peruvian restaurant that wasn’t a restaurant and I have to admit to thinking twice because I was worried that I might miss the Spain v Sweden match. I know that the idea of giving up the chance to try some Peruvian nosh to watch a football match sounds quite pathetic, but the Spanish are passionate about football, Euro 2008 is an important tournament and as I live in Spain, it’s only polite to show some support for the local lads.

As it turned out, it was an afternoon meal, so the conflict of interests wasn’t as much of an issue as it could have been.

The meal was great; a selection of Peruvian dishes served in an oversized shed, come monthly makeshift restaurant in the middle of some huertos (vegetable allotments). Being a Spanish, or in this case South American, lunch it lasted all afternoon from 14.00 to near 17.00, so by the time we were leaving the restaurant that wasn’t a restaurant, the teams were already taking to the pitch. Although we were only a ten minute drive away, I realised that we were going to miss the first few minutes of the match, but with uncharacteristic foresight I’d set the videoplayer to record the game.
When we arrived home, we decided to not watch any of it and opted instead to have a post meal siesta then watch the football, as if live, later.

Decent enough plan except for one thing; we live next to a small golf course which has a little bar. They’d obviously set up a telly for their clients to watch the football because at around 18.45 there was a loud roar from the direction of the bar.

“Ah,” said Andy. “I think we know the result.”
“You never know,” I replied. “They’ve had a golf tournament today, maybe it was that and remember they’re Canarios; they might have been cheering for Sweden.”

And at 22.30 on Saturday night as play entered injury time with the score at 1-1, I started to think that maybe the cheers had been for their own tournament. Then along came little David Villa, god bless him, to send Spain into the quarter finals.

I should have known it was going to be impossible to avoid knowing the score, even if I’d have been on the summit of Mount Teide, I would have heard the cheer when Villa slotted home.