Disillusioned and downcast by the circus of modern football, writer and lover of the game, Laurence Rivers, throws in his lot with local hopefuls Union Esportiu Sants. A stone’s throw from the Camp Nou, the green and white hoops of the mighty and newly-promoted UE Sants are set to take on the Spanish football’s fourth-tier for the first time in years. In a new series of articles and reviews, Laurence is there to tell their story and maybe, just maybe, fall in love with the game again.
Summer’s over and like it or loath it, football is back. Green and white hoops are the colours of debatable success, conjuring up images of Sporting Lisbon, Real Betis, Celtic, maybe even Yeovil Town, as UE Sants graced the packed ‘Camp de l’Energia’ stadium, clad in the virescent and wan kits that defined last year’s halcyon days in Spain’s fifth tier, the ‘Primera Catalana’.
Yes, the days of regional football are vehemently over, this is Tercera División Nacional, a fact emphasised by the 8€ hike in ticket prices, a rise that somewhat eclipses last year’s standard entry price of 0€. Mathematically speaking, this means the standard must be exponentially better, unquantifiably so.
Today’s visitors are the wordy ‘Terrassa Olimpica 2010 FC’, an all-scarlet affair that hail from that eponymous town, a town synonymous with the terminus of one of Barcelona’s commuter lines and little else. I personally know nothing of the place except that my old boss lives there. He was a wanker, so at least that gives me some semblance of impartiality.
Summer’s clearly on everyone’s mind, none more so than the referee, whose laissez-faire attitude to some bone crunching tackles belies a desire not to exceed the 45 minutes per half by a mere minute. The cynical members in the crowd point to the fact that the local festival starts tonight and it is more than possible that our arbiter has more on his mind than the football at his feet. Still, as 45 minutes closes in inextricably, the Camp de l’Energia seems somewhat devoid of just that as heavy legs trudge into a most welcome of half-times.
Chances were few, goals fewer. Sants 0-0 Terrassa.
Daylight savings time was never a friend to the small club, whose floodlights strike an indefatigable yet ultimately futile pose against the rosy pink of the setting sun. Shadows grow longer, and a break to the deadlock seems further away than ever, the weary combatants look hopefully at any sign of activity from the bench. It’s a hard sell, the first game back.
Subs on and tired bodies give way to the standard fair of lower-league football, the long ball. The game opens up somewhat, and I even get a touch as an errant projectile lopes hopelessly out of play. I return the device as daintily as my terrible skills permit, noting the hardness of the ball. Maybe that’s why no one has scored yet.
Regardless of the stalemate and apparent humdrum comings and goings of lower-league football, so easily dwarfed in a city as defined by football as Barcelona, it would be a fool who relegates this level of sport to the keen amateur and little else. There’s no pretension, no selfies nor pop-corn. The players don’t cover their mouths to speak, they unleash verbal batteries of expletives, audible to all present. Families and friends who wallow in the balmy Barcelona evening take in the spectacle exactly for what it is, football at it’s purest form.
A commendable crowd of over 200 people begin to drift out into the night’s festivities and I follow on, discounting the age-old mistake of leaving games early. No sooner am I round the corner than the cheer goes up, not big enough to be the home side. Ninety minutes of laconic defence was not enough as the visitors bundle in a corner. There’s nothing to hide the disappointment of all those there, players fall down and the crowd falls silent.
“I shit in the fucking milk”, shouts one of the players, ribbing on the Spanish vernacular.
I suppose when the script follows such disappointing lines, everyone shits in the milk somewhat. See you in a couple of weeks.
Cover image courtesy of Pedro De Matos Via Flickr