I’m sitting at my small local Spanish bar here in the beautiful city of Cordoba. My mates are sipping on €1 beers and talking tactics and expectations (or lack there of), while the waiter brings around free tapas of chorizo, salmon tostadas and fried croquetas for all the hungry patrons. A hugely significant event is about to commence in this vibrant city, one that the whole population has been waiting for all week. Today, on a perfectly sunny Saturday afternoon, Cordoba CF is welcoming local rivals Almeria to the Estadio Argangel for what will be a nerve racking 6 point relegation battle in the context of La Liga.
- As excited as my friends and I are, all of us being internationals, something is indeed wrong with the picture I have just painted. It’s not the delicious and free tapas on high rotation or the ridiculously cheap beers that we are enjoying. No, it’s the fact that I blatantly lied about the electric atmosphere surrounding this football game and the omitted fact that most of the local Cordobeses don’t care whatsoever. Our little mix of 2 Aussies, an American, a Canadian and an Austrian dominate the other patrons at this awesome little bar, which, it must be said, has gone above and beyond in providing an awesome footballing atmosphere. The game is being shown on two giant screens, discounted drinks are on offer all afternoon and various ticket promotions are keeping our group hopeful that we will at least get something out of the day other than another likely defeat.
So why is this little bar, or any bar for that matter, not packed to the rafters? Furthermore, why are there no Córdoba kits worn proudly around the city by young kids, groups of teenage boys or old life long aficionados? None emblazoned with the number 10 and the name ‘Cartabia’ (my favourite player) as they chant and sing in the street.How come the 21,000 capacity stadium in a football mad city of 300,000 rarely sells out?
It could be the fact that, and if I’m truly honest, Córdoba is a team who are very difficult and frustrating to watch. Not only do they rarely win but they rarely play decent football. However, surely this year, of all the years in Córdoba CF’s history, should be the one to bring the city to its unified feet and pack out every bar with proud locals to watch THEIR team play. The 2014/2015 La Liga season is the first time the Blanquiverdes (Green & Whites) have been in the first division in 42 years! This is an amazingly historical year for this football team and there is every chance that the boys will be relegated and not seen back in the primera for quite sometime.
So why so quiet? Why no fanfare?
I think I have identified the reason. The reason why me and my gang of international Córdoba fans are drinking and cheering week in week out in a sparsely populated bar, in a mildly caring city. Finally I can reveal the actual point of this article in the first place. The reason for this lack of enthusiasm is because of, what I like to call, Madrid and Ronaldo ‘fan boys’. They are everywhere! Madrid school bags, Madrid pencil cases, full Madrid tracksuits, fan boys wearing Madrid kit´s with Ronaldo´s famous 7 down every street, flags in bars, groups of young men complaining wildly when Ronaldo softly goes to ground. FALTA! Madrid Fan boys are everywhere here and nothing breaks my heart more than seeing a poor 2 year old kid from Cordoba forced to follow in his father’s footsteps and don the famous white of Madrid (mandatory and predictable Ronaldo and number 7 on the back). No child should be subjected to that.
My students at my schools here in Cordoba often ask me in their broken English ¨Teacher! Teacher! Football,! You like Madrid or Barca?¨. They laugh when I say that I support Cordoba, ¨Teacher, Cordoba, very bad. Cordoba is potato¨. Granted, Cordoba is bad and also there are a few kids at the school who have a soft spot for Cordoba but, for the most part, fan boy culture is strong amongst the kids at my schools and in this city at large. By far the best part of football is its intense tribalism, fan culture and unrivaled passion in world sport and it really bugs me that the local bars only fill out with football fans when Barcelona, Athletico or Madrid are being shown. Fan boys, born and raised in Cordoba, coming out to support a team over 400km away, in a city most of them have never even been to.
Madrid’s popularity throughout all of Spain is absolutely immense, and of course, I can understand the appeal of a team that has the likes of Benzema, Bale, Rodriguez, Ramos, Varane and, of course, CR7. What I hate about this though is the deliberate shunning of local teams by the majority of locals in that city. I raise my glass to all the locals here in Cordoba who have avoided the temptation of supporting the unstoppable juggernaut that is Madrid and do indeed support their local team through thick and thin.
In a way it shows the absolutely enormous disparity in the Spanish top flight between the top three mega teams and every single team below them, popularity, money and points wise. Here in Cordoba the fan boys will continue to choose glamor over local, Madrid over Cordoba, Ronaldo over Cartabia and my mates and I will continue showing up each week to our little bar, hoping the boys can scrape enough points together to stay above the drop.
Cordoba lost to Almeria 1-2.