There’s a consensus that European football trips are expensive, difficult to sort out and time consuming. In reality my trip to Málaga flying from Bristol cost £54, £34 for two nights in a hotel room for two nights and then two match tickets that cost €10 and €14 for the two games I attended. Having pals in destinations is always a bonus with regards to helping to organise and someone to drink with. With regards to my Andalusian retreat I was fortunate enough to know Matt, a mystical Welsh groundhopper who had ended up in the South of Spain after time spent dwelling in far flung places like Slovakia and, erm Manchester. Matt had taken up supporting Málaga with a heart band of British ex-pats called the Guiri Army. A self deprecating name, Guiri is a Spanish slang term for Northern European tourists and the groups section is clearly represented with a St Georges Cross. While this is absolutely fantastic, it does beg the question when will Matt get a Baner Cymru or Y Ddraig Goch to represent Cymru Guiri?
I arrived in Málaga early on Saturday morning, after a small mooch around the town and dropping my bags off at the hotel I got the train up to Córdoba. The historical city is home to oodles of Moorish architecture including the Mezquita-Catedral which, I was fortunate to walk past on the long walk to the stadium. The train from Málaga was a tad pricey at €50 and should be taken into account if looking to perform a similar trip. When I arrived at the stadium their were significant protests by supporters in front of the main stand regarding the running of the club, initially it was light hearted with families and a mixture of supporters. Soon after it took a turn when the clubs Ultras turned up to try and storm the entrance to the stadium, it was at that point I decide to scarper into the ground. Estadio Nuevo Arcángel is a tidy enough stadium that has been partially rebuilt in recent years. It is as of yet uncomplete and does feel a touch half built. The skies that night more than made up for it with incredibly pinks and purples allowing for some fantastic photos. Villarobledo were the visitors in what turned out to be a pretty bland 2-0 win for the hosts, while not the most exciting ground or game the city is well worth a visit.
Estadio La Rosaleda was one of 17, yes, 17 1982 World Cup venues. The stadium is in keeping with others in Spain that I had been to that were used for that World Cup. While ultimately a tidy stadium from a far you can see the wear and tear that 40 years of use have done. With the success of Atleti and Athletic Club’s stadium moves in recent years, I can see this becoming more of a thing in Spain. Unfortunately for Málaga, the glory days of the Champions League are behind them, and finding themselves in the second tier with an owner that’s far from helpful… that could be a while off. That’s not to say La Rosaleda isn’t fun. Similarly to Mestalla and Camp Nou, it’s a concrete bowl with varying levels of cover. Situated next to a river I’m told that never seems to flow, the fins holding up the side stands reminded me of brutalist beauty of the Parc des Princes. After a couple of beers in town we walked up to the concrete coliseum, bought my ticket and made our way to some bars to sink some delicious, cold Victoria’s while chatting to some of the Guiri Army.
What a lovely weekend thus far, beers, culture, pals and a nice bit of sun! As the sun set on my list evening in Spain we took our seats in the corner of Rosaleda occupied by the Guiri’s. Málaga were struggling in the league and looking to pick up points against Fuenlabrada who had brought a small but vocal away following. Málaga’s Ultras protesting the running of the club by chief Wally and Qatari PR machine Sheikh Abdullah. Abdullah had overseen the club go from a European force to a relegation threatened 2nd tier club, outside the ground there was graffiti telling him and his cronies exactly how the supporters feel and currently there is an ongoing legal battle with the Sheikh regarding his running of the club. Anyway, I digress, the football, ah the football. It was shit. A 0-0 draw with neither club offering anything of note but, again, their was a lovely sunset and sky to behold and let’s be honest, instagram likes are the reason most of us travel to watch football.
Let’s be honest, as with most of these trips it’s not about the football. I enjoy the cultural changes in football from country to country and Málaga with their Guiri Army have something different. An anomaly you pretty much won’t find elsewhere. Certainly, being a Bristol Rovers supporters you have branches such as Weston Super Mare Gas and Keynsham Gas but, here we have a group of people watching a club in a different country, bringing their football culture to it while respecting the native one. Integration can be a huge issue in society on the whole and the coming together of different sets of people for football and coming together to support one club or country is a beautiful thing. While the Guiri’s still have the classic English St George’s Cross, swig beer and on the whole look very ex-pat, they’ve joined in with a club, a club that is now their club as well as Malagueños and it’s odd but lovely.