Thursday, 10 April 2008


Real Mallorca 1-1 Real Madrid (05:04:08)

I raised an eyebrow when my wife asked if I wanted to visit some friends of hers who she hadn’t seen for 15 years on the Balearic island of Mallorca. I raised a second eyebrow when she said they lived a stones throw from the ONO Estadi, home to Real Mallorca. Upon finding out that during our stay Real Mallorca were playing at home to Real Madrid - I raised both eyebrows, threw my arms aloft, and dived in with both feet.

Before visiting Alberto and Isabel, we spent four days in the Tramuntana mountain range of the island. Based in Sóller we walked everyday and ate and drank like both were going out of fashion. I’d no real idea of how beautiful Mallorca was beforehand but if you like good food and walking as I do it’s a perfect destination.

The night before the match we met with the family who frankly couldn’t have been nicer. We’d brought along a couple of football shirts for their two kids which went down well, as did several bottles of wine during a long evening of mirth and hilarity.

On match day - or this case match night as with this being Spain the game didn’t kick off until 10pm - we headed to a bar, which rather amusingly was called ‘Depression’. It turned out to be anything but.

In Mallorca the Spanish tradition of cañas (small beers) doesn't really apply. Pints at 2 euros apiece flowed freely as I met with pals of Alberto’s who made me feel very welcome - once I told them I didn’t support Real Madrid.

One of his mates was a German chap from Wolfsburg which gave me a good excuse to wheel out one of footballs great stories. You know, the one about the ex-Wolfsburg manager whose name could not have been any more apt – Wolfgang Wolf.

I got into the match for nothing. Just before I entered the ground a Real Mallorca season ticket was thrust into my hand, and before I had time to think about what had occurred I was sitting in the third row behind the goal. Nice job.

The ground is a symmetrical save for a roof on the main stand. At either end there are two semi circular all seated stands, and two very steep banks of red seating which run alongside the pitch.

Fans of football grounds worldwide look away now when I tell you that the ground also has two words which make every football fans heart sink to the depths of despair. Deep breaths now -around the pitch it has a ‘running track’. Nooooooooo!

The game itself was fairly entertaining. Real Madrid dominated the early stages. They took the lead after a mazy run, and then pass from Robben which Sneijder converted. Real Mallorca equalised with a Ronnie Whelan type curler into the top corner by Borja Velero.

It between all sorts of hell broke loose. Spanish football followers will tell you that referees and officials are biased towards Real Madrid in pretty much every game. This game was no exception. Real Mallorca had a perfectly good goal disallowed and were denied a blatant penalty after the ‘hand of Canavaro’ stopped a cross in the penalty box.

For the neutral this was great fun. Out came 20,000 white handkerchiefs following each decision. Cries of ‘Asi, Asi, Asi gana el Madrid’ rang out across the stadium which basically means ‘like that, like that, like that win Real Madrid’. All around me, formally passive and laid back people were losing it – marvellous scenes.

The atmosphere wasn’t quite as bad as I’d been led to believe it would be beforehand. To my left there were a group of ultras, who Alberto told me were probably Argentineans who lived on the island. To my right the crowd were occasionally stirred by a huge chap with a red face who is known by everybody as ‘Big Billy’.

Big Billy is from England. He wears a replica shirt with the number 100 printed on the back which was given to him after he’d attended his 100th match. In a world exclusive, I interviewed Billy at half time. It turns out he flies in from Sheffield for every home match, and the 100 on the back of his shirt I think relates to the number of pints he has before each match!

The only other point to note during the match followed the Veleros equaliser for Real Mallorca. Alberto and I shared a little cuddle. I’d known him for 2 days but we got on famously with our ‘Spanglish’ conversation. Following the goal, emotions were running high and at that moment a friend for life was made. Sniff.

As it was only across the road from where I was staying, I went down to the stadium the following lunchtime. My wife and I were able to walk into the ground unopposed. After walking across the pitch and taking a few photos we sat on a bench by the corner flag and had our lunch. Good old life.

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