Thursday, March 21, 2024

Football Away Days - CD Leganés v CD Mirandés

No self-respecting football fan could have a weekend in Madrid - home to six teams across Spain's top two divisions - and not go to a match. Surely? This was my unanimous verdict and after taking into account dates, times, bar opening hours and budgets, Mrs C and I along with friends Mick and Andrea plumped for a trip to top of the (LaLiga 2) table CD Leganés for a two o'clock, Sunday afternoon kick-off versus CD Mirandés.  

Leganés is part of the Community of Madrid, situated to the south east of the city centre. As the crow flies it was only around six miles from our accommodation in the Las Acacias neighborhood of the city but as we're not crows we chose to take a slightly more convoluted route via the metro system, a forty minute journey briefly enlivened by a group of Peruvian buskers doing their Fast Show routine.

From Leganés Central metro station it is a near twenty minute walk to the Estadio Municipal Butarque which obviously necessitated a refreshment stop at the half-way mark at Cervecería La Posada, a splendid little bar where complementary tapas accompanied the drinks. As a Sheffield Wednesday fan, it was reassuringly familiar to be enjoying a pre-match beer with supporters clad in their blue and white striped home kits. Less familiar to be doing so with the home team top of the league and even less so with the match ticket in my back pocket having set me back all of nineteen euros. And instead of having a big girl's blouse at the helm, CD Leganés have a real woman in charge in the shape of Victoria Pavón who, along with husband Felipe Moreno, acquired a majority stake in the club back in 2008 when the club was floundering in the third tier of Spanish football. Even then, the club had never played at a higher level than second tier football but that particular eleven year stint had come to end four years earlier. However, under Pavón's leadership the club started moving, slowly but surely, in an upwardly mobile direction culminating in promotion to the top division in 2017 clinched, coincidentally, with a 1-0 away victory over today's opponents CD Mirandés. Whilst the club lost it's top tier status four seasons later, they are currently looking good for a return to Spanish football's top table, sitting three points clear of second placed Elche ahead of this weekend's fixtures.

Opponents CD Mirandés don't have a woman at the helm, big blousy or otherwise, but they are based in the city of Miranda de Ebro (northern Spain) which sounds a bit like a girl's name. The club has a modest footballing pedigree having spent most of its time in the lower reaches of the Spanish football pyramid although their current Tier 2 status, first achieved just eleven years ago, represents the club's high watermark. This season sees the club in the bottom half of LaLiga 2 thus representing a legitimate target for our local club FC Cartagena to catch up as they seek to haul themselves away from the relegation bottom four. All this, plus the fact that CD Mirandés play in red, meant that we would definitely be rooting for the home team. Football tourists or what eh?

We arrived at the Estadio Municipal Butarque half an hour before kick-off and in time for a beer. Cerveza mixta, tostada or sin (without) alcohol, all available at €2.50. No sin alcohol for me but each to their own eh? Well, apparently not as it turns out because all three options were alcohol-free which left me distinctly unimpressed. It must be forty years since, when on Sunday night driver duties, I first tasted Clausthaler non-alcoholic beer. Now, Clausthaler can kid themselves all they like that their story of "inspiration, innovation and determination" really did lead to the world's "first great tasting non-alcoholic beer" but let me assure you that it tasted shite back then and these Spanish equivalents, forty years on, still taste just as shite. Plus it gives you wind. Honestly, surely a woman wouldn’t have decided upon an alcohol-free stadium? 

To be fair, that was the only one disappointment of the day. The Estadio Municipal Butarque was exactly as one might expect a municipal stadium to be, minus a running track around the pitch. Our nineteen euro tickets got us seats in the Fondo Sur behind the goal at the end opposite to that which housed the home team Ultras who, it must be said, kept up a barrage of chants throughout the game, often coaxing the home fans on the other three sides of the stadium to join in. One got the feel very much of a community club in harmony with its family-orientated fan-base including lots of young kids noisily and colourfully affirming their allegiance. Similarly colourful was the club mascot, a giant cucumber resembling a blue and white striped phallic version of Zorro, ribbed for extra pleasure. Women owners eh? 

Disappointingly perhaps, it transpires that the club's nickname is that of Los Pepineros (the cucumbers/ cucumber growers) as a nod to the area's historic market town relationship with Madrid. CD Mirandés however are known as Los Rojillos (the Reds) or, far more excitingly, Jabatos being the name for the young wild boars which are native to their particular part of Spain. Hmm, the cucumbers versus the wild boars. CD Mirandés definitely win in the club nickname stakes. 

The game kicked off in warm, hazy conditions. The home team Ultras made certain of a good atmosphere, aided early on by a small but enthusiastic following of away fans housed at the corner of the Fondo Sur. And the away fans nearly had something to shout about on ten minutes when winger Illyas Chaira put a left footed shot wide of the post when he really should have hit the target. However, that was about as good as it got for Mirandés who fell behind in the twentieth minute when some tricky work on the right by Juan Cruz saw him cross for centre-forward Diego García to head in at the near post. Worse was to follow fifteen minutes later when a break down the left hand side saw left-back Enric Franquesa square the ball for García to side-foot in for his second goal of the match. The game was effectively over by half time when Juan Cruz struck a low hard shot past the keeper from twenty five yards in the forty second minute. The wild boars had been tamed by the cucumbers - something I never thought I would end up writing.

The Leganés ultras giving it some.

Not wanting to mix my metaphors but the cherry was placed on the top of the cucumber in the sixty sixth minute when a clever turn and pass by García put centre-forward Miguel through to round the goalkeeper and slot the ball into the net for a 4-0 victory. The linesman initially tried to spoil the fun by flagging for offside but it was VAR to the rescue on this occasion. 

And that was that. The vast majority of the nine thousand four hundred fans in the ground carried on making lots of noise, bounced up and down a lot and joined in mexican waves until the referee's final whistle brought proceedings to an end. The home team ended Matchday 31 still three points clear of Elche at the top of the table whilst FC Cartagena's point in a nil-nil draw away to Eldense sees them now only one point and one place behind Mirandés in seventeenth place. 

So, match finished by four o'clock and we headed back towards downtown Madrid where we took in several bars, including a secret bar called Bad Company and another place that sold mugs of Caldo (chicken stock) at two euros a time. Caldo is surprisingly tasty but drinking more than one guarantees that you will wake up the next morning with a mouth tasting like lard. Drinking more than one drink in Bad Company guarantees that you will wake up bankrupt.

Futuristic? Call that a football ground?

As a football-related postscript, we passed Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu stadium the following morning. The stadium is undergoing significant upgrade works. Disappointingly, the once impressive facade has been covered with cladding to create a supposedly "futuristic" design which serves only - as far as I am concerned - to make it look like a supposedly futuristic design as opposed to a football stadium. Hey ho. Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder. This week I am very much taken with the beauty that is CD Leganés. However, in two weeks time they will be hosting FC Cartagena so by then they can stick their cucumbers where the sun don't shine. I will be back in Burnley. Actually, the sun doesn't shine there very much.

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