Don’t know what you think but are close seasons getting shorter? In fact it doesn’t feel as BaleMarcathough I’ve had much of a close season at all. OK I’ve done some of the normal close season things like go to the beach and a few concerts but it feels as though football has not really been that far away.

My live domestic football watching ended on 1st June. I watched CAP Ciudad de Murcia grab what was to turn out to be a very valuable 3pts, with a 2-1 win, away to FC Soho of Cartagena, more of that later.

It wasn’t long before I was watching live football again, by the 12th June to be exact. This time it was U-20 international football. The Spain, Chile and Uzbekistan U-20’s squads got together for a pre-World Cup kick about down on the coast, about an hour away, at San Pedro de Pinitar. This little coastal village has an excellent football facility there called the Pinitar Arena. Lots of Spanish clubs use this facility throughout the year. My interest in the tournament was intensified because my cousin’s son had been picked to play for New Zealand U-20s who had also qualified for the U-20 World Cup in Turkey. My uncle, my Dad’s brother, left Tyneside about 60 years ago, for a new life across the globe. He later had family, who are now obviously Kiwis through and through. My Uncle wasn’t a bad player by all accounts and this must have rubbed off on his offspring.  So, his grandson, Liam Higgins, was going off to represent NZ.  I’ve been able to keep in contact with this extended family through the wonders of modern technology, Facebook etc. When I told Liam about the tournament taking place in Murcia he said his coach would like me to have Spainada look at Uzbekistan, who were in NZ’s group, and compile a short report. In 30 odd years of watching football I’d never done that type of thing before, but apparently the technical staffs of NZ were well happy with my efforts. The tournament itself was very good and all three teams, including Uzbekistan, played a very good standard of football. All three also went on to reach the quarter finals, Uzbekistan losing 4-0 to the eventual winners France. New Zealand went out in the group stages without collecting a point, England not faring much better only picking up one point against Iraq. You shouldn’t laugh.

Then on TV, there was the senior Confederations Cup held in Brazil. To be honest I didn’t catch much due to work but I did watch the final. Spain lost 3-0 to Brazil which got all the press talking about the end of an era blah-blah. Somehow I don’t think so. Look at the U-20’s with the likes of Suso of Liverpool and Deulofeu of FC Barcelona and then the U-21’s. The U-21’s won the UEFA U-21 tournament, controversially held in Israel, in early June. That squad contained Manure’s de Gea and ex-Malaga now Real Madrid super kid Isco. Maybe Isco was the one that we were meant to sign a few years back but someone stuck an X on? Add to that the Spain U-19’s reaching the semi final of their relevant completion too. I don’t think they have much to worry about in the future, do you? One interesting fact that hit me was that in two of these tournaments France did very well. They won the U-20 World Cup and are in the final of the U-19 tournament, beating Spain in the semi-final. The only blemish being they didn’t qualify for the U-21 completion. On that evidence United’s trawling of French football seems to be a good plan, let’s hope JFK doesn’t get involved and add his “expertise”.

On the domestic scene it has been busy on the transfer front. In the mad world that is THCapomodern football FC Barcelona signed the 21-year old Brazilian wonder boy Naymar for reportedly €57m. In my opinion it’s madness. I see the new Barca shirt with his name and number is being advertised on the Barca website for almost €100. This in a country supposedly in financial crisis – when will it end? David Villa left the club for Atletico Madrid for around €6m, good business by Atleti there I think. Sadly Barca coach Tito Vilanova had to step down to continue his cancer battle. The Catalans will continue to pay his salary, which is a nice touch. The new coach is 50 year old Gerardo Martino, he’s joining from Argentinean Champions Newell’s Old Boys which is an interesting choice. Another Barca Argentinean, Messi, was in the news over allegations of tax dodging. Figures have been reported in the region of £4m – it’s hard to believe this. How can people earning so much money be so greedy? If the case goes to court and he is convicted he could get up to six years, you know that isn’t going to happen? Again, if true, yet another example of the game’s excesses! However this story is countered by the generosity of Andres Iniesta. I like this bloke, he’s seems down to earth. No excessive tattoos, earrings and other bullshit from this lad. Iniesta, already the major shareholder at his home town club Albacete, put in another £200,000 to save the club from serious monetary problems which would have led to automatic relegation.  Stories are beginning to surface however that the Iniesta family have resigned from the Albacete board. Apparently, the club’s administrators have treated the Iniesta family dreadfully, even though the club would have disappeared several months ago without their help.

Real Madrid has been busy in the transfer market too. The most impressive signing, so far, being Isco from Malaga. I like the look of this kid and he will go far I reckon. Of course you will know Gareth Bale is on their radar and quotes of up to €145m being quoted. Even the Marca newspaper screamed   “Una Locura” (madness). In my opinion it is mad and football is surely going to eat itself.

Over the summer I made a whistle stop trip back to the UK for the STAND Against AMFSpainModern Football doo, called Ale, Music and Football. The event was held in Liverpool (BOSS city la, it is to be fair) and consisted of 3 forums based on various themes in connection with modern football. I’ve covered the whole event for the next issue of true faith (out on the weekend of the 17/Aug/13 – TF105), so you’ll just have to buy that if you want to know more, but I was on a panel. Anyway STAND isn’t all about miserable middle aged blokes (like me) or the newish phenomenon known as football hipsters, it’s about real people who care about what direction the game is going in. The Bale saga is further evidence of football gone mad. I noticed even the hideous Michael Owen has chipped in on this one, giving advice to Mr. Bale. EMO states life in Madrid was tough. He had to work 3 hours per day – imagine that? Then he had to live for months in a 5-star hotel, the poor bairn. The language was a tough barrier too, i.e. he didn’t try to learn it and he missed the craic (the horses) in England. The man is beneath contempt in my estimation. If you want advice Gareth contact Steve McManaman, he conducted himself well whilst in Spain.

On the local scene fan owned CAP Ciudad de Murcia made promotion to the Preferente ((5th Division). They found this out on the 25th July – this is Spain remember. They will play in the same league as Caravaca FC, my nearest club, who themselves failed to win promotion to the Terrcera , they finished 6th. CAP-CDM finished 4th in their league, only 3 go up but because of financial problems, one promoted club had to drop out. Ironic, how a club staunchly opposed to modern football, has benefited from one of the ills of the game. Caravaca incidentally will have a name change this season; they are now called AD Caravaca. Why?  I’m not sure to be honest, but as I say this is Spain, so money will be involved somewhere.  Financial problems by the way just aren’t affecting clubs at lower levels. Real Murcia, the other team in Murcia city were relegated from the second division, only to be reinstated because one of their relegation rivals Guadalajara ran into financial difficulty. Even Deportivo la Coruña could face double relegation. They went down from La Liga but could be relegated again as they are finding it hard to pay their players.  This is a club that played in the Champions League not too long ago and who we signed Captain Colo, Luque from (and Xisco). Karma.

CAP Ciudad de Murcia start their build up to the new campaign with a home friendly Iniestaagainst Cartagena FC on Saturday evening. The club since reforming have gained two successive promotions and things are looking good.

However there was some bad news.

Earlier this month some people broke into their ground. A ground they share with other sporting organisations. The intruders made straight for where Ciudad keep their equipment, including the flags and banners that make their games such a spectacle. Their gear was set on fire and estimates are in the region of around €6k in damage, money the club hasn’t got or is insured for. There was some Nazi graffiti and other right wing political slogans daubed around the place too. The City Boys, CAP-CDM’s most fervent fans, have their suspicions but nothing can be proven. They reckon the reason for the fire is the clubs stance on racism (ANTI-FA), homo-phobia and women’s rights. They have been involved in several initiatives around the region. The club have set up a Crowfunding appeal and are looking for donations, starting at €5 (£4.35), to try and raise some money to cover their loses. You can donate here

…and finally. I have been told by a few people (well me Mam) that I should write a book on some of the stuff I know about Spain and in particular Murcia. Well this year hopefully is the year. I plan to follow Ciudad to most of their away games and record some of the events that happen. I also want to capture a feel for the region, including some of its history and culture.

I’ve already uncovered some good football related stories like the one about the GeordieHigginsSpain that brought football to Lorca, a town about 40 minutes drive from me. Spain is awash with ex-pats bringing football to Spain with the railways, mining and shipyards.  Apparently Manuel José Pelegrín Dunn, his father Spanish (from Lorca) and his mother English, was born in our fair and noble city. He moved to Lorca in the 1890’s and started the town’s first football team. He was said to be involved in coal importing and started the club around 1901, supposedly, choosing the team’s colours, Black & White, in honour of his home town club. This may or may not be true about the colours, United themselves didn’t start wearing black and white until 1894, anyway it’s a canny story and there’s a lot more out there too. The books working title is “Homage to Murcia”…what do you mean that title rings a bell?

As the great writer on Spain, Earnest Hemmingway, said “For one person who likes Spain there are a dozen who likes books on her” we’ll see.

Sorry if I’ve went on a bit but it has been a while. I see you can leave comments on the new TF site. If you want me to cover anything specific please get in touch via here or on Twitter.

Adios for now.

Tony Higgins


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