Spanish Football

football-spainThe beautiful game here in Spain as well as in England and we all know that “Engerland” got to the quarter finals but Spain lucked out a bit earlier! Football is the national game and is played with devotion from earliest steps aged 2 and then followed with fanatical attention when the body starts to give out.

However, hardly anyone in Spain admits to being too old to play football! Especially on the beach!

There are three main divisions in Spain. In the Primera Division there are 18 teams, in the Segunda Division A there are 20 teams and in the Segunda Division B there are 80. The third division consists of 20 regional groups. After this come all the thousands of local and workplace clubs-more of these later- and we mustn’t forget the booming Superliga Femenina!

So who are the main teams and where do they play? The two most popular and successful teams have to be Real Madrid and Barcelona (Barca). These are the ones most kids will fight to death with their friends over and obviously, the two who make the most out of merchandising! Think Man United and Chelsea! However we must not forget Real Betis and Valencia.

These teams play in all the main competitions and have huge stadiums with very high attendance but are also followed very enthusiastically in bars all over Spain. If a big match is on don’t expect to be able to relax in your local bar-the noise is phenomenal and often all the seats are rearranged around the screen. The waiters will also be watching so service may be a little slow!

Just as in England supporters clubs exist in virtually every big town for the main teams. These clubs, called Peñas, have their own premises –obviously with bars, and often have their own casetas (large marquees with bars and dance areas) at ferias.

The Spanish national team has big names familiar to all of us-think Raul (real Madrid) Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid), Casillas the brilliant goal keeper(portero) from Real Madrid, Villa from Valencia and not forgetting Reyes who plays for Arsenal and Alonso and Garcia who play for Liverpool!

Aragones has been the manager since 2004 and there aren’t too many complaints at the moment! The main Spanish championship is the Supercopa España but obviously watch out for UEFA and Eurocopa matches as well. First qualifying matches for the Eurocopa start in August (so much for football being a winter game!)

But it’s at the local level that the Spanish obsession with football can be really seen. Most villages have a complicated selection of teams which play in the local leagues.

The boys start of in pre-benjamines (4-8 years), move up to benjamines and alevines (8-12) move up to infantiles (12-14) then cadetes (14-16) then finally, before reaching the adult team, play in the juveniles between 16 and 18.

As you can appreciate safety is very important and all clubs play by FIFA rules. Most weekends in almost all towns and villages you can see coaches turning up and disgorging crowds of excited boys from a neighbouring town ready to do battle! Local matches are well attended and the club house (sede) is open with the bar of course!

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