I’m sure that Argentina is a nation of chi-chi style merchants. You can picture them; lithe supermodel types shimmying up and down the gold paved streets of Recoletas in their Handbags & Gladrags, or beatniking it through the hipster paradise of La Boca, or wherever the beautiful boho’s of Buenos Aires do their posing. So tell me, why do so many footballing fashion disasters wash up on this side of the Atlantic?
First off there was the Alice band for men, sported by Steffi Graff looky-likey Claudio Caniggia. Then we had Don Diego and his Mafia roccocco look; half Argentinian street urchin, half Paulie Gaultieri from the Soprano’s. And who can forget Mario Kempes and Alberto Tarantini for going ‘natural’ thoughout the seventies and eighties?
Okay, we also have Javier Zanetti, with his suave good looks and tailored suits, ‘Che’ Guevara and his prototype combat rock look, as well as Jorge Luis Borges with his snappy mind and snappier slacks but, on the whole, the final reckoning of Argentinian fashion exports doesn’t make pretty viewing.
Diego Simeone is, sartorially speaking, a man who slots with ease into the negative column of that balance sheet. Last Friday night – in the presence of Royalty, no less – he donned a black three quarter length anorak with faux-fur black hood, black suit, black shirt, black inch-wide tie – last seen being sported by Neville Staples from The Specials, and – you guessed it – black Patrick Cox shoes, unseen since the mid-nineties. No, no, no, no, no…
However, when it comes to tactics, motivation and gamesmanship, he clearly knows a thing or two as Atleti scraped the Copa Del Rey in extra time against Real Madrid. The bare facts will show that Madrid took an early lead through a header from Ronaldo, Atleti equalised through Diego Costa and then went on to win the thing with a near-post header from Miranda – judging by his expression the most surprised man in the stadium. The reality was slightly different.
Mourinho was sent from the dug-out for reverting to spoilt-brat type and endlessly ‘getting in the face’ of the fourth official, Ronaldo saw red late-on for endeavouring to commit the most stylish foul ever and Atleti substitute Gabi saw red for two quick yellow cards in extra time. The sole purpose of the latter’s entry seemed to be to waste time and kick as many of the opposition as possible. He succeeded on both counts although the red card didn’t preclude him from gathering trophy and medal with his child in tow. You’ve got a lot to answer for Dennis Wise!
In between all this thrilling nonsense, Madrid hit the bar more often than George Best on St. Patrick’s night, Atelti scorer Diego Costa got in a tasty right handed jab on sidelined Madrid man Pepe – but only because he beat his manager to it – and the whole was presided over by a referee who, in the most trying of circumstances managed to make correct call after correct call throughout the 120 minutes. Well done, Sir. Just a shame you didn’t notice the pugilists slugging it out on the fringes.
And well done Atleti. Another season, another trophy and the interminable thrill of a Bernabeu cup final victory against the enemy.
We’ll start in La Segunda, where Elche sat back and enjoyed the sight of their immediate rivals Girona and Alcorcon failing to get all three points against Villarreal and Barcelona B respectively, which thrust the Green and Whites of Alicante province into Primera dreamland without to having kick a ball. Villarreal are now second and looking good for an immediate return to the big time after besting Girona by four goals to one which leaves Girona’s team and fantastic away support thinking of play-offs. Alcorcon will probably be joining them alongside Las Palmas and Almeria who took advantage of Elche’s hangover with a two-one home win. Sneaky.
Big League started on Saturday afternoon when Valencia got a Champions League boost with a one-nil away win at Getafe, although a two one away win for La Real that night against Sevilla saw both them and the Seville outfit held back in their respective Euro hunt.
One of the biggies of the weekend was up next when good Granada turned up and gave themselves a hefty dose of staying-up medicine with a three nil win over fellow struggler’s, Osasuna. The chaps from Andalucia are now on 39 points which may – just – see them home. The Pamplona Irregulars are back in the dark place dangling two points above the trap door with two games to go.
Sunday’s first encounter saw Rayo Vallecano travel to Levante and come away with three valuable points. Levante will be broadly happy with the season, although performances in recent weeks may be a little worrying for some looking to next year’s challenges. Rayo’s three-two win sees them move back into the Europa League spots, although the combined wisdom of the Spanish League Federation and UEFA (that’s alot of wisdom) will have a say in what happens with appeals by Malaga and Rayo against
measurses seemingly designed to really piss off their fans measures that may see them expelled from EuroDreamLand before even getting there. Understand that? No. Neither do we.
Next up Depor moved out of The Zone with a two nil life giver against Espanyol. No doubt Depor fans went all red, white and green a couple of hours later when Bilbao ensured their own safety with a late comeback to win two-one by beating a Zaragoza team who are now wading through the soft-squelch of you-know-what in the bottom three.
FACT ALERT! FACT ALERT! Thanks to Daniel Last of Brighton, England for supplying the information that La Romadera – home of Zaragoza – possesses Europe’s deepest goal nets. I’m sure that’ll will be a balm for those pre-occupied with prospect of second flight football in Aragon next season, Danny. An El Balonazo T-Shirt is on it’s way to you.
Sundays final game saw Barcelona and Valladolid clash in Camp Nou. You know who won so I won’t bother. What you may not have seen is Spain’s first three-pronged civil partnership take place on a football pitch, when Carles, Rigobert and Eric tied the knot in an intimate ceremony with only work colleagues, Shakira and one hundred thousand people shouting ‘Visca’ at every opportunity. One of the grooms didn’t seem too thrilled on his big day…
Mallorca play Betis tonight. Anything but a win will spell curtains for the Islanders. Betis need to the win too. Not good for the Islanders.
Finally, the El Balonazo Grand tour of 2013 came to an end last night. Paul and Dave El Balonazo spread the gospel of competitively priced Football Fashion from the unseasonably cold plains of Madrid to Villarreal, Levante and Cuenca. Massive thanks and big love go to; everybody in Villarreal but particularly the family who supplied us with beer and tales of the champions league, the staff at the UD Levante trinket store and the Avenida Bar in Valencia – although, it must be said, not to the bullet headed grunts who spat at us for having the temerity to be ‘wrong’.
Additional amor to Wicklow Wednesday man Deaglán and his globetrotting pal Daryl, Cillian – the Bohemian of Blanchardstown and Danny ‘Hasselblad’ of Hove. Respect to all the Girona fans in the vertiginous away end at Villarreal for sticking it out despite the on-pitch travails and apologies to the the older gent in front of me who I inadvertently kneed in the head due to Luton Town style seating. Although the peck on the cheek his wife received from this slightly squiffy, poorly shaved Englishman surely made up for any wrongdoing…
In Cuenca, thanks go to the Frank Bough look-a-like fourth official, the Talavera subs who let one of our number prove his inability on the ball during half time for the benefit of the paying public at the Estadio Fuentesanta and especially the TV crew from Castilla La Mancha Television for their patience with our on-air swearing marathon during broadcast.
Finally we wish the best to Randy the Bull (above) and his splendid testicles. Randy scoured the fiesta stalked streets of Villarreal in an attempt to skewer any one of a number of polyester clad youths with inadvisable haircuts who spent their pre-match moments goading the poor creature. We hope you made it, Randy.