La Liga: ‘Botellazo 2: The Return!’

Last season’s Betis v Sevilla game in the Copa del Rey was marred with a ‘botellazo’ (basically meaning a huge hit with a bottle) to the face of Juande Ramos. Ramos was knocked unconscious and spent the night in the hospital and the game was suspended.

Even my girlfriend, who actually knows more about Spanish Football then I ever dreamed possible, remembers the Juande Ramos incident from last year, saying ’30 rows up? Man that guy has great aim.’ I agree love, that’s the first thing that came to my mind.

In case you didn’t see it, look here.

Basically a manhunt ensued for the culprit who through the bottle and he was later caught and expelled for life from the Betis stadium. I remember seeing the grainy pictures for about 2 weeks every morning when I went to work out in the gym as they searched far and wide.

Well, tonight’s Betis v Athletic Bilbao game could be called ‘Botellazo 2: The Return’. During the game which was 2-1 in favor of the Basques, Athletic keeper Armando Riviero went behind the net to retrieve the ball for a goal kick. While walking back, a fan walked down to the edge of the stand and tossed what looked like a plastic bottle filled with water at the keeper. The bottle struck Armando in the right eye and he immediately fell to the ground wincing in pain. He was stretchered off and received several stitches in his eye.

Betis immediately made a statement on their Web Page following the game condemming the acts that took place. They identify the tosser (take it with both connotations) as C.P.R (which I find to be somewhat ironic) and say that he wasn’t a socio but he was just there for the game. They also thanked the fans who turned him in so quickly.

I agree that yes, some fans are stupid and ‘it can happen anywhere.’ But this is twice in as many years that it’s happened at the Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera.

I hear that the Rifle and Archery associations of Spain are looking to sign up some Betis fans for the Olympics this summer. Seriously, these fans are the most accurate bunch of football fans I have ever seen. Let these guys win a medal for god sakes. If bottle throwing was a sports, these guys would be the fucking world champs 10 times over.

Here is the translation on Goal.com for those of you who don’t ‘hablo español’ (cue Chris Farley voice).

La Liga: ”If the players are sick, they should go to the shrink!”

Javier Clemente, new coach at Real Murcia after the sacking of Lucas Alcaraz, did anything buy shine in his debut on Sunday, falling 3-0 to Getafe. However, this former almost appointed manager of Iran had this to say after the loss.

“está enfermo, pero mientras hay vida hay esperanza”, que cree en eso “lo mismo que en Dios” y que “si los jugadores están mal, que vayan al psiquiatra”.

[the club] is sick, but while there’s still live, there’s still hope. [The club] believes in this “the say way they believe in God” and “if the players are sick, they should go to the psychiatrist.”

So apparently Clemente thinks all of his problems with the club might be solved by a little trip to the shrink. Or maybe Clemente realizes they are currently sitting in 19th place on 23 points, six behind 18th place Recreativo and a chance to stay in the top flight this year.

Clemente does know what he’s doing for those of you who think he may be a bit mad. This is the man that managed the 1983 and 1984 Athletic Bilbao team who won back to back La Liga titles and a Copa del Rey crown as well.

He’s also the manager involved in what Four Four Two called one of the top 50 best fights in soccer history, when Andoni Goikoetxea annihilated Diego Maradona from behind, solidfying the feeling of his ‘hardcore’ Athletic team at that time.  The following meeting between the two clubs, and after 106 days on the sidelines with a shattered ankle, Diego Maradona extracted his revenge with a bicycle kick to the face of Bilbao’s keeper.

Maybe Maradona should have went to the shrink.

La Liga: Athletic Bilbao-Homegrown Footballers at Their Finest

From a foreigner’s perspective, Spain is truly an interesting county. For those of you that don’t remember my previous post on Spanish Football and Basque Nationalism Spain has a ‘central’ culture, but most Spainards feel more of a cultural tie to the region where they are from. Ask someone from Barcelona where they are from and they will tell you they are Spanish simply because you don’t know where Catalonia is or what the Catalan language sounds like. But, ask them again where they are ‘really’ from and they will tell you they are Catalan. The same goes for the Basques who live in the north. Many Basques consider themselves to be ‘Basque’ and not ‘Spanish’.

Spain has a very long, historical tradition of ‘home-growing’ their footballers and bringing them up through the ranks. I mentioned this policy briefly in the Athletic Bilbao season preview, but it is really something that I would like to shine a bit of light on for everyone to see.

Cantera is a Spanish word meaning ‘quarry’, but more importantly for us, it refers to Spanish youth sides, or the process of the bringing a player up through the youth ranks. No where else is the cantera policy more prevalent then in Athletic Bilbao, and no where else is a side more homegrown than in the Basque capital.

Athletic Bilbao have a simple ‘policy’ when summed up says ‘If you aren’t basque, you don’t play for us.’ The actual saying used is

Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación.
With home-grown support and a fan base, you don’t need foreigners’,

This policy is more of a ‘practice’ than a ‘law’ per se, since there is nothing written in stone on this subject. However, most Athletic fans feel this policy gives them identity, something minorities in Spain love to express and feel.

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La Liga Wrap Up–Jornada 3

Here is the wrap up for Jornada 3 of La Liga. I don’t have much time to write wrap-ups for the games, so I will attempt to link to a report of each game for you to enjoy. Once I have more time on my hands and an opportunity to watch the games this weekend, I will write my own reports.

Also, the reports are in Spanish. If anyone knows where to get a quality review of the game in English (minus The Offside where I get my Valencia, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletic ones, let me know)

As always we’ll start with the best first.

Sevilla 4-Recreativo 1
Sevilla: Kerzhakov 11′ (1) Kanouté 30′ (2) Kanouté 53′ (3) Kerzhakov 74′ (2)
Recreativo: Aitor 54′ (1)

Pushed on by 2 goals by Kanouté and 2 by Kerzhakov, Sevilla pounded Recre into submission. Kerzhakov had a chance on a penalty to score his second, but missed and netted his second of the game later. Recap with goals Recap

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One-liner guide to La Liga Jornada 3–Que guay!

Here is your guide to La Liga Jornada 3, why you are chowing down on the biggest paella you’ve ever seen.

Note that since Mediapro and Audiovisual still cant get their heads out of their asses the only games televised this weekend will be Athletic-Zaragoza and Sevilla-Recreativo (sorry Madrid fans, better go jump off a bridge now.)

Home team is First and kickoff is in Spain time (minus 6 hours for the East Coast and so on)

And I will be making a paella this weekend in honor of the Sevilla game, but not as big as this guy’s and minus the seafood. I’m not a seafood kinda guy.

And here are your one-line guides to all of this weekend’s action.

Saturday 14 September

Valencia-Valladolid 8:00pm
Can Valencia escape the mid-season crisis, two games into the season?

Real Madrid-Almeria 8:00pm
Can Wesley Sneijder keep his scoring boots on long enough to give Madrid a win?

Athletic-Zaragoza 10:00pm (Televised)
Welp..at least they aren’t from the Basque prov..oh shit. Run!!! Protect your ATM Machines.

Sunday 15 September

Espanyol-Getafe 5:00pm
A Schuster-less Getafe is looking less than fine this season.

Deportivo-Betis 5:00pm
If it’s from Sevilla, and not Sevilla FC, it’s CRAP!

Mallorca-Villareal 5:00pm
Villareal will be out for blood after getting wacked by Madrid two weeks ago.

Murcia-Atlético 5:00pm
Oh Fernando Torres, why have you left us??

Racing-Levante 5:00pm
Can any of these teams actually score a goal? Anyone?

Sevilla-Recreativo 7:00pm
One Singma Pongolle on the bench down spells relief for Palop and Sevilla.

Osasuna-Barcelona 9:00pm
Will TH14 actually score play against Osasuna?

If you want to try to catch a not-so-legal feed of any of the games, check out Live Footy, thats how I get all my games I can’t see on Fox Soccer Channel.

I’ll be out this weekend as I have games this weekend at 10am Saturday and Sunday in the lovely Fall League BDSL or as we affection ally call it, the Beer Drinkers Soccer League, where if someone doesn’t throw up on Saturday morning before halftime, it’s just not a good game.

Que disfrutes!

La Liga Wrap Up–Jornada 1

The first Jornada of La Liga is behind us, and it was a weekend filled with some great football, but seemingly overshadowed by the current situation with Puerta in Sevilla. Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid was not televised anywhere as the cable rights war is still going on between Audiovisual and Mediapro in Spain.

Real Madrid 2-Atletico Madrid 1
Atletico: Agüero 00′ (1)
Real Madrid: Raul 14′ (1) Sneijder 79′ (1)
Atletico Madrid came out to a lead on a header by Sergio Agüero, but the Madridistas would not be stopped as they countered with 2 goals by Raul and by newcomer Wesley Sneijder to take the win. Leo Franco should have stopped the last goal by Sneijder, but was screened by his own player in the process.

It was a shame not to be able to watch the Derbi as they are always entertaining. I wanted to see Diego Forlan shine for his new club, and also see how the new Real Madrid team does under Schuster.

Sevilla FC 4-Getafe 1
Getafe: P. Hernandez 2′(1)
Sevilla FC: Jesus Navas 45′ (1) Luis Fabiano 66′ (1) Kanouté 69′ (1) Kerzhakov 81′ (1)

A goal by Pablo Hernandez in the 2nd minute stunned the Sevilla side at home in the Sanchez Pizjuan. Hernandez cooly slotted home a set piece over the wall and into the left side of the goal, leaving keeper Andres Palop with no chance.

Sevilla controlled the ball well in the first half, but Getafe looked determined to avenge their defeat in the Copa del Rey final, attacking fearlessly in the first 20 minutes.

The wheels came off the Getafe bus when Sousa was sent off with two consecutive yellow cards. One for dissent on a clear non-penality call, and the second for what the referee deemed a deliberate handball on a Kanoute cross. Cortez was then sent off for a horrendously late challenge on Diego Capel on the left hand side, putting Getafe 2 men down.

Sevilla mounted a comeback in the second half, scoring 4 unanswered goals on a powerless Getafe defense. Duda was without a doubt the man-of-the-match, whipping in ball after ball from the left hand side, contributing on 3 of the goals scored in the game.

The game was overshadowed by the incident with Antonio Puerta, who is still in critical condition.

Real Murcia 2-Zaragoza 1
Real Murcia: Mejia 16′ (1) Baiano 68′ (1)
Zaragoza: Oiviera 29′ (1)

Newly promoted Real Murcia took the lead on a goal by Mejia on a pass by Pablo Garcia. Oliviera countered with a chip over Murcia keeper Notario.

Zaragoza dominated the play in the second half, but couldn’t mount a sustained attack and instead played a possession game. Murcia took the lead for good on a goal by Baiano, who again was set up by Pablo Garcia.

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La Liga Preview—Levante, Real Betis, Athletic Bilbao

For the past few weeks I have combed the paella and sangria filled landscape that is Spain to come up with a definitive La Liga preview. For the most part, La Liga coverage in English is a bit difficult to find, so I have had to do lots of digging to figure out what is going on with the teams that have ascended into La Liga from the Segunda Division last season. However, there is no shortage of talk about La Liga in Spanish, thus I do a good deal of time trolling the Spanish dailies and team forums to get all the goods. It was so much easier when I lived there.

In all of the previews, I’ll give you the team, stadium, nicknames, who’s out, who’s in and what is going on. I don’t give starting 11’s because I’m shockingly bad at that.

Your teams today are the bottom of the barrel last year, Levante, Real Betis and Athletic Bilbao

____________________________________________________________________________________Levante UD (15th in La Liga in 2006)

Stadium: Ciutat de Valencia

Nickname: Granotes

Interesting Fact: Levante is the oldest club in Valencia, founded in 1909 under the name Levante FC. They changed their name to Levante U.D in 1942 after a merger with Gimnástico FC.

In: Savio (Real Sociedad) David (Sevilla) Geijo (Xerez) Viqueira (Recreativo) Kujovic (Roda) Cirillo (AEK) Arveladze (AZ Aalkmar) Robusté (Espanyol) Pedro León (Murcia) Javi Fuego (Sporting) Storari (Milan) Reganó (FC Messina)

Out: Zé María, Déhu, Molina, Salva (Málaga) , Kapo, N´Diaye (Tenerife) Diego Camacho (Valladolid) Reggi (Castellón)

Coming into the league a bit lacking

One could argue that the newly promoted teams to La Liga haven’t played a terribly tough pre-season schedule, thus their mostly unbeaten records. Levante could very well be lumped right into that category, except mention that they are 2-3-2 this pre-season (one of those wins was a 16-0 trouncing of Navaleno, which is the equivalent of Real Madrid playing you’re local club team). They have had a lot of trouble playing organized this pre-season, and have suffered greatly because of this. I stand by my opinion that bringing in 11 new players to a team is never easy, but one has to wonder when they will gel. They have also broken off talks with Newcastle striker Albert Luque, which would have been their 12th addition this summer.

What will Levante need to do?

First off, Levante will need to find a goalscorer, considering that their leading scorer, Riga, only had 9 goals last season, and he was a midfielder. They are definitely lacking a quality finisher, but look to have that covered bringing on Regano from FC Messina, who has shown ability to find the back of the net. Levante only return one forward from last season, Meyong Zé who scored one goal in 11 games. So to say they are lacking some power up front might be an understatement.

Riga will anchor their midfield, and Levante look to him to continue with his scoring touch this season. He also has great pace and plays as a third attacker most of the time. Javi Fuego who came from Sporting de Gijón, is a solid center midfielder who can defend well.  Luis Manuel Rubiales begins his fifth season at left back at Levante and will be joined in the back four by Alexis and Alvaro who both saw loads of time last season and Descarga, the right back who is in his 6th year with Levante.

Survey Says 

After being in the relegation zone for a good majority of last season, I think that Levante will go down after this season.  The fact that they lack a proven goal scorer upfront will hurt them in La Liga.  They have an experienced defense, but without anyone to put the ball in the back of the net, it could be a long year for the Granotes.

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Real Betis (16th in La Liga in 2006)

Stadium:  Manuel Ruiz de Lopera

Nickname: Béticos, Verdiblancos

Interesting Fact:  Juande Ramos, current coach of FC Sevilla, was once manager of Real Betis. Which is the equivalent of someone coaching at Ohio State and then coaching at Michigan.

In:  Mark González (Liverpool) Marko Babic (Bayer Leverkusen) Pavone (Estudiantes) Ricardo (Sp. Lisboa) Lima (Atlético Mineiro) Somoza (Villarreal)

Out:  Romero, Robert (PSV), Dani (Cádiz), Contreras (Cádiz), Maldonado (Nástic) Juanlu (Córdoba)

A year to forget

Last season was one to forget even for the most diehard Béticos out there. Betis was fighting all season just to remain in La Liga this year, and this battle took it’s toll on the managers and the fans.

Betis wen’t through two managers last season, Javier Irureta left in December after 6 months at the helm, and Luis Fernandez was fired after a 5-0 trouncing at home by Osasuna in which fans rioted and called for Manuel Lopez de Rivera to be ousted as the team’s owner.  Fans were generally in a state of unrest last season, even launching a bottle at Sevilla’s coach Juande Ramos, knocking him unconscious and the game was suspended.  Lest to say, there were some serious problems with Betis last season.

A new beginning

Real Betis are looking to put last year behind them and start anew.  Betis has already chalked up wins against AC Milan in their Centenario game, and against Real Madrid less than a week ago.

Under new Argentinian coach Héctor Cúper, Betis appear to be heading in the right direction.  Cuper said after the Madrid victory, ‘The team last year didn’t play good football. I only know that the Betis players here now want to form a team and the Betis that exists now is one’

Upon the departure of Robert, who was Betis top scorer last season, forwards Edú and Rafael Sóbis will need to pick up the slack.  Edu wasn’t far behind Robert last season, netting 8 goals, while Sobis had 4.

Mark Gonzales has already made a good impression at his new club, netting the Penality to give Betis the win against AC Milan and should start in the Midfield this season.  Assunção will continue his dominance in dead ball situations for Betis as he has since 2002.

This year, Betis will have to tighten up defensively if they hope to improve. The back four is comprised of two veteran Béticos, Juanito, who is the team captain, and Melli, who has been with the club since 14 years of age.   Toni Doblas will be the number one keeper, already having 74 caps for Betis.

Survey Says

Real Betis should improve markedly this season now that they are under new direction.  Don’t forget that in 2005 Betis won the Copa del Rey and finished 4th in La Liga.   Somoza will stake a claim in the midfield, and Betis will be a mid-table team.

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Athletic Bilbao (finished 17th in La Liga in 2006)

Stadium:  San Mamés

Nicknames: Rojiblancos, Los Leones

Interesting Fact:  The nickname Los Leones comes from Saint Mammes, who was thrown to the Lions and they refused to eat him.  There was a church near the stadium named San Mamés and thus the stadium was named after him as well.
In: David López (Osasuna) Muñoz (Osasuna) Aitor Ocio (Sevilla) David Cuéllar (Nàstic) Gorka (Espanyol)

Out: Urzáiz (Ajax) Javi González (Hércules) Iturriaga (Salamanca) Lafuente (Espanyol) Sarriegi (Panathinaikos)

Canteras and Basque Nationalism

In order to discuss Athletic Bilbao it is necessary to discuss the ‘cantera‘ policy.  Cantera is a spanish word that literally means ‘quarry’ but instead refers to youth teams organized by sports clubs.  Athletic Bilbao is famous for having the best cantera in Spain.

Canteras can be a good source of players, but in this region, it often comes under scrutiny.  The Basque region is infamous for having an insane fight for Nationalism, and a radical group called ETA that has killed and bombed places throughout Spain for a number of years.  In no way am I saying that has anything to do with Athletic Bilbao, but the high sense of nationalism makes the cantera system extremely popular in Bilbao.  Basques don’t see it as a no-foreigner policy, but as a Pro-Basque policy and have a few players that are not not Basque.

To show the fan’s support, according to an El Mundo survey in the 90’s, 76% of Athletic fans would rather see the team relegated than to give up the cantera policy. (thanks to Wikipedia)

New coach, new attitude

Athletic Bilbao are lucky to be in the top flight this season after staving off relegation in the final week of the season last year. Only a final week win against Levante saw them gain the necessary three points to keep their spot in La Liga this season. Athletic Bilbao have a new coach in Joaquín Caparros, who looks to revitalize Athletic the same way that he did for Sevilla in 2005.

Caparros has done a good job this pre-season, going undefeated in 7 games, but winning 3 games in their first tour by a total of 23-0, not what I would call a good warm-up for La Liga.

Something old, something new

Caparros pretty much has his starting 11 decided thanks to his pre-season matches. The attack will be spearheaded by Aduriz and Llorente who combined had 13 goals last season.

The midfield will be captained by Etxeberria, who in his 14th season at Athletic, looks to improve on his 3 goals scored last season.   He will be joined by Murillo and Javi Martinez, who both have great pace and can make overlaping runs to assist the forwards.

Aitor Ocio, fresh off of a great season at Sevilla, makes his return to Athletic alongside David Lopez, who will start in the inside of the backline. Iraizoz will start as keeper for Caparros’ squad and needs to have a great season to help along the struggling Basque side.

Survey Says 

Any team coached by Caparros can be dangerous, but I think this season will spell doom for the Basque side.  They haven’t made many chances from last season’s team and seem to be banking on the fact that you can change a coach and that will change the entire team.   Look for the Basque side to put up a fight, but then to become relegated at the end of the season.

The next La Liga preview will be Osasuna, Deportivo and Mallorca