It had been over a year since Jen and I had been to Spain, but a break between jobs meant that we were able to nip over just in time to catch the promotion play-offs. We’d initially turned up in Girona, with the intention of watching the Segunda A play-off between the home town and Almeria.
Unfortunately I hadn’t realised that this was the biggest game in Girona’s history and that tickets were as hard to get hold of as when the Boro played in Eindhoven. Worse actually, as the Estadi Municipal de Montilivi only holds eleven thousand people.
I could have made more of an effort than I did I suppose, but I felt as if I would have been depriving someone of a ticket who actually cared about the result. In the end we just did a bit more eating and drinking in the town and I kept one eye on the game whenever a bar had a telly showing it.
There were other options though, and so later in the week we drove down to Andalucia for a first leg play-off between Granada’s reserve team and Extremadura. The overall winners would move up from the fourth tier Tercera to the dizzy heights of Segunda B. Whilst that might not sound like too much of a big deal, there are nineteen (I think) equal leagues at the fourth tier, but only four regional divisions at the third tier. Promotion would take the winners from being in the top five hundred or so clubs in the country, to the top one hundred and twenty. Not quite “We’re the finest team in football“ territory, but a step on the way.
We had stayed in Granada the previous year and very nice it was too. We’d visited the Alhambra and seen all the other touristy stuff. For a bit of variation this time we decided to stay an hour or so away in Baza. For even more variation we stayed in a cave. Apparently in the olden days most people in Baza lived in caves. Not the real olden days, when everyone lived in caves and bashed mammoths with clubs, but as recently as a hundred years ago. I could see the attraction, particularly the coolness when it was far too hot outside. The wi-fi was rubbish though, something to do with the ten foot thick walls, I’m led to believe.
On the day of the game we turned up early at the Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes. Whilst I didn’t imagine that the tie would sell out, I’m generally a lot happier once I have the tickets in my hand. The ticket office wasn’t open but they were selling them in the club shop for ten euros a time. With the tickets safely in my wallet we spent the rest of the day wandering around Granada visiting some of the tapas bars that had slipped through our net the previous year.
I’ve no idea how many people normally watch Granada reserves, but the club had appealed for fans to turn up and cheer them on. The game had been switched from the much smaller Estadio Miguel Prieto Garcia ground to try and make a bit of an occasion of it. I’d probably have been happier if the game had taken place at their usual ground, but as I hadn‘t seen a game at ‘big’ Granada’s ground either, it wasn‘t the end of the world.
Initially, only the main stand was open to the home fans. It was free seating and we had a decent view of the mountains behind the stadium. It filled up as the first half progressed and eventually the stand behind the goal to our right was opened up to take the latecomers.
Extremadura had brought about a hundred and fifty fans with them and they got the stand behind the goal to our left. Twenty or so of them put a bit of effort in with megaphones and drums. Or at least they did for the first four minutes until a glancing header into the corner of the net from Granada’s centre forward dampened their mood a little.
Granada were in the very Spanish combination of red and white hoops with blue shorts. It’s a look that has never really caught on in England. Or at least I’ve not noticed it if it has. Extremadura were dressed up as Celtic. I should probably have had a look on the internet to see if they were founded by some Glaswegian on his holidays a hundred years or so ago but it’s easier just to assume that’s what happened.
It’s a shame really that the Glaswegian hadn‘t pitched up in Baza rather than Granada. The shock of the locals living in caves might just have stopped the tales of how rough it was living in tenement slums. For a while at least anyway.
The visiting players looked that bit older than the home side, probably because they are a proper club rather than just a development team. One of their midfielders stood out for them, partly because of his long hair and headband, but mainly because he seemed to be involved in most of the Extremadura chances. He forced a good save from the home keeper after a quarter of an hour and then played a very clever ball through for one of his team mates to waste a little later. Just before half time he even managed to spark a mass scuffle before feigning innocence when it was time for the cards to be handed out.
There weren‘t as many chances for the away side in the second half though as Granada went for a second goal. I kept an eye on a baldy fella playing for Extremadura who seemed to be seeing how far he could push the ref in a quest for a yellow. Perhaps he had holidays booked that clashed with the second leg and he needed the suspension. After a number of what appeared to be final warnings the ref finally obliged close to the end.
As the game entered its last few minutes both sides were content to settle for the one-nil scoreline and just sat back to see out the time. It was a first leg result that allowed everyone to go away happy with the prospect of it all to play for a week later. A quick check of the second leg result showed that Extremadura won the return 2-1, but the away goal was enough to see Granada’s second team progress to Segunda 2B.