Rayo Vallecano must be the funniest, most enjoyable club in Spain,
led by the first top-flight female president, the equine Teresa Rivero.
The football might not be great, in fact it's rarely better than awful,
but you can't help feeling that the fans like it that way, and it's
impossible not to enjoy a match down in the south-eastern Madrid barrio
From the dinky club shop that tragically sells everyone else's shirts
as well, to the comically awful official club hymn, which sounds like
it's been penned by a Blue Peter competition winner in the under-fives
category, through the Peru-style diagonally-striped shirts, the
sprinkler system inevitably leaping into action mid-match, and the
cuddly Bee mascot who spends half-time playing head tennis with both
sides' subs, it's all good for a laugh.
Traditionally Madrid's third club until the rise of Getafe, Rayo are a tin-pot outfit that, despite a stint
in the UEFA Cup and an obsession with Spain's authorities and referees
having it in for them, doesn't really pretend to be anything else – one
Rayo player once revealed that he wiled away the dead time between a
double training session with "lunch at McDonald's and a kip in the back
of a truck". Somehow, it suited.
They have spent some time in the top flight – four successive years after promotion in 1999 – and although they've since then dipped into the third tier, they've climbed their way back for another pop at the big time in the 2011/12 season.
Rayo's fans are the capital's radical footballing left-wingers and
images of Che Guevara and cannabis litter the ground, along with Basque
and Nicaraguan flags, and anti-American placards, waved by a heady mix
of punks and skinheads. Meanwhile ever-so-charming young scamps clamber
the fences and try to land greenies on the heads of players or, better
still, officials. Brilliant.
Overlooked by flats, Rayo's 15,000-capacity Teresa Rivero stadium
– yep, named after la presidenta, but with the voted approval of the fans – only has three stands, square, steep, and right up against the one of
the smallest, most uneven pitches in the league. The other end is merely
a wall, covered with adverts.
It could hardly be easier to get to: the entrance to the Portazgo
Metro station (15 minutes south from city-centre Sol on Line 1, exit
Payaso Fofo) is literally three metres from the ground and all of eight
from the best steak sandwich in town.
Club address c/Payoso Fofo s/n, 28018 Madrid
Telephone (0034) 914 782 253
For regular updates on the crazy world of Spanish football, see our blog La Liga Loca
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