Atletico Malagueno v Loja CD
El Estadio de Atletismo Ciudad de Málaga / Tercera División / 13th October 2019
I think I’ve gone a bit mad persisting and subjecting myself to the floundering efforts of sinking Málaga CF. Well, that madness was further confirmed this weekend. The morning after watching the big boys of Málaga succumb to another defeat, I found myself waking up the next morning and getting ready to go to watch the reserve team of Málaga, Atletico Malagueno, in a soulless athletics stadium on the outskirts of the city. Bonkers. The groundhopping side of my brain overcame my common sense, as Málaga don’t usually play at this arena, but instead usually at Federación Malagueña de Fútbol. An elusive tick presented itself.
Breakfasted in my hostel, I was on my way to the ground shortly after 10am with Google Maps telling me I had about an hour walk ahead of me (which proved to be a bit optimistic). I decided a long morning stroll would help clear my head from the late night beer drinking and the hangover of another Málaga loss the evening before. I certainly was not going to be participating in the run that was going on along the seafront anyway.
I opted for the scenic route to the ground and headed down to the beach. According to the map, I could just walk in a straight line across the various beaches heading west and then turn up to the athletics stadium Easy peasy.
What a beautiful morning it was too! So beautiful in fact that I soon realised it’d be rude to rush up to the ground and so I slowed the pace down to enjoy the rising sun, as it slowly began to burst out over the empty beach (it seemed I had beat the tourists out). The combination of the sunshine and the previous night’s beers had convinced me that a morning tipple in a chiringuito was a good idea – the morning was into double digit hours at least. And where better to drink than in a bar on Paseo Antonio Banderas – named after Málaga’s main man. Although he makes it to less games these days, Banderas is Málaga born and bred and is a fan of the football club. Just this month, in an interview with Sur, he expressed his view that Al Thani needs to go (I think we all agree there Antonio), but on being asked whether he’d consider getting involved with the club, he stated it wasn’t him for him sadly. Unfortunately, the city’s other wealthy son and most certainly the city’s most famous son, Pablo Picasso, died almost 50 years ago now, so we can’t ask him to chip in either.
I took my sweet time enjoying a Cruzampo in a little chiringuito along Paseo Antonio Banderas, before realising I was enjoying it too much and that only a brisk walk would get me to the ground in time for kick-off. I wish I had stayed in the chiringuito in hindsight.
The stadium really could not be located closer to the edge of Málaga. Literally, it is the first building you see as you arrive into the city and as I looked westwards on my walk, all I could see was the wild, overgrown wasteland stretching out alongside the motorway. Málaga is a beautiful city, but it seemed I had found myself in one of the more bleak parts of the city. Heading through it reminded me of some of my walks through the more Soviet-ised jungles of tower blocks and rundown shopping areas I encountered during my time living in Slovakia. There it was though, just trying to creep away from the more downtrodden suburbs of Málaga was El Estadio de Atletismo Ciudad de Málaga, glistening in the sunshine next to some battered apartment blocks.
Okay, I knew beforehand that watching football inside a municipal athletic stadium is never exactly the most thrilling football experience, but, you know…groundhopping and all that, so here I was anyway. I’d been to several athletics stadiums to watch football during my stint living in Central Europe and had had enough fun times there, so I went with hope, but it was hope mislaid it seemed. So what was different here? Well, it was just sort of…well bland. I couldn’t really tell you much about it as it was so unmemorable. Clutching at positives, I suppose the main grandstand is quite impressive really and towers over everything else, but even that is just a big, grey, slightly shiny, two-tiered block of concrete. The more I think about it, the only slightly interesting thing about the place was the the aforementioned tower blocks making a sort of backdrop – if you are into tower blocks (which I sort of am weirdly).
Another positive was that Málaga season ticket holders could get into the game for free, but that positive soon went out the window when I found no beer on sale (I suppose this is a place of ‘athleticism’). Then I was charged €3 for a bottle of Coke with the lid taken off and I was already done with the place. Hopefully the football would brighten things up a bit…
The bright spark of the game wouldn’t be Atletico Malagueno, but their counterparts from Loja CD. The club name may be familiar to some – especially those with a passion for football shirts. “Weren’t they that club who had massive prawns emblazoned on their shirts in 2017/18?” I hear people shout – indeed they were. Today, they had some similarly funky shirt design too, but I couldn’t for the life of me work out what was etched onto them. Initially, I thought maybe shells, following on from the prawn/seafood theme, and then debated with myself whether they were CDs. Answers on a postcard please.
Having witnessed a superbly fun game at Estepona in the fifth tier a few weeks previous, I was hoping that this fourth tier game would be a fun one too. It had its moments, but it was generally a dull game with some brief bursts of quality. It didn’t take long until I was already bored.
Loja took the lead with a well worked goal, which was greeted with a loud cheer from the contingent who had travelled over from the Granada region.
It wasn’t long before Málaga equalised with probably the best goal I’ve seen on my Spanish travels thus far (admittedly, there had been virtually no real contenders in this field until this one). With a yard of space 20 yards from goal, Julio unleashed a ferocious shot from nowhere that flew into the top corner.
I refused to hand over another €3 for a drink and so I spent most of my half-time admiring the wonderful blue and white Málaga flat cap of the gentleman sitting in front of me. I shall be keeping my eyes peeled for such headwear on future trips to Malaga.
With the ‘real’ Málaga struggling in the league, my second half thoughts turned to whether any of these players could step up to play with the big boys of the first team To be honest, there was really no-one, which was quite worrying, aside from maybe goalscorer Julio, who has put in a few goals for the B team already this season.
Loja put in another goal as they broke forward 1v1 with the keeper. I loved the fact that the goalscorer was J. Naranjo. Initially, I thought ‘Naranjo’ was ‘Orange’ and so I thought we might have a Spanish Jason Orange playing for Loja, but i’ve since learned that Naranjo is actually ‘Orange tree’ – still close. He displayed no Take That-esque dance moves in his goal celebration anyway, so we’ll just write off that comparison here.
Málaga did eventually grab an equaliser in the last ten minutes, but, quite frankly, I think I’d lost interest by then and I think my mind had already drifted towards thinking about where to go for the post match beers. As the final whistle blew for full-time, I was already heading out the gates, although I had to ask a security lady to let me out as it seemed they had locked us in so nobody could escape this prison of athletics too early.
Predictably, the decision I made in those final minutes was to head to La Fabrica – Málaga’s Cruzcampo hub in the Soho area (hey, look, I wrote a whole blog dedicated to that place here). As I drank their Trigo beer, I decided that I had absolutely no intention of going back to the athletics stadium again, but that I’d certainly be coming back to La Fabrica many times in the future.