As any League of Ireland fan knows we have one of the longest football off-seasons anywhere in Europe. The last game of the season was the FAI Cup Final won by Dundalk FC on the 8th November 2015 and the new season won’t kick off again until March 4th 2016. It’s a long gap between live football matches, especially as a I missed a few of Bohs later fixtures last year.
This lacuna in live football got me to reminiscing about this time last year when I was able to get away for some winter sun in the Canary Islands, specifically Lanzarote. It was the first time I’d gone away to the sun at that time of year but I’d heartily recommend it. It was something to look forward to after the inevitable post-Christmas comedown and it broke up the drudgery of bleak, dark January evenings.
Any time I get away I try to catch a game, or if it’s the off season even just visit the local stadium. I dropped by to see a game between UD Lanzarote and UD Telde from the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria. Both teams play in the regionalised Tercera division which is officially the fourth tier of the Spanish football pyramid and is split into 18 different regional groups. The Canary Island teams feature in Group 12.
The match was played in the local municipal sports ground, the Ciudad Deportiva de Lanzarote in the main city of Arrecife. In keeping with the rest of the architecture on the island it is low-rise and whitewashed collection of buildings, and has a running track surrounding the pitch. The capacity is listed at around 6,000 with most accommodated in a main stand opposite the primary entrance to the ground. The entrance fee was a modest €5.
On the day there were may 700-800 supporters present, I was trying to get a handle on the make-up of the support, there seemed to be a few tourists like myself, some ex-pat British and Irish who’d probably retired to the sun and a fair number of local Canarians, one of whom, a somewhat older, man was highly vocal and had a habit of banging the advertising hoarding for the slightest of reasons. I know that a lot of the marketing and promotion of the club is done by an English ex-pat named Ian Lane and he was to be found running the Lanzarote club shop at half-time. This consisted of a patio table selling jerseys, scarves and other souvenirs along by the track (there is a good interview with Ian in issue 6 of the Football Pink by the way). Nearby was a red food and drinks kiosk that did up some tasty fried pork sandwiches and some ice cold beer, which thankfully you could take back to the shade of the stand. Despite this generous concession there was no mass drunken uproar in the stands for the beginning of the second half, just a thought.
As for the level of football, that’s a hard call. It reminded me quite a bit of League of Ireland standard, a certain mix of players, some obviously playing at the very height of their ability and the handful of players of certain quality probably wondering how they ended up playing at this level. However, there were some serious defensive lapses and the quality of goalkeeping from both sides was especially poor. There was a midfielder lining out for Lanzarote who particularly looked the part, a constant attacking threat, he was hard to miss with his Fellaini-like mop of hair. The game ended 2-2 and there were some lovely moments of skill and two cracking goals from distance.
It’s now the middle of January, the heat is on in the house, there’s ice on the ground and no live senior football in Dublin. This year I’ll be off to the home island of UD Telde, Gran Canaria, and hopefully to catch a La Liga game featuring the islands’ only top flight side Las Palmas. I can’t wait.