Each and every week the Lads from cult 90’s Sunderland fanzine ‘It’s The Hope I Can’t Stand’ bring you their views right here on RokerReport.com - don’t miss it! Today, it’s the turn of Nic Wiseman...
Whilst taking an unexpected trip to Spain, I took the opportunity to do a bit of football tourism.
On Sunday night, the town I was visiting, Gandia (some 35m to the south of Valencia —Spain’s third-biggest city) held a fiesta. Which is a raucous, crazy letting off of spirits (and firecrackers).
In the midst of this, the Spanish national football side were seeing off Georgia 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier. So, watching this through a haze of smoke on one of the myriad of TVs in cafes and bars was somewhat of a surreal experience.
Valencia is the administrative capital of the East Coast of Spain, known as the Costa Blanca, and I had some admin to do in one of the official buildings there - which happened to be a stone’s throw from Campo Mestalla, the home of La Liga club, Valencia CF.
So when I sent some pictures back to base, Gav, the editor of this here site, remarked that Valencia were the Arsenal of La Liga: big stadium, massive fan base, but won very little over the last few years. But Arsenal did win the FA Cup in 2020! Surely a more appropriate comparison would be Sunderland - who have won next to nothing in the last 50 years.
Though... that comparison doesn’t really work, as Valencia, under Rafa Benitez (when he was unrecognisably skinny) won the UEFA Cup in 2004 and the La Liga titles in 2002 and 2004. Indeed, Benitez’s predecessor, Héctor Cúper, took Valencia to the Champions’ League final in consecutive years: 2000 and 2001.
When it comes down to it, there is much to compare these two hotbeds of football.
Go anywhere from Alicante in the south to Valencia in the north and any bar is full of Valencia memorabilia. Though the range isn’t quite the same, I’m willing to bet the population coverage is similar.
Any pub or bar in Wearside/Durham (and some in Northumberland) will display Sunderland favours. And whilst we have been wringing our hands for so long with the dilemma of how such a huge club can, with a big stadium and massive fan base, do so badly off the field.
It happens all over the world. Just look to Spain.
And another similarity to leave you with. Football really is a world game, with people obsessed with it the world over - no matter where you go.