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From Sphinx to Malaga

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

(from ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost)


Monday 7th January 2013 Baker Joiner Midland Alliance k.o.:- 7.45pm

Coventry Sphinx                         1                                 Rocester                 3
Kyrain Johai 86                                                                 Jack Lansgton 13, Joe Rogers 62
Chris Sterling 67
referee:-                                                                                attendance:- 72


It was at Coventry Sphinx on 26th March last year that I saw my last 0-0 draw, one hundred and fifty-six games ago, so it was with a little trepidation that I hit the road this evening to travel to The Sphinx Sports Ground for the tussle with Rocester, whom I had last seen playing in The NorthernPremier League!!

Sphinx have a pleasant bar with some sort of Arabic Sky Sports and a snooker table. The programme is issued free with your entrance charge and, Claire, they have pies to die for! I chose a succulent chicken and mushroom with short crust pastry, a little smaller that the usual rubbish, but what it lacked in size it more than made up for in taste. I nearly had a second, but having slapped on the pounds over Christmas, I resisted the temptation!

Not only were the pies excellent, Claire, they were very competitively priced!

Not only were the pies excellent, Claire, they were very competitively priced!

The last time I was here, Sphinx were challenging strongly for the championship. Tonight, they were a pale imitation of last season’s splendour. Rocester controlled the game from start to finish and it was a surprise, when, four minutes from the end, Sphinx actually managed to grab a consolation.

Tuesday 8th January 2013 Uhlsports Hellenic League k.o.:- 8.00pm
Premier Division

Flackwell Heath              0                                    Kidlington                      1
Ryan Curtin
referee:- Mr R. Beveridge                                           attendance:- 70


My eldest son, James, accompanied me down to Flackwell Heath from Chipping Norton, where he lives and I popped in to see my second grand-son, Sonny Alexander, before we set out! It was a miserable night with thick drizzle and mist and the forty or so mile drive down the M40 to junction 4 in heavy traffic was not a pleasant experience. Worse was to follow. As we left the M40 up the slip road, it was obvious that there had been some traffic incident. The whole area resembled a giant car-park. Nothing was moving and having given ourselves plenty of time to get there, the time dribbled through our fingers as kick-off time came and went. Eventually we arrived at the ground around fifteen minutes after kick-off time.

Imagine our surprise then to find that the game hadn’t even started! The away team bus had been caught up in the same traffic jam that had held us up. We even had time for a pint before the game kicked off.


James was quite taken with Flackwell Heath. It was a first visit for both of us and James was particularly impressed with the size and quality of his cheese and bacon hamburger, to which, naturally, he added a portion of chips! By half time he was on gin and tonics and so perhaps he didn’t notice as we took our places in the empty section of the stand, that the reason for the stand being empty was that the roof leaked copiously! Ben, one of his friends who plays in The Hellenic league referred to Flackwell Heath as a ‘dump’ and he did have a point, but there was a certain old worldly charm about the place.

Sadly, the home team didn’t show their true colours tonight. They hold a top five place in the league whilst their opponents lie entrenched in the bottom five. On the basis of this match, the league placings should have been reversed! Kidlington were more positive and determined and certainly more effective as they took an early lead and defended it tenaciously. Right at the death, the ball ping-ponged around their penalty area like a ball bearing in a slot machine, but skill and not a little luck preserved their scoreline intact.

Wednesday 9th January 2013 Chromasports & Trophies k.o.:- 7.45pm
United Counties League Division 1

Northampton Sileby Rangers       3          Wellingborough Whitworths              2

referee:- Stuart Tweedale (Northampton)              attendance:-


Second son, Mike accompanied me to this evening’s encounter and I popped in to see my first grand-child this time before setting out for the relatively short journey to Northampton.

The hoar frost glistened on the sward even before a ball had been kicked and the news that second placed Oadby Town had won 5-0 the previous evening to cut the home team’s lead at the top of the table to just three points was the main talking point in the bar before the match. There seemed to be no suggestion other than that Wellingborough Whitworths, the visitors, would be little more than whipping boys and the five point lead duly restored.


Two of my former pupils were playing for the home side, both in defence and both acquitted themselves honourably although, the home defence was given a torrid examination by Whitworths who took the lead, fell behind by half time but drew level early in the second half only to succumb to a late winner to the home team.

The fog really thickened in the second half and the far touchline became little more than a blur!

The fog really thickened in the second half and the far touchline became little more than a blur!

It was a lively match, but by the second half, the fog had become so bad that we feared for an abandonment. From our position on the half-way line, both goals were just about visible, but the dugouts opposite were totally lost in the fog and several times the play drifted in and out of the mist with weird discontinuity. Perhaps Sileby deserved their victory, but Whitworths proved a handful and would have been worthy of a point!

Saturday 12th January 2013      Winter Break Friendly     k.o.:- 3.30pm

Feyenoord                1                     Club Brugge               2

Jean Paul Boetius 48                    Carlos Bacca 12, Ofoe Vadis (pen) 52

referee:- Dominguez Cervantes    attendance:- 1,250

The Marbella Football Centre, La Quinta Golf Club, Marbella.

The Marbella Football Centre, La Quinta Golf Club, Marbella.

It was warm and sunny in Spain, a far cry from the dour, dull and dank conditions I had left behind! I had a fourth floor flat with a balcony overlooking the sea front at Fuengirola and for the first match, I took a twenty-five kilometre bus ride along the coast to Marbella. Everywhere in Marbella, the signposts pointed to golf clubs! My taxi ride up to La Quinta Golf Club cost seven times the bus fare to Marbella! I was there in plenty of time to look around the football museum at The Marbella Football Centre and to chat to some of the hundreds of (mainly) Feyenoord fans, many of whom had travelled all the way from Rotterdam to watch this match!

Inside the Marbella Football Centre Museum is a list of the rules of association Football as drafted in 1863

Inside the Marbella Football Centre Museum is a list of the rules of association Football as drafted in 1863

There were no programmes, but I managed to finesse a team sheet from one of the officials. The match started with fire crackers from the Feyenoord fans but early on a fantastic lob from close to the half way line from Carlos Bacca completely bamboozled the Feyenoord goalkeeper and gave Club Brugge the lead (see it on YouTube).

Pitch side at The Marbella Football Centre.

Pitch side at The Marbella Football Centre.

Just after half-time, a pretty similar situation led to Feyenoord’s equaliser, and the travelling support reacted rapturously! We were joined in the stand by players from Roda JC who were also touring Spain during the winter break and confidence grew in the Feyenoord camp in anticipation of victory!

The Dutch fans lighting flares as the match gets underway.

The Dutch fans lighting flares as the match gets underway.

That hope was shattered only five minutes later when the referee, after initially waving play on following a penalty area clash, then awarded a deserved penalty to Club Brugge and their best player, Vadis, struck with unerring accuracy to win the match. In the last fifteen minutes there were more substitutions than a whore’s entertainment list, but that didn’t detract from what had been a wonderful and very well organised spectacle.

I got a lift back to the bus station with an ex-pat Dutch couple who actually lived in Marbella and then the bus ride (2 euros 96) back along the coast in the growing dark to my cosy flat. I wrote a dozen postcards and then went out, Claire, for the best meal of the weekend at an Indian restaurant on the front. I’m not particularly enamoured of Spanish cuisine, hence the choice of Indian and the chicken dupiazza washed down with a fine bottle of red wine just hit the spot!

Sunday 13th January 2013         Primera Andaluza        k.o.:- 11.30am

Group 3

UD Fuengirola-Boliches          1       UDC Torredonjimeno          2

Alberto Lozano 37                                             De Vez 62, Carlos 76

referee:- Munoz Camara Rafael David (Cordoba)   attendance:- 74

Stadio Municipal Santa Fe de Los Boliches Antonio Basilio

Stadio Municipal Santa Fe de Los Boliches Antonio Basilio

I didn’t really know what to expect of this match. It was local, no more than a ten minute walk down the road. The stadium looked pretty impressive for a “non-league” ground, but the pitch was plastic, not the modern 3G variety but more akin to the very bouncy plastic pitches that Luton Town used to play on in the eighties! Primera Andaluza is pretty well down on scale of the Spanish pyramid (see:-, but the quality of football was perhaps at the level of step six in England.

Five euros gained you entrance, but there was no programme again and a very sparse crowd dotted the terraces mainly on the sunny side of the stadium.


These two teams were locked at sixth and seventh in the table and it proved to be a tight encounter. The home side took the lead in the first half, but it was Torredonjimeno (how that name would trip off the tongue if only I knew how to pronounce it!) who prevailed with an equaliser on the hour and a winner fifteen minutes from time.

Antonio Basilio

Antonio Basilio


Sunday 13th January 2013           Primera Liga                  k.o.:- 9.00pm

Malaga                            1                        Barcelona                       3

Buonanotte  88                                        Lionel Messi 27

                                                                Cesc Fabregas 49,  Thiago 83

referee:- Delgado Ferreiro (Comite Vasco)       attendance:- 29,500

La Rosaleda, Malaga

La Rosaleda, Malaga

This was an expensive outing! Ninety-five euros secured me a ticket (56 euros) and a coach seat for the thirty kilometre ride to Malaga for this sell out fixture. The seat was high up in the stadium to the right of the goal at one end of the ground and would definitely have been classed as “restricted vision” at an English Premier Club. Fortunately, the metal framework carrying television cables was not to much of a hindrance to my enjoyment of the game!


The coach dropped us right outside the ground and collected us half an hour after the final whistle. Most of those aboard were English ex-pats and these kind of trips appear to be big business along The Costa Del Sol.

This was my view at La Rosaleda for the match against Barcelona!

This was my view at La Rosaleda for the match against Barcelona!

The game was pretty one sided. Lionel Messi, who was worth the entrance money for his display alone, scored one goal and created the other two for his team and considering his slightness of physique, he was strong as well as skilful and had a considerable influence on the course of the match.


It was much colder that at any other time during my stay in Spain and there was even a sharp shower just before half-time. Once again, there were no programmes, but there were free hand-outs of a football newspaper in Spanish and I collected one in lieu of the missing programme. It seems to me that Spanish football clubs are missing out on a lucrative finance stream!

There was the usual rolling on the ground following any physical contact challenge. “Like a dead man, writhing around”, said my brother, which somewhat begs the question, but provided mind boggling imagery! Despite having lived in Spain for the last ten years, Paul’s last football match before tonight was at the San Siro in 2009!

The view from my fourth floor flat balcony earlier in the day!

The view from my fourth floor flat balcony earlier in the day!

I was back on my fourth floor balcony by 12.30am with another fine bottle of red wine, still soaking up the atmosphere from a splendid occasion!

Sadly, I left for England and snow and frost the following day, whilst my brother returned to his crosswords and quizzes on the balmy Costa del Sol.

Maybe I’ll come again.

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