I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

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November 22nd 2017
Published: November 26th 2017
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We were back in our regular Taberna De Cervantes for another selection of tapas on Saturday evening. After our lunch, we opted to have just a few dishes. We had been much later the previous evening and the place was crowded. Tonight, we had just beaten the rush. An hour later, the place was packed. The surrounding areas had also visibly filled up since we started dining, so we just wandered aimlessly in the adjacent streets considering our next plan. The Plaza de la Merced is a large square at the top of town. The top side is lined with bars. The majority were buzzing. We settled for one selling the local Victoria Beer. Since 1928. In a world of fizzy lager dominated by San Miguel and the Seville based Cruz Campo, Victoria is a much smoother taste. The bar choice served pints at 3 Euros, which was substantially cheaper than the competition 100 metres or so further into the main town area. The early night turned into a late night – by our standards anyway – so it was gone midnight before we left. In Spanish terms, this is not far off going out time. They are all happy to stay out most of the night.

We had a late start on Sunday morning. The main event of the weekend. .... well in my mind at least ..... kicked off at the bizarre time of noon. Malaga Club De Futbol versus Deportivo La Coruna at the La Romereda Stadium. This translates to the Rose Garden. The Other Half had been perplexed why I had been singing the words to that Lynn Anderson classic from 1970 - I Never Promised You A Rose Garden. In the true Spanish style of not being able to organise, the kick off was only fixed a couple of weeks ago. The days of Sunday evening football in Spain are over and now the matches are scheduled from Friday to Monday to suit the whims of TV and the extra pressures of European competition. The Saturday fixtures are penned in for the big boys – so often it will be Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletico Madrid and Sevilla. Malaga were moaning in the press at their misfortune on the latest kick off times released. Small clubs elsewhere were probably also citing the conspiracy that allows the big teams to prosper. The Madrid derby had taken place at 2045 hours on Saturday and was dominating the TV and the newsprint. There is limit to how many times you can show Sergio Ramos getting his nose broken, but not apparently if you are a Spanish TV director. The match had been on in the bar the previous evening, but I was intrigued to see the total lack of interest from the locals. As it was a 0-0 draw, they had made a wise choice to ignore the event. I had taken the liberty of utilising the Malaga official website ticket link once the game time was confirmed and so with the Print At Home option, we already had our seats. The price of football in Spain never ceases to amaze me, but these tickets were a mere 15 Euros. We would see whether they were a good choice.

It was a mere 20 minute walk to La Romereda. The directions could not be simpler too. Follow the dried up river north and 3 bridges later, the white skeleton of the ground appeared on the left hand side. A lot of European grounds look decidedly uninviting, but the exposed white beams of the 2
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lateral side stands looked pristine in the sun. Graffiti was also scare. There was no sense of fans converging on mass on the area as we approached. It was an orderly procession of families bedecked in their club colours. The parking was as random as you would find anywhere with touts inviting vehicles to park anywhere with little thought of how the other cars could escape their spaces. The local bars were not full, but that could have been the time of day. The busiest spot on match day seemed to be the Malaga Official Shop, although judging by the price of the official shirts I am not sure why. 80 Euros to wear Marathon Bet on your chest!

As with many games in the La Liga, away fans are a sparse breed. The official attendance was listed as a healthy crowd of 24563. It wasn’t bad given that Malaga were rock bottom of the league with a solitary win so far this season. La Coruna hadn’t fared too much better to date with a sum total of 6 points on the board. The distance of 1100 kilometres had proved too much for the La Coruna fans. A swift headcount in the empty section on the far side revealed a following of 84! The 15 Euro seats proved to be 15 Euros for a reason. A fence obscured our view. As a seasoned campaigner, a simple relocation to a better and more expensive view solved that problem. A group of Malaga Ultras congregated behind the south goal and a large England flag fluttered above an exit in the south east corner. The so called Guiri Army apparently comprise of expat bar owners from Benalmadena down the coast. The game itself wasn’t exactly end to end, but provided plenty of goals. Malaga clawed back from a 2-1 deficit to record their 2nd victory of the season. La Coruna should have sealed it with a great chance to make it 3-1. Alas Lucas Perez proved why he wasn’t still at Arsenal, despite having being sold to them by Deportivo for a hefty £15 million. It makes me wonder about scouts and what they see, when judging a player. The Malaga sub showed him how to do it and converted his clear cut opportunity near the end.

I actually thought there was more atmosphere than
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I was expecting, especially with the token army in attendance from La Coruna. The Other Half thought the football was quite entertaining, but later admitted she was actually missing a few flags and flares. She was secretly missing Legia Warsaw at this point. I did point out that was what you got in “normal” destinations. There was one consolation though……. with each Malaga goal, Chase the Sun by Planet Funk boomed out of the PA. Whatever happened to playing that Lynn Anderson classic?

The football at an end, we sought a lunch venue. We walked due south from the football club and got a table at a café called ONA. It was directly across from the hospital. We had been lucky. A queue had developed within 15 minutes or so. The choice was Menu Del Dia – Menu of The Day, which most Spanish restaurants offer as a matter of course. In this case, it was 9.50 Euros for a drink, starter, main and choice of coffee, ice-cream or dessert. The reality is that there is hardly a distinction between the size of the “first plate” and the “second plate” - both are quite large – so it works out as a good deal. The Other Half was somewhat disturbed when she finished up with a coffee instead of a dessert, but it seemed to get lost somewhere in translation.

The sport out of the way, it was time for culture. It is quite common for museums to have a free access period and in Malaga, Sunday afternoon is your opportunity. The Picasso Museum conveniently was free between 4 and 6 pm and the Carmen Thyssen between 6 pm and 8 pm, which gave us the opportunity to do both for free. The queue was forming when we arrived at about 3.35 pm, but it was nowhere near that we had experienced in Barcelona. We had been to this museum on our previous visit in 2014, but the collection would have changed since then. I am never sure about Picasso. I can see the merit in the later colourful cubism works, but some of the earlier sketch works could seem to some as just an excuse to seduce a young model. The museum attendants had their work cut out trying to keep an eye on all the visitors. It must be a pretty boring way to make a living, attempting in vain to stop make people keep their cameras and other technology in their pocket. We moved on to the Carmen Thyssen, which has been open in Malaga since 2011. Carmen is a wealthy Spanish socialite and art collector, having moved on from being Miss Spain 1961. There was a special exhibition with works by Juan Gris and in all honesty, the cubism works on show were more impressive than down at the Picasso. There were also a lot more what I would describe as normal pictures. The wife likes works by Sorolla, so she concluded that the whole experience was far superior than that at Picasso. We retreated for a coffee, but alas Julia Pantry on Calle Carreteria was closed. Brunchit Organic next door but one didn’t really compare. There would be no prizes for guessing where we would end up for food later in the evening – creatures of habit, if nothing else.

After a breakfast with the stars - a reincarnation of Michael Jackson surfaced complete with white gloves, we had a pleasant stroll by the port on Monday morning. All was quiet, except for a few Liverpool fans were making merry before their departure to Seville for the Champions League match on the following day.

Appendix 1

Santander La Liga

Malaga CF 3 Deportivo La Coruna 2

Date : Sunday 19 November 2017 @ 1200 Hours

Venue : La Romereda Stadium, Malaga, Andalucia, Spain

Attendance : 24,878

Scorers : 1-0 Roberto Rosales 15 Min (Malaga CF), 1-1 Lucas Perez 23 Min (Deportivo), 1-2 Fabian Schar 52 Min (Deportivo), 2-2 Chory Castro 63 Min (Malaga CF), 3-2 Borja Baston 84 Min (Malaga CF)
Malaga CF: Roberto, Paul Baysse, Juankar,Luis H, Roberto Rosales, Adrián, Rolón,Chory Castro, Keko, Diego Rolan, Peñaranda

Deportivo La Coruna: Rubén, Luisinho, Sidnei, Gerard, Fabian Schär, Celso Borges, Federico Valverde, Guilherme, Fede Cartabia, Lucas Pérez, Bakkali

Additional photos below
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