So the nerves are kicking in on the eve of Valencia’s biggest match to date in this season’s La Liga. In fact, Real Madrid’s loss away to Athletic has even made some fans stop thinking about simply toppling Atletico Madrid in the battle for 3rd place but going as far as to dreaming of an outside run at the title. Whether that eventually comes to fruition or not, it’s nice to see pride in supporting Valencia again amongst the locals.
My story isn’t quite the same as most Valencia CF fans. I wasn’t born in Valencia (or even Spain for that matter), nor do I come from a Valencia supporting family. I can’t recall the memories of Mundo, Fernando or Mario Kempes or go into much detail about Rafa Benitez’s title winning sides. Prior to moving out here seven years ago my knowledge of Valencia was restricted to my playing as them on Pro Evolution Soccer (Vicente was phenomenal, shame knee injuries curbed his actual development) and watching them in the Champions League (David Silva’s goal against Chelsea sticks in the mind).
I arrived here just in time to see Valencia CF see off Getafe in the Copa del Rey final and the subsequent images of fans climbing into the local water fountain, cars beeping their horns and drunken singing throughout the town (I live outside the city centre).
Yet once the buzz had worn off the lack of coverage and notoriety which Valencia CF received was worrying. It became an afterthought as attention turned to the turmoil at Barcelona and Real Madrid winning another La Liga title. This has become quite common. I recall the night after Valencia CF had beaten Malaga 5-1 in La Liga and it receiving less time than the coverage of Jose Mourinho’s new haircut.
The media has played its part, without doubt, as only Real Madrid and Barcelona seem to matter. They made Valencia CF appear unimportant and you’d see the next generation of kids in Valencia carrying schoolbags with the emblems of Real Madrid or Barcelona plastered all over them instead of ‘Los Che’.
The pride in supporting Valencia was made more difficult by the awful decisions made at boardroom level, too. Non-football people trying to turn a quick buck before bailing; leaving a broken football club in their wake.
For those of you lucky to live in or around Valencia, you’ll know that most villages and towns have ‘medieval’ markets from time to time. It’s embarrassing to have to ask where the Valencia CF related stuff is. You could almost be forgiven for forgetting that Valencia even had a football side.
That was until Peter Lim arrived on the scene, alongside his buddies Nuno Espirito Santo and agent to the stars, Jorge Mendes. The squad was revolutionized by smart, relatively cheap purchases coupled with more expensive – although equally as smart – ones. The team lacked genuine identity prior to Lim’s takeover and now it looks like one that not only has a good present but a good future as well. Not bad in less than 8 months.
So as all eyes turn to the match vs Atletico Madrid it’s worth putting into perspective how far we’ve come. The journey isn’t over yet and there will be plenty more ‘stops’ on the way, but the wheels won’t come off regardless of the result tonight. We’re only getting started.
I was at a birthday party for one of my son’s friends yesterday. Guess what emblem was on 4-5 of the gifts?
Pride has been restored to Valencia CF. Next up? Glory.