Malaga 8

After an uneventful week, the highlights of which were winning the pub quiz again (and coming the proverbial bawhair away from what must have been a new record score, only to be foiled by our doubts about Rasputin’s beard colour – damn that lovable faith-healer/rapist!) and getting sunburned after spending an afternoon exposing my sensitive right flank to the treacherous cad sunshine on the beach, I went on to spend one of the most bizarre weekends of my entire life on a trip to Madrid to play in the Spanish rugby championships.

‘Madrid’ is maybe pushing it a bit – we stayed in a hotel on one strip of motorway and played the games on another strip of motorway on the outskirts of what could have been the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for all we actually saw of the place. We left at eight o’clock on Friday morning and sat watching the Spanish countryside roll by for eight hours before finally stopping at our hotel briefly and then heading to the first match against the Madrid league champions, Getafe. This tournament works a bit like football’s Champions League in that qualifying is regional so we got there by virtue of finishing second in the Andalician league – not that impressive when you consider that rugby in Andalucia sits somewhere between Quidditch and Ice-dancing-on-gravel (copyright Thomas ‘the Tanker’ Smythe) in the sporting pecking order. This meant that we were heavy underdogs going into the game.

Ten minutes before kick-off this turned into the least of my worries when the coach informed me that as we were twenty-five and the rules of the tournament only allowed squads of twenty-two, my lack of participation in the qualifying meant that I was to be one of the three sacrifices who had to suffer the humiliation of ‘Waterboy’ duty (although at that point I envied Adam Sandler his mild retardation). Bitter and twisted as I am, I had to suppress just a tiny bit of smugness when I witnessed a crushing 61-0 win for Getafe from the sidelines while my fellow Waterboys tried with a staggering lack of success to entice some local girls into our changing room.

At this point it looked like the trip would be useless from a rugby point of view, but surprisingly helpful in terms of Spanish speaking. Not only did I learn useful tidbits of Spanish young-person vernacular, such as replacing every noun and pronoun with the word ‘Cabron’ which was nice because it reminded me distinctly of the Glaswegian habit of doing exactly the same thing with the word ‘cunt’, but my Spanish was stretched to the absolute limit for the first time in social situations. Firstly, on the bus on the way back, the team captain made everybody go to the front of the bus and tell a joke on the microphone. Not knowing any Spanish jokes, but not wanting to be the turd in the punchbowl I took the ultimate risk and decided to translate an English joke for which I knew the appropriate vocabulary. It did not work. Just for the record here’s the joke in the original English: A man is approached by a prostitute who makes him a strange offer; ‘I will do anything you like, no matter how depraved or disgusting, for three hundred pounds if, and only if, you can describe it in three words.’ The man thinks very carefully before taking out three-hundred pounds, handing it to her and saying: ‘Paint. My. House.’ Hilarious, right? Not in Spanish, although they did appreciate the effort, which helped the next time I decided to push my limited vocabulary to the limit.

The manner of this defeat mean that our free time was cut short and its place taken by a ‘truth session’ (much like the one the Scotland rugby team had after being humiliated by Wales earlier this year). This was when I made the brave and perhaps foolish decision (given that I still do not know all the positions in a rugby team in Spanish) to play the role of Sean Lamont in making a few suggestions for how my teammates might improve in the next game. This, I think, came as a shock to most of the group, as I was one of only two non – Spanish speakers in the room (the other being a Romanian part time professional rugby player, part time gangster in a skinhead Steaua Bucharest gang – who spends all his time since moving to Spain looking for cigarettes now that his coaches cannot see him smoking) but nonetheless, once they worked out what I was trying to say (I had to do a couple of demonstrations) they appreciated my input.

Needless to say I was restored to my rightful place as the starting fly-half for the next game against Barcelona. Taking to the pitch against this team was the weirdest experience I have had in my thirteen year rugby career; the team were actually playing in those bright orange Barcelona football strips – except they were all at least twice the size of Messi, Iniesta etcetera – the only way I can compare seeing such a familiar football strip on the rugby field to any other sport I have ever watched is the moment you first see Michael Jordan pass the ball to Bugs Bunny in ‘Spacejam’. Despite a heroic effort we went down 27-10 to a team including three Belgian and two Spanish internationals (one of whom, I since found out, is going to play in France for Clermont Auvergne next season. {that’s a big deal!})

All that remained was the bus journey back, which was much more pleasurable than the way there – a solid debut making me a much more popular figure. The bus trip went from pleasant to a bit crazy after we split a few bottles of rum and whiskey; people were shaved, bottles were peed in, gauntlets were run; I got off lucky but there will be a few people scarred by that journey. We decided it would be fitting to finish off the night in town when we arrived back in Malaga around midnight, although progress was once again delayed when one of the team stole the coaches car and began to do handbrake turns, the coach responding by stealing the players’ car and trying to run him off the road ‘Police, camera, action!’ style. Evetually we got back and thankfully ended up at the club under where I live, so I could slump to bed without having to walk too much.

The only thing I had any energy for yesterday was watching football, which I did in a ‘fan pub’ for Athletico Madrid – a new experience for me although I did enjoy how much the underground cave filled with patio furniture reminded me of my favourite ‘Cosy’ bar in France – the only difference being that the walls were painted red and white and there was a kind of shrine to Diego Forlan over the door (ALL HAIL SAINT DIEGO!) So all in all a really good weekend and, more importantly the first evidence that I might actually be good at Spanish by the time July comes.

Righty, that about covers it. I have an absolute ton of work to do so ***SPOILER ALERT*** next week might involve some moaning.



Categories: Malaga, Spain

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