Malaga 18

What threatened to be the most boring week of the entire year exploded into far-fetched, comically overblown life this weekend like the opening scene from a Robert Rodriguez movie. The reason for this unexpected spoke in the monotonous, repetitive, ever spinning revision wheel was my shock selection for the Malaga team for the Spanish rugby sevens championship in Madrid.

The saga begins on Tuesday where, as I said, I turned up to training for a runaround with little hope of making it into a team which, although called Malaga, was in fact composed of players from all over Andalucia, with the exception of the semi-professional team in Sevilla. However some strong performances in training and (I won’t lie) the fact that I share the christian name of the Scottish fly-half who mesmerised Spanish rugby fans at the ’99 world cup  meant that I made the final twelve alongside, at last count, one current Spain 7s international, one full Spain cap (albeit ten years ago), one ex-Argentina 7s player, a current Romania 7s player, a former full Romania international, a former full Uruguay international and a former Spain under-20s international and the normal hodgepodge of Argentinos who live in Malaga for some reason…and me, whose closest claim to fame is being an ex-Glasgow under-17s reserve player.

So we set off on Friday and I was feeling a little nervous, firstly that I only had the rest of the weekend to study for my first exam and secondly that I would be completely out of my depth rugbywise. I managed to assuage the first fear by studying a bit on the bus, only occasionally being interrupted to ask for my views on the pornographic videos my teammates were watching on their phones – needless to say I clucked my most pretentious disapproval until one of them happened to glance at my notes just in time to catch sight of a rather vulgar sketch of a nudy lady which mysteriously appeared when I left the book unattended at the beach one day. My teammates swore vengeance for this vile act of hypocrisy which I could only assume would be in the form of alcohol.

We made one rather interesting cultural pit-stop on the way to Madrid at a restaurant/ bar called ‘Casa Pepe’ which is infamous as being the last refuge of the dregs of the old Republican party (the party of one General Franco). Inside there was a kind of shrine to what a commie bastard Zapatero is (not uncommon in Spain just now I have to say,) as well as an old flag of the state of Spain which is now unconstitutional. Being a bus full of immigrants (two of our twelve were born in Spain,) we decided to make haste before the lynch mob arrived. What followed was hours of sprawling Spanish countryside which, as I have said before, I am a fan of; it is as though someone has taken the Scottish countryside and sucked all the moisture out of it meaning that it is a slightly different shade of green but no less pleasing to look at (check me out. I’m pretty much Rousseau.)

We got to Madrid at midnight where we the original plan had been that the older guys who all had friends or family in Madrid would crash with them and the six young guys would stay in a hotel. They then backtracked reasoning that the six of us would probably go out and get smashed, so they decided that the coach would join five young guys with the sixth staying with Quino, one of the two Spaniards in the team. Fairness dictated that the youngest would be given the home comforts. The youngest was Claudio ‘el Romano’ – rumours persist that he is a mafioso and he had spent the journey trying to sell each of us in turn a stolen iphone, which led Quino to tacitly request instead that the second youngest, the nice boy who had spent the journey studying Gabriel Garcia Marquez, come instead.

As I have said before, what would once have been an awkward social situation has, in the space of nine months become a something I relish and so I quickly began to chat to Quino’s family who were staying the weekend as well. It turns out that his brother and his wife met when they were studying in Holland during…wait for it…their BLOODY Erasmus year (CO-INKY-DINK alert!!!) and were in Madrid to reunite with some Erasmus friends ten years on. I like to think it is possible I shall be doing the same in some part of Europe in ten years time (if my professional tennis player wife can get time off after Roland Garros.)

The rugby began bright and early on Saturday, before which I was able to get my first proper look at Madrid. It is stunning. As much as I like Malaga, Madrid is what Malaga wishes it was. Every street is an absolute work of art – the central post office looks like Buckingham palace and they have started building their own version of the Manhattan skyline (although are only four buildings in to the project,) which has left me desperate to spend more time there at some point.

The tournament was at Complutense University where there are two pitches built into a valley with stone stands which slightly resemble those at an ancient Greek, outdoor theatre rising up the embankment to the treeline. There was a definite party atmosphere as we were greeted to that ‘Offspring’ song from the pepsi advert blasting carefree over the matches.

We sprung something of a shock in our first game, beating a Basque team (7 French guys) 38-0 before cruising into the quarter finals with a 33-0 win over a Barcelona  based outfit. People only started noticing the boys in purple when we went on to beat one of the best 15-a-side teams in the country 12-0 in the quarter finals to set up a semi against our rivals, the Andalucian big boys from Seville. Bog boys is right; they were not the quickest team but it was like playing against a herd of hyper-intelligent, well-drilled elephants and after a brutal encounter we lost 24-7, conceding two tries when Oli, our Uruguayan nutter, was sin-binned for the third time of the day. The toll of this epic clash in which our defense can, at times, only be compared to the siege of Helms Deep (no actual historical siege comes close,) we only had six fit player to take on the host team in the 3rd-4th playoff. We put up a brave fight for ten minutes before conceding two late on to lose 31-12 and finish 4th out of 24 teams.

This called for a celebration and so the six younger guys in our team went back to the hotel accompanied by a bottle of whiskey, vodka, rum and some American high school senior on a class trip and started to have a party in our hotel before being politely told to go to our rooms and that if we went clubbing we would be locked out until breakfast (a bit like what ‘Shreddies’ do to hunger) after some trouble with rugby teams last year. Needless to say we went out to the official sevens after-party and stayed there until around half-six with me taking my punishment for being a studying SHLAD well enough to be branded ‘un auténtico escocés’, before sneaking back into the hotel by mingling with a party of touring Filipinos, grabbing a quick breakfast and then heading back towards Malaga.

The journey back was also not without incident – after making jokes about how bad our coach, J’s, driving was I was less than surprised to be prodded awake and told that the police had stopped us. It turned out that the minibus’ tax disk was nearly two years out of date which resulted in a 200 Euro fine, although it could have been worse, even the traffic cops here have guns and the coach is a seriously bad driver – like me playing Gran Turismo when I cannot be bothered steering and just scrape against the side barrier whenever there’s a corner…except in real life.

So, exhausted and having had no sleep in two days, I got back just in time to cram for my exam this morning, which despite my nerdy fascination with Latin-American literature, I limped through, almost falling asleep in my celebratory Japanese meal afterwards.

Once again I risk outstaying my welcome so I bid you good night until perhaps next week, depending on whether I have anything other than revision related cabin fever to report.

Ciao,

Gregor

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