Forza Futbol

A Better Lens at Spanish Football



It could be possibly the longest wake in the history of La Liga. We know it, they know it, the whole world knows it,  that the  bell will toll for Racing Santander and this weekend they could see themselves confirmed as the first club to be relegated from La Liga. In 2008 under Spain’s new Golden Boy, Marcelino, they reached the lofty heights of 6th and also reached the semifinals of the Copa Del Rey. But since then the club have kamikazed down the table not managing to enter the top ten since that successful 2007-08 season. Last winter a wind of change arrived. Things were looking up for a while when Ahsan Ali Syed or Mister Ali bought the club but all was not what it appeared to be.

Racing needed a saviour and Ali was seen as it. He had previously tried to buy Blackburn Rovers but said that he had become tired of having to jump through hoops and chose Racing where he got a hero’s reception. What he didn’t mention was that he had failed the ‘Fit and Proper’ person’s test to buy a Premier League club. Something that later Premier League fans would point out as a success to the system.  Ali was quick to point out that the owners of Portsmouth Football Club all passed said test and sent the club into Administration.

The Communidad of Cantabria had shares in the club but were happy to sell them to Ali. President of the Communidad, Miguel Angel Revilla, hailed his rival but then again he has always been a little odd. He refused to sit with Florentino Perez in the Palco at the Santiago Bernabeu saying that he would prefer to be sitting with the away fans, his people and be one of the gang but still got a limo to drive him to the entrance gate. The arrival saw big promises with Ali saying ‘Racing have more potential than the English (Blackburn Rovers)’ adding his objective was ‘To make the club successful and competitive on both a national and international front’. The future looked good for Racing.

First thing he did was sack the Coach, Portugal, and he brought in Marcelino to give him a 2nd stint at the club. He allowed funds to bring in players like Giovani dos Santos and the club was on the rise. Against Sevilla, Ali who had so far invested around €3.5m into the club, money that he has recognized as lost, was seen to celebrate emphatically in the stands as Racing sealed a win with a last-minute goal. He would do the same a few weeks later. But something wasn’t right.

In March 2011 there was a meeting between club president and some of the players to talk about the failure to pay the players wages. The president assured the players that Ali was good for the money and that it would be resolved in a few days. He paid part of their salaries and said the rest was on the way. A month later Ali met the players in the Espanyol dressing game after the game to say that he would pay all due wages in a few days. During this period the Tax bill also came. Ali promised it would all be paid stating that it was just a matter of transferring funds from one account to another. But, the pressure was building. Deadlines came and went and the papers started to question whether he would be paying or not. Things would, if possible, just get worse.

Interpol declared an interest in speaking to Ali and his dealings with certain businessmen and he did a disappearing act that David Blaine would be proud of. Marcelino ended the season and resigned and said ‘Ali promised everything and delivered nothing. He is someone you can not trust’. Cantabria president Revilla who had welcomed Ali changed his opinion sharpish declaring him ‘A compulsive liar’. The club president urged the Communidad to buy the club back but the problem was that technically and still to this day Ali still owns the club. The 2nd biggest shareholder was also on the run which just made the whole scenario seem like a scene from a comedy, except nobody was laughing.

This season with the vultures circling the club hired and fired Hector Cuper. Cuper left taking no compensation; probably knowing the club wasn’t good for it anyway. A new management team came in as the club’s President said enough was enough and left too. He was replaced by 3 men who don’t want the job and would walk away if they could but legally they can’t. Fans too had decided that they had enough and any player that had an option to leave, took it. The new Coach Juanjo González came looked like maybe he may be able to pull off a miracle but left as it turned out that he didn’t speak to the other 2 ‘Coaches’ and so a phone call was made to Álvaro Cervera who was on a bus with his team, Recreativo. By the time he hung up he had agreed to join the club. He got off the bus and left Recreativo to travel manager-less to an away game, phoned a Taxi and made his way to Santander were he was unveiled holding a club tea towel. Whether he was allowed to keep the tea towel has never been disclosed.

A month later he would end up in hospital with chest pains to be visited by only 2 players. He was able to sit on the bench for the Athletic game but for how long he will remain at the club is anyone’s guess. Eleven points adrift with only twelve points to play for the club will have to a Houdini style of trick to stay up. Being over €50m in debt with no sign of any investors and fans losing interest one can only fear for Racing. Maybe like Ali they too may disappear.


Around the Grounds

  • El Clasico in a few words. Real Madrid played well, won the game and almost certainly the league, Barca lost and played poor.
  • One week they can reach the Champions League spots and another week they can’t. This was a week were Atlético looked like they might reach 4th. A tough 1st half against Espanyol had Atlético fans wondering if the dream had gone. After a fantastic performance from the players and the fans on Thursday there was still excitement in the air at the Vicente Calderon and Arda Turan had fans rubbing their eyes with a fantastic goal and another lucky one to put Atleti just three points off Champions League spots at the time of writing. Some big games still to play.
  • Sevilla fans expressed their annoyance by launching tennis balls onto the pitch. The late night kick off was postponed by 30 minutes so that the Real Madrid and Barcelona press conferences and analysis could be shown. The game ended one all with that man Kone scoring again.
  • Mallorca seem to have put the final nail into Zaragoza’s coffin. Sporting may live to fight another day. Granada and Villarreal took big steps towards survival and Valencia bounced back from their disappointing Europa League tie.



Mallorca 1-0 Zaragoza, Sporting 2-1 Rayo, Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid, Sevilla 1-1 Levante, Granada 1-0 Getafe, Real Sociedad 1-1 Villarreal, Racing 0-1 Athletic, Atlético 3-1 Espanyol, Valencia 4-0 Betis.

Garreth Nunn On April - 23 - 2012

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