They dance to one side and then they dance to another. They go up and then they go. They call to the other two stands and the others answer them. They are the Bukaneros, the Ultras that follow Rayo Vallecano. One of the Ultras’ terrace favourites is a chant that says that they have followed their team to the Segunda B and they would do it again, but it appears that the Rayo’s supporters have a limit and that limit is Monday night football.
All around the ground posters calling for respect for fans and proper kick-off times were hung. Rayo has always been different. In a ground where a flag of the Spanish Republic can be seen flying beside one of Che Guevara and a popular chant is a tweaked version of La Marseillaise, albeit in Spanish, Vallecas, or Vallekas as it is known locally, is different.
Posters with the statement of ‘Love Rayo, Hate Racism’ with a picture of former England international Laurie Cunningham are a matter of pride for the politically left leaning fans. The fans here have seen it all. They have seen their club top the table. They have travelled in Europe and they have also seen the walls crashing down around them but they have never been afraid to let their views be known, no matter what those in charge think.
Last season the club President, Raul Martin Presa, announced that the games against Real Madrid and Barcelona would be known as the infamous ‘El Dia de Club’ which meant that season ticket holders would have to pay a supplement of €20 to see the top two. The announcement did not go down well with some fans holding a poster during one of the games ‘Presa, €20! Your mother costs that!’ The fans then vacated the area were the Ultras stood to show how the stadium would look. They quickly came back but they showed that they were not afraid to make a stand and also that they would not be silenced.
Presa was supposed to be a change, a new beginning, some calm after the storm that the Ruiz Mateos family had rained down on the club. However, it soon became clear that it was, to quote the Talking Heads song, same as it ever was. The fans have been very vocal and expressive with their thoughts on their President but Monday night was not about Presa, it was about the Spanish Football League (LFP).
Plenty of fans have written their views on newspaper articles, others on social networking sites, but Rayo’s Bukaneros were different. They announced that they would not be attending the opening game of the season labelling Javier Tebas, Vice President of La Liga, ‘mafioso’, as they called for proper kick-off times.
President Presa did not escape condemnation with the Ultras criticising his lack of action in protesting these times and failing to look out for his fans. The protest saw the area behind the goal, normally the most vocal and where all chants are coordinated, deserted. Fans had even agreed that should a ball land in the deserted area that no fan would retrieve it, lucky for the LFP none did.
As the match progressed, chants and banners were held up. Within 20 minutes, Rayo’s fans had made more of a protest than the other 19 teams put together. The empty section was a statement. Either side of it was full and the fans knew what message was being sent out. Two banners were lofted up during the first half. One insulted Tebas and his mother and the other read ‘For work, to look for a job, to study, to recover from a hangover…. Monday exists for all these except not for Football.’
Just how much attention the protest gets will be interesting. Whilst most media have mentioned the disapproval of the new timetable, no-one seems too keen to make a huge deal of it. The LFP has said it is only for August because of the month’s heat, but should the new times continue and either Barca or Los Blancos be affected, well then expect a full media circus and then maybe and only maybe will the Rayo protest get the coverage it deserves, months after it took place.