The club’s offices are based on a street named after a clown but these days at Rayo Vallecano there is not much to laugh about. The club is 19th in the League but optimism is slowly starting to creep into the Vallecas faithful. Everyone is working non-stop to help the club beat the drop and whilst a few weeks ago it was all doom and gloom, now hope fills the air.
Vallecas is a working class area in Madrid and it is nicknamed locally as ‘Republica Independiente de Vallecas.’ The neighbourhood is certainly a leftist area and Rayo Vallecano is more than just a mere club to its inhabitants. Around the ground banners hang with messages such as ‘Love Rayo, Hate Racism.’ Inside the ground during matches the Bukaneros, Rayo’s Ultras, sing against racism and fascism.
The Bukaneros have also influenced how things are done at the club. For example, when the unions in Spain called a General Strike a year ago, the fans descended onto the training pitch and demanded that the players strike too. It wasn’t the first time they had done so and it wasn’t the first time the players listened. It did ruffle a few feathers in a boardroom that felt the fans had overstepped their mark.
Rayo’s supporters and its board have never had an easy relationship. A war of words and accusations has been waging for a long time and shows no signs of letting up. The board claim that they are making the best out of a bad situation. The club have the lowest budget in La Liga and each season they are forced to let many players go. With the club having been in administration until recently the majority of the players and coaching staff only get 12-month contracts. This makes it hard for the club to attract players and loan deals are sometimes their only option.
The club were denied a Europa League place last season because of their administration case and some felt it was very unfair as clubs like Atletico Madrid were allowed to play despite having higher debts but the problem was they were different types of debt. Both fans and those at the club are frustrated and everyone has been venting their frustration at each other.
Ultras in Spain are mainly known for two things: creating an intimidating atmosphere and having extreme political views. Rayo is no exception, but what is different to most clubs is that the majority of non-Ultra supporters share their views. They sing together and they march together. The Ultras hold up political banners during matches and they are normally greeted by applause form the other sides of the ground. Right now everyone is singing from the same page, an amazing feat in itself.
Since the turn of the year the club had picked up only five points from seven games and relegation looked a certainty. Rayo had to do something and launched its ‘Together we can’ campaign, which saw posters and Twitter hashtags created with messages of support and encouragement aimed at the players. The club lowered ticket prices and offered special packages for two games that could see fans attend games for just €10.
Against Malaga it worked. Two defeats followed but now two straight wins, against Valencia and Real Sociedad no less, see Rayo just a point off Getafe in 16th. This weekend Almeria, in 18th, come to Madrid and then Rayo travel to Valladolid, in 17th, in what will be two vital games in the clubs fight for survival.
Right now all issues have been put on the back burner as the club and its supporters are focused on one thing and one thing only: survival. A few weeks ago relegation looked inevitable but now Rayo are the favourites to stay up. Even if they do go down, the supporters will still be there. One club in Spain claim it, one club actually are it. Rayo is more than just a club.