By Cillian Shields l @pile_of_eggs
“Whoever is against Cádiz is against humanity” is the message written on the walls of the tunnel the players take to the pitch from the club’s Estadio Ramón de Carranza, and the message is completely true. The Andalusian peninsula city is always brimming with life and joy, to the point that even within Spain it’s known as the place where the people know best how to enjoy themselves.
From the colourful costumed chirigota singers, performing satirical songs to those nearby, to the beautiful wide beaches that overlook the Atlantic Ocean offering some of the world’s most splendid, radiant sunsets at the San Sebástian castle that looks like the very edge of the world, Cádiz is a wonderful city whose football team is playing in Spain’s top flight this year for the first time since 2005/06 and only for the 13th time ever.
What makes Cádiz so great are its people, and what makes its football club so fun are its fans; some of the most boisterous, noisy, and party-loving that can be found in Spain.
While no fans are allowed to attend any La Liga game for the time being due to the ongoing pandemic, it is especially wistful to see Cádiz’s steep Estadio Ramón de Carranza empty on opening night, when any other season the first night back in Primera would rival Carnaval for biggest party of the year.
The last time I was in the southern port city, the hours leading up to kick-off were spent with thousands of home and away fans mingling in the streets and squares surrounding the stadium. This was a regular, run-of-the-mill second division game in the middle of 2017/18, circumstances completely different to the first night back in the big time.
Drinks, chants, musical instruments, shirts, scarves, and anything else are shared among everybody willing in the build-up to the game, creating an atmosphere and event that would be worthy of living even if you then completely ignored the football match that followed it. While making my way from the street parties to the stadium, a local approached me and threw their Cádiz scarf over me, only looking for high fives and hugs in return.
If Osasuna fans were allowed to attend and enjoy the night with them, it would undoubtedly have been one to remember. Instead, the two sets of players kicked off the 2020/21 season in front of empty stands, and the 90 minutes felt as off-beat as the vacant atmosphere.
Right before kick-off, a minute’s silence was held, as it is across the grounds in Spain for the victims of the coronavirus, but this game had the added dimension of paying tribute to the late Michael Robinson, a beloved former player, commentator, and media personality. The Irish international arrived at Osasuna to play out the last two years of his career on the pitch before falling in love with Spain, and the city of Cádiz in particular for its wonderful spirit.
Robinson saw the game through the lens of the fans, loved the culture that surrounded the great, humble, storied football clubs up and down the land, and was one of La Liga’s favourite personalities, universally loved. In April, he passed away with skin cancer, before having the chance to see this opening night duel between his former side and his adopted home city. Yet, his unique style of storytelling will live on through those he inspired, and the fans that loved his work so much.
In the end, Osasuna won the game 0-2, with two very well taken goals from Adrián López, capitalising on a defensive error forced by Oier, and Rubén García, and the result will leave the hosts with the lesson that the top flight is just that bit faster and stronger than what they were used to in the second division.
Roberto Perera, Cádiz’s assistant manager, agreed, and he told the media that the game showed “the difference” between the second and first divisions: “you make two mistakes and they score two goals. We’re left with the feeling that the game was even, but because of the small details, Osasuna take it.”
In fact, Cádiz’s record since football resumed after the Covid-19 enforced break has been patchy, but the team got over the line to win promotion last season. There are some teams in La liga whose fans play a much more important role than at other grounds, and Cádiz facing up to Primera División’s big guns without their home crowd could impact them severely.
For the sake of Cádiz, and for the sake of fun, let us hope fans can safely return to grounds as soon as possible.
Image via Cadiz CF on Twitter