Valencia CF - here arriving at the stadium - were at home on the Saturday night and off we duly went, tickets right up at the top of the 3rd tier. We had a spectacular view of the stadium, much better than last time I was there when I was down in one of the bottom corners (of which more later). It was just as well that the stadium looked so good, cos the football was fucking abysmal. Valencia looked aimless, graceless, feckless and pointless, to quote from the late great Stella Gibbons. Despite having the largest contingent of players in the most recently called up Spanish side, including stars like Vicente, Angulo, Morientes (who is rubbish, mind), David Villa (who isn't) and Albelda, they were comprehensively shite. When Joaquìn came on at half time they improved a little, or at least he looked not half dead like the others. But to no avail. Racing, supported with some enthusiasm by their 60-odd fans up high to our left, were no great shakes either. Tidy is the best I can say for them. But they counter-attacked effectively and deserved their win. In fact, counter-attack is the wrong word since it suggests that Valencia were attacking in the first place. On this look out, Chelsea will have a walkover in the Champions' League. The highlight of the game was Racing's hilarious timewasting, which began in about the 50th minute, and the comedy antics of their no 10, ex-Madridista Pedro Munitis who seemed constitutionally incapable of understanding what 10 yards means. Approaching to within 2 feet of every Valencia player awarded a free kick, and shrugging in bemused innocence when the ref duly picked him up on it, was funny enough after the 23rd time. When he began to pull the same trick even on *corners* though I really did have to laugh.
Anyway your faithful correspondent's main interest was of course the Valencia ultràs, their politics, appearance and disposition in the stadium. There are two main groups/ sections, the (tiny) Gol Gran section which is right down in the bottom left hand corner (looking at the pitch) of their curva sud, and the Yomus section which is directly opposite in the bottom right of the curva nord. The Gol Gran is a noisy bunch of nutters with drums who spend the match jumping up and down and signing, and it was there that I saw Valencia beat Real Mallorca 5-1 in 2003 (Mallorca's one goal coming from an immediately pre-big time Samuel Eto'o, since you ask.) They are classic non-political ultras, to the best of my understanding. Noisy, loyal, a bit odd, friendly, over-intense and utterly committed to their club.
The Yomus are a slightly different proposition, being that sadly familiar phenomenon: the far-right ultras group. During the game I was above them so couldn't see much of their section, though apparently until only a few years ago they regularly exhibited a giant swastika without anyone thinking to make an issue of it. I saw them mostly milling around outside the stadium before the match, having a drink (like us) in Manolo's. Manolo El Bombo, incidentally, is that portly chap with the huge drum you may have seen at every Spain game since, well, ever, risking his health and the hearing of his neighbours with his fanatical and noisy commitment to the Spanish cause. He runs a lovely bar right outside Mestalla where everyone goes for a pre-match drink in the pleasant tree-filled piazza. The square boasted a large though calm and unobtrusive police presence, and a few groups of Racing fans in their colours were enjoying a pre-match pint with no problems. Next to them, the Yomus gathered. Nearly all male, mostly in their 20s with a few older guys. Sample slogan t-shirts: on the front, YOMUS ARMY, and on the back with a picture of a huge knuckleduster, BENVINGUDO A MESTALLA. [incidentally this is Valencia dialect, welcome in standard Spanish is bienvienido.] Or, a replica shirt with the name YOMUS SS and the number 88 on the back. Do you want more? There was a chap with, I kid you not, SS tattooed on his temple. In the proper lightening bolt script and everything. Mamma mia. The oddest thing was that from the rest of his look you'd not have expected it, he looked more like an accountant in need of a hair-cut than a neo-Nazi.
Anyway, inside the stadium the Gol Gran made much more noise than the Yomus, to my quiet satisfaction. Out of completeness I should mention that right at the very very top of the vertiginous top tier was a small group calling itself Curva Sud VCF who had a good number of giant flags on display and who made themselves audible on a couple of occasions. Curiously, I spotted a chap in an Ultras Romani cap and a Boys Roma 1972 t-shirt before the match, but he disappeared into the crowd before I managed to grab him to exchange saluti sangue e oro (blood and gold greetings, literally). Would have loved to know if he was there in some sort of link-up or just by chance.
I only realised I was a bit obsessed by this ultras project when I caught myself making notes on the newspaper in the bar. Do you think it's a problem?