It’s sunny and hot, 28 degrees to be precise. The sea and the beaches, full of sunbathers, are visible from the top of the stadium. It feels like Spain yet, bizarrely, it also feels like home. That’s because everywhere I look I see St Andrew’s crosses. In fact I can see 18,000 of them to be exact. Stop number 19 on el Camino de la Liga, Tenerife.
Scotland and Tenerife don’t have much in common but one thing we do share is the same flag and today the local football team is giving everyone in the stadium a St Andrew’s cross as they battle to stay in La Liga. Club Deportivo Tenerife is the only representative from the Canary Islands in Primera División and situated 1,974 km from Madrid, it’s also the longest trip on el Camino de la Liga.
Being located so far away from the rest of Spain has almost certainly had an impact on the people of the Canary Islands. The people here are visibly more laid back than those on the peninsula. You rarely hear anyone tooting their horn in Santa Cruz. The way people speak and the words they use are also different, in fact some say the people are more similar to South Americans than Spaniards. It also appears that this distance has affected the fortunes of the football team. With the closest La Liga side, Xerez, located 1,360 km away, every away match seems very far away and every visiting team has the same sensation when visiting Tenerife. For example Racing Santander, this weekend’s visitors, had to travel 2268 km to get to Tenerife.
Distances like these seem to have led to Tenerife having very contrasting home and away records. On the plus side, at home Tenerife have won 8, drawn 5 and lost 5. However, away from home they have lost 13, drawn 3 and won only 1. That easily makes Tenerife the team with the worst away record in the league. With an away record as bad as that, it’s not surprising that Tenerife find themselves in the relegation zone. The football club is back in Primera División after a 7 season absence but the stay was looking short going into this weekend’s must win match against Racing Santander, a team only 4 points ahead of them.
The importance of the match wasn’t lost on the locals and around 18,000 of them turned out to cheer on the team. Unlike La Liga’s other island team, Real Mallorca, Tenerife appear to be well supported. This probably helped by reasonable ticket prices, 20 euros, a supporter friendly stadium in the city centre and of course the aforementioned lack of another team for a couple of thousand kilometers.
The good weather, large crowd and the importance of the match came together to create a good atmosphere and the Scottish connection seemed to go further than just the flags. Before the match the Tenerife Ultras belted out a rendition of Auld Langs Syne, completely bizarre but very nice. When the match got under way the singing didn’t let up and the volume increased a few notches as Tenerife grabbed a first half lead. During the break I spent all my time under the stand and out of the unrelenting sun. Like many grounds in Spain, Tenerife’s Heliodoro Rodriguez Lopez Stadium doesn’t have a roof. This is inconvenient on the rare occasions that it rains but much worse during those much more frequent scorching Spanish days. Luckily I had bought a hat before the match, the best 4 Euros spent during el Camino de la Liga.
Into the second half and Tenerife went further ahead after some comical goalkeeping gifted them a penalty. At 2-0 Tenerife looked to be cruising but Racing pulled one back and the nerves set in. Luckily though, Tenerife held on to secure a vital home win which leaves them one point from safety with 3 games to play.
I left the stadium, like the rest of the people, in good spirits all be it very sweaty. Firstly, I was happy for Tenerife who deserved the victory; however, more importantly I was relieved to have completed the furthest el Camino de la Liga trip. Like the Spanish championship and relegation race, it looks like el Camino de la Liga is going to go to the last game of the season. All eyes on Pamplona.