Where I usually look for special stadiums and matches at home and abroad every weekend, the roles are divided differently on Monday 7 January. Together with my team DAW Schaijk 1, I am at a training camp in Gran Canaria, where we can appear in a very special poster for us. For the first time in the history of the association, we are playing a match on Spanish soil. Estadio Muncipal Eleuterio Valerón is the battleground. It is home to CD Tablero, the local football club of the village of the same name.
After some research for the competition, it appears that the home base of CD Tablero can accommodate no fewer than 1,100 people. This immediately gives the opponent’s accommodation the title ‘mini-stadium’, which leads to enthusiasm within the group of players. Once we have arrived, however, we do not find a mini-stadium, but a picturesque sports park consisting of an artificial grass field surrounded by houses, fences, walls, one large stand and a changing room. A traditional cantina completes the sports complex.
With a little imagination, the field looks like an episode from the video game Fifa Street and around me I hear one of my teammates joke: “Can you also use the walls in this cage?” Not much is known about the opponent beforehand, only that CD Tablero is active on the fifth level. Everyone wonders aloud what kind of team we will get, but there is no question of underestimating. After all, we play second class ourselves.
After a deadly serious and fanatical warm-up we entered the playing field. The Dutch arbitral trio (also at training camp), just like us, looked somewhat surprised at the other half of the field. About 40 men are training here. They don’t seem to have any idea of the fact that a game has to be played here. The arbiter decides to blow his whistle furiously to see if this makes the message clear. This is the case, 11 players remain. These players seem to be anything but a team active in the Spanish premier league: training kits, goalkeeper in the same kit, short socks in different colors, no shin guards and the average age seems to be 17 years. It turns out: Tablero has set up a C-team to watch the cat out of the tree.
The thought ”what kind of camping team is this?” haunts my head for a moment. But it soon becomes clear that it doesn’t stop with these boys. The coach of CD Tablero decides to make a nice switch during this practice match. He changes a player no less than 48 times, to finally draft his best eleven. Despite the fact that we face a new load of fresh players about every twenty minutes, we manage to take the lead after an hour of play.
A few minutes after our lead, the coach of our Spanish opponent has the best 11 football players of the village of 6,000 inhabitants show up for a while to look for results. This results in parking the bus for twenty minutes to guard our Dutch pride on Spanish territory. This does not go completely smoothly, but the equalizer does not come. Partly thanks to the aluminum, which saves twice.
With our tongues on our shoes we leave for the dressing room. The week in Gran Canaria was a success anyway, but a win on Spanish soil makes it even better. Finally, we find out in the dressing room that Spain also has its basement-class scenes: A minuscule central heating boiler should provide us with hot water but, as expected, fails hopelessly.
An ice shower and a short bus ride away, only a small hero’s welcome from the hotel staff awaits us in the hotel. It is partly thanks to them that the tradition of a drink after a victory is also maintained in Spain. A local specialty is brought out to celebrate the win. “Rum & Honey” is written on the label. The drink is sniffed somewhat suspiciously and various sour faces are made. Still, everyone knocks down the drink without too much trouble and to everyone’s surprise, the liqueur is almost as tasty as the victory over the Spaniards.