El Clasico diary entry #1: Did a bat really save this city?

El Clasico diary entry #1: Did a bat really save this city?

by Graeme Jackson

Wednesday Feb 26, 2020. 10:00

African Football’s Graeme Jackson is on the journey of a lifetime as the South African journalist visits Spain to soak up the country’s atmosphere and experience the biggest football match in the world.

Don’t miss out as he travels the country and highlights the intricacies of the hidden ‘El Clasico’.

It’s just after 8pm Spanish time and I am knackered. Two long flights from Johannesburg to Istanbul and then on to Valencia have left me without sleep for the better part of two days. Doctor Strange’s sparkly portal thingys cannot be invented fast enough.

But I’ve jumped ahead somewhat. This once-in-a-lifetime chance arose late last week and was organised post haste. In short, I have been blessed with the chance to see El Clasico, the famous Real Madrid v Barcelona clash, at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu this coming Sunday night.

Cue some last-minute packing and organising, and here I am in Valencia courtesy of the fine people at La Liga and an extensive press tour which will culminate in the big game in Madrid.

Tuesday saw us visit Valencia CF’s Mestalla Stadium, the oldest venue in La Liga. If you have ever seen the ground on television, it’s incredibly steep stands and heady atmosphere are standout features, and even empty it has a sense of vibrancy and power.

Some of that comes from the lurid colour scheme of orange, white and black. White is a key color for Los Che, their original kit choice from way back when, while the orange represents the fruit which is so prevalent in the region and the black comes from the bat symbol which sits proudly at the top of the club crest.

Legend has it that a bat saved the city of Valencia from being conquered by invaders in the 13th century, hence it’s importance. Now that’s an origin story – Bruce Wayne, eat your heart out.

From an African perspective, Valencia has been represented by the likes of Seydou Keita and Sofiane Feghouli, while the only player from our continent currently on their roster is Central African Republic midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia.

That’s enough from me for today, it’s time to head out with my colleagues on the next stop of our press tour and enjoy an authentic paella.

Tomorrow I’ll bring you news and insights from Villarreal – The Yellow Submarine which is currently home to African stars Samuel Chukwueze and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.

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