Archive for June, 2009
Getting a move on in Tenerife

Just two speeds, slow and stop, well it may seem like that sometimes in Tenerife, but major transport projects have been making steady progress in recent years. The Santa Cruz tram system has been a great success and after many years of idling in the sidings, the great north to south train link looks more positive, with detailed plans announced. Hot on the rails of that comes news of a possible seaplane link between Santa Cruz and Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.

So lets dig into those new plans for the proposed train link. I always thought it would hardly be worth it to shave a few minutes of the trip, but 40 minutes from Santa Cruz to Las Americas starts to sound like a good argument. The 80 km run has been costed at 1,800 million euros and would travel up to 220 kms per hour and includes 7 stops, Santa Cruz, Anaza, Candelaria, San Isidro, Reina Sofia airport, Los Cristianos and Las Americas, eventually it could be extended to Torviscas and even to Fonsalia on the west coast to link to a propsed new ferry port.

Ready for some more stats, the trains would run every 15 minutes, carry 350 to 400 passengers a train, go through 9 tunnels and for large parts of the journey, would run underground. All pretty ambitious, and even with a 2017 boarding date for the first trip, they would need to get cracking pretty soon, we can but hope.

How about a seaplane jaunt from Santa Cruz to Las Palmas? A Canadian company are keen to start trips as soon as next year, with only 20 passengers , it would be a more specialist form of transport, maybe for business people using the 2 capital cities. The plane used would be a DHC-6 Series 300 Twin Otter (pic above) and as well as fast tracking passengers, it could be used to fight forest fires, sloshing 1,000 litres on the flames in one swoop.

As always in Tenerife, it’s best not to count your chickens before they are roasted, but maybe unlike the inventions we were promised on  Tomorrows World, these transport dreams could come true, hold on tight.

In awe of the soccer gods

Withdrawal symptoms are common this time of year for football fans, we have to get what crumbs of comfort we can. In that respect, yesterday was a good day, in the afternoon I went to the amphithetre above Siam Park for the Red Bull Street Style football competition.

This is an international competition that comes to a head next year in South Africa, just before the World Cup, and yesterday was the last of the 4 Spanish rounds. Four players would be selected to go, all expenses paid, to the grand Spanish final in Valencia on 29 August. The advertising tag for the event is “3 minutes, 2 players, one ball” the players started with individual rounds to eliminate a few and get in down to 6 finalists. Then they went head to head in a series of challenges to see who could do the best moves.

Now I know you are thinking, was I tempted to get up and show my own silky skills, sadlyI had a little twinge in my leg and had brought a sick note from my Mum to excuse me. The youngsters were all very good and did well not to wilt in the scorching heat, I had to leave before the end but will look out on the website for the progress of the competition.

Meeting The General and Neal and Karen (the Bournemouth section) we set off north to Santa Cruz to represent the Armada Sur at a very special function. Our Canarian terrace comrades the Frente Blanquiazul have a locale near La Paz which they use as a social club, and they had invited CD Tenerife club captain and legend, Cristo Marrero, in order to pay tribute to him.

One of the best organised and most respected of the Peñas (fan clubs) the Frente live and breathe football and their “home” is a credit to them, strewn with souvenirs of many seasons of devotion.  Cristo is a local Tenerife boy, from Las Zocas, and what he lacks in talent he more than makes up for in heart, blue and white blood courses through his veins.  That dedication to CDT shows itself not just on the pitch, but in the way he always gets involved in social events run by the fans, and he was more than happy to come along and mingle with us supporters.

Speeches were given and presentations made, and the great man cheerfully posed for pics with us all. The plaque that was unveiled says “To Cristo Marrero, always our captain, who in defence of the colours of CD Tenerife has shown the qualities of the Canarian people, never to be forgotten, thanks for everything.” The Club have not renewed his contract but have said they will offer him a job at the club to make use of his popularity, enthusiasm and inspirational qualities, we look forward to seeing him around for many years.

Fires a little dimmer for San Juan

“I’m a fire starter, twisted fire starter”, so said that great modern poet Keith Flint, maybe he was referring to the annual Noche de San Juan. Maybe i’m getting older and more cynical, but I thought last nights celebrations in Los Cristianos were quiet subdued by normal Canarian standards.Â

Basically San Juan is about renewal and cleansing and based around midsummer, lots of fire and water are involved, and of course lots of alcohol. I got to town at 9.30 to catch the old Canarian ladies gathered outside the local florists, armed with large spears of heather, a statue of Saint John was perched on a table, decorated with more flowers and smouldering with incense. Spot on the half hour, the ladies took up their leader and carried him shoulder high towards the beach.

I raced ahead and was a little taken aback to see that there were no bonfires underway on the main Las Vistas beach, and people were only just starting to drag old wooden pallets and boxes to start the biggest showpiece fire. Luckily I had arranged to meet Neal and Karen, a.k.a the Bournemouth section of the Armada Sur at Goodfellows bar on the front. As we sipped our Dorada and discussed the state of football in the world, we saw lots of young Canarian kids pass by with carrier bags clinking, heading for the beach, but there were few flames leaping into the night.

Just after midnight we hit the beach and weaved our way through large groups of drinking, clinking youngsters, there were a few very small bonfires, easy to jump over, as tradition demands, many more were dipping in the sea – another way of symbolically cleansing the soul. There seemd a shortage of family groups and candles, normally they dominate the celebrations, but not this year. It looked like the drinking was set to go on well into the early hours, but I headed for a couple of late beers on the way home to my waiting bed.

Flat champers at Tenerife farewell

We knew we were in trouble when The General started selling T shirts proclaiming CD Tenerife as champions. The other results had gone for us and a home draw was all that was required but Castellon hadn’t read the script and sneaked a 2-1 victory. The day was about so much more than just the game, and coach Oltra’s strange starting line up owed more to sentiment than logic. Club legend Cristo got a rare start for his final game and there was no place for Alfaro or Kome.

The biggest pre match cheers were for Cristo, hanging up his first team boots after 6 glorious seasons of pouring his heart and soul into everything he does for the club. Tenerife dominated the first half and should have been a couple of goals up within 10 minutes, Nino, Ayoze and Richi all spurned good chances. Cristo had the ball in the net after 19 minutes, and the stadium was ready to erupt but it was ruled out as the ball had already gone out of play.

Castellon had few chances and it seemed a matter of time until a home goal arrived, Cristo played a part when it did, setting up Nino to nip in and score after 41 minutes. This confirmed Nino as “pichichi” the divisions top scorer with 29 goals, a great achievement. Seven minutes into the second half Cristo was taken off for Alfaro, a chance to milk the richly deserved applause for a true local hero.

That was most of the boxes ticked for the night, time to put their feet up and relax, Tenerife didn’t just take their foot off the pedal, they got out of the car and went for a snooze in a layby. It all got a bit sloppy and casual, Castellon took advantage of the half awake defence to level via Arana after 55 minutes. That should have been a wake up slap for Tenerife but this was a deep sleep, the errors kept coming and even the introduction of Kome, the Whip of the Atlantic (see banner) couldn’t lash them into action. Alfaro and Iriome both missed late chances before the unthinkable happened on 90 minutes, Sampedro hit the winning goal and the championship was gone.

A bit of a let down, but after such a superb season, we can take this one on the chin. The crowd swelled onto the pitch at the final whistle and the slightly subdued celebrations began.  Cristo was carried round the touchline shoulder high and fans danced among the sprinklers that had sprung into life. There was some serious scavenging for souvenirs going on, chunks of turf were dug up, someone got the penalty spot, and a few people used lighters to burn off bits of goal netting, I tried to tuck the blonde security guard under my arm but she wasn’t having it.

Personally, I am so in awe of what the club has achieved this season, all on a small budget, everyone from the President down to Gladys the tea lady, should be bursting with pride. Next Sunday, the B team have the big final of their season at home to Sporting Mahones from Menorca, and a chance for promotion to Segenda B. The Armada Sur will run a coach is their are enough numbers, The General awaits your call. If anyone is after some natty t shirts, The General says he has a few of the “promotion” ones left, in fact he has a wharehouse full in Las Chafiras.

La Orotava rolls out the carpets

Maybe my hearing is going but I’m sure I didn’t hear “go and see the inspirational carpets in La Orotava”. So there I am this morning looking forward to a concert from the 1980’s Manchester rock band The Inspiral Carpets, but they were no where to be seen or heard. It was of course the big day of the Corpus Christi celebrations, the huge volcanic sand carpet was already in place in front of the Ayuntamiento (council) building (above) and work was frantically underway on the 35 individual floral carpets in the streets.

I started out with the 343 Titsa bus from Los Cristianos to Puerto de la Cruz at 9.20 am, just 75 minutes and 7.25 euros with my bono ticket. Changing to a 101 bus to Santa Cruz (cost .95 cents but FREE as my bono was still warm) it took just 15 minutes to pull into the bus station at La Orotava. It can be a little cloudy and chilly this far and high north, but the sun was beaming and the crowds were streaming, and once I had passed Mickey Mouse and Bob Square Pants bobbing on strings from the tacky stalls in town, I was soon heading up the Carrera del Escultor Estevez to be greeted by the throng around the impressive Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

The roads around here are tight,so people were funnelled either up to the Ayuntamiento building, and inside to climb for a balcony view, or onward up the narrow hilly pavements past the roads full of developing mosaics. These smaller carpets were started early morning and are carefully built up from a sand, grass and shredded pine base, to support spectacular toppings of flower petals, all layered with love and dedication.

This amazing art form started in 1847, and although it takes place in several towns around Tenerife, no one does it with as much style , or on such a grand scale as La Orotava. It’s a wonder there are any flowers left on the island that are not naked of their crowning glory. Buckets and baskets of multi coloured petals sit alongside bags of coloured sand awaiting their addition to the jigsaw. Families get involved with children playing their small part and the men creating great art with a can of beer in one hand.

Rough drawings are made first, and they have frames to work to for the main body of the carpets, but the intricate and most creative work is done by hand. Some of the streets wind down and around the Church of La Concepcion, as fine a piece of Baroque art as you could find. I had bumped into Jack and Andrea Montgomery, producers of the excellent guide books, Real Tenerife Island Drives and Going Native In Tenerife and we tried to get up the tower of the church for some photos. Alas the young chaps guarding the door seemed to think it was a private club for their friends, and although their were youngsters in flip flops going up, we were told it was dangerous underfoot due to yesterdays rain.

It really is a wonderous site to see the mosaics take shape during the day. As well as the colours, the smells are amazing, I havent smelt as much grass since the last match at CD Tenerife. Life is about constant change and despite all the effort put in, the carpets will be worn and trampled away as the big procession snakes through town this evening. It may seem a waste, but to the people who make it all possible, it’s an annual display of their faith and they are proud to see it come and go, and will be back to make it even bigger next year.

The party goes on for CD Tenerife

Hardly time to sober up before heading to Santa Cruz today for the official reception for the CD Tenerife team. The police and Guardia must love CDT, it was unlimited overtime as the forces of good took up key positions around the entrance to the capital. I met some of the Armada Sur up by Plaza General Weyler, it was heaving, but we found a good spot just down the road by the bridge over the Barranco Santos, and waited for the open top bus.

Cars bombed by, waving flags as the crowds swelled, and it was clear it was going to be a late start. TV Canarias had a camera in a helicopter keeping an eye on the progress of the bus from Los Rodeos airport to Santa Cruz, when the bus swung into view, the crowds went wild. The players were clearly loving the attention, sadly yesterdays hero Kome was missing as he was back on duty for Cameroon.

Having got a few pics, we dived through the back streets, stopping for a beer, before hitting the Plaza de España. It was heaving, a giant stage was the focal point of the attention, and many people were already in the lake. As the team bus arrived and the players transferred to the Cabildo balcony, fire crackers and smoke bombs went off adding to the party mood. The players, a little worse for wear, led the singing and the crowd gladly joined in. I left them to it after a few hours but it looked like another long night, still another party to go with the last game at home next week-it’s a hard life.

Promoted, Kome fires CD Tenerife to glory

All the years of suffering slipped away yesteday at Girona as CD Tenerife clinched their place in La Primera with a 1-0 win. It was a fantastic day with around 1,000 CDT fans invading the Catalan city, and dancing, and singing on the terrace and then on the pitch.

It started at an unearthly hour, I got picked up by The General and a few of the troops, and we headed to Reina Sofia airport. The concourse was already a sea of blue and white, some of the Canarian lads were already at the bar and limbering up. The check in staff had fun putting the flags, banners and drums through their machines, bu it was a pretty smooth process. Once on the plane, the singing started, our Halcon Viajes tour reps even led some of the singing on the microphone, and at one point the captain cut in with a tune.

Landing at Girona, I was surprised what a huge airport it is, very busy with mainly British passengers from RyanAir, they seemed startled at the mob of all singing, all dancing Tenerife fans, the shuttle buses from the plane were bouncing up and down as we drove across the tarmac and the pick up area outside the airport soon became a mass of Tenerife voices.

The coaches, with a police escort, took us into the heart of Girona, I had always thought of it as an after thought to Barcelona, but even with a limited tour I could soon see the beauty and history of the city. Once dropped in the centre we found a bar – of course – as a base to phone others who had arrived in advance. Trust us to find the only Chinese bar in the city, the staff were not keen on us taking bottles away as we looked for friends, nor were they taken with us putting up our flags and banners, but they were won over as the till started to ring.

The General did a good impression of a waiter, carrying a full tray of drinks one handed-until he dropped the lot, we just about salvaged the precious liquid. Moving on later, we joined the biggest group of CDT fans in another plaza, some of the passers by were less than impressed by being picked up and danced around by well oiled Canarians but the bar staff were great, even bringing out a large round of free shots. We got our times a bit mixed and arrived at the ground early, so had to adjourn to another bar till kick off.

The Girona ground only holds 6,000 and has a strange grass bank at one point, it seemed a bit like one of the old non league grounds I used to visit. The surround wall was low and never going to deter us from spilling onto the pitch, a fairly even game exploded after 40 minutes as cult hero Daniel Kome pounced on a half chance to give CDT the lead, and the blue and white wave washed onto the playing surface. We only needed a draw to go up but with Sergio Aragonoses in commanding form in goal, we were never going to surrender that lead. The final whistle was met with an almighty roar as we swamped onto the pitch to congratulate our heroes. Kome had been substituted in the second half and was touring round with his camera, he got mobbed and at one point was knocked over-whoops. The players came out among the fans and the CDT officials took their bows in the stand as “Chicharrero” the club anthem was sung with pride and power.

We had to fly back out of Barcelona, just down the road from Girona? I dont think so, it took us about 90 minutes for our coaches to get there and we were rushed through to our waiting plane. The Guardia Civil kept me waiting as they detached all the poles off the flags I was carrying – not even time for a cheeky beer. Most people were knackered by the time we took off, but a few more beers flowed and the singing carried on. So now its another party, I have to drag my carcass up to Santa Cruz for the open top bus parade and reception, I’m loving every minute of it.

See you at a CD Tenerife promotion party

Despite greed reering its ugly head, I am finally booked up and paid up for Saturdays CD Tenerife game at Girona. Like the last away game at Sevilla, the football club used Viajes Halcon to produce the promised cheap charter flights, and again the prices were inflated with overnight accomodation being pushed. This time an independent fan club one day charter looked a good bet at 180 euros, but once the official club version was announced at 300 euros, the cheaper trip rocketed, and became unviable as fans cancelled. Some of us have paid the ransom, in order to see this historic game but many will now miss it, a shameful way to treat loyal fans.

We still expect up to 1,000 CDT fans to converge from Tenerife, mainland Spain and the UK, all with our party heads on. For those left behind, Santa Cruz is the place to be, a giant screen will show the game in Plaza de España (pic), kick off 5.30pm, and the huge fines for dancing in the lake have been lifted for the promotion season.

The team arrive back at the north airport on Sunday at 1pm, and will take an open top bus into Santa Cruz, through Avenida de la Salle, along over Barranco Santos bridge, past Plaza General Weyler, down Calle Mendez Nunez and Calle del El Pilar, finishing around 3pm at the Cabildo headquarters, where the players will take to the balcony overlooking Plaza de España.

All this is of course dependent on getting that vital point at Girona, and then the week after, there is the last game of the season, at home to Castellon, a chance to ensure they go up as champions. Lots of chances to party and cheer the players for a fantastic season. Next season has just taken another tasty turn with Ronaldo agreeing to joing Real Madrid, Â Tenerife had a bid of 79 million in but Real offered 80 million-damm so close. Wouldn’t it be good to get Real Madrid at home the first game of next season, just imagine the media attention the island would get, we would even plant some extra soft grass for when he does a dive.

CD Tenerife – the best yet

Just when you think the season has got as good as it can – along comes a performance like this. Xerez was always going to be one of the toughest games, and with 4 key players missing and them still needing a point for promotion, it sounded a tough nut to crack. In the end, despite being reduced to 10 men for an hour of the game, CDT were brilliant and won 2-0.

From start to bleary finish, this was a perfect day (don’t worry, I’m not gonna start singing) 2 coach loads of Armada Sur gathered at the Toby Jug, we even had a stag party complete with Batman and Robin. The plaza outside our bar just down down from the ground was heaving, there was a big group of  Xerez fans, we had a few beers and some good natured banter with them.

Entering the ground these days is like entering a wonderland, the tifo gets better and better. This time the banners and streamers were all around 360 degrees, and when the players came out , a sea of blue and white cards was held up in an amazing mosaic – truly inspiring.

Tenerife made Xerez look pretty ordinary and a 16th minute goal from Alfaro ignited the crowd. Then came the big set back, Ricardo chopped down a Xerez player to stop a goal threat break, and was sent off after 26 minutes. Xerez sensed their chance had come and put Tenerife under the cosh, Aragonoses was on top form, mopping up any loose balls and high crosses, the objective now was to survive to half time.

There was more pressure to soak up in the second half, but as the clock ticked on the Xerez threat began to fizzle out. Coach Oltra hasn’t always got the credit he deserves, but again he showed his worth by bringing on striker Angel for midfielder Juanlu, the message was clear, don’t sit back on the lead-attack the game. The reward came with 5 minutes left on the clock, Nino pounced on a half chance to score the decisive goal, cue a pitch invasion.

The scenes after the final whistle were wild, car horns beeping, flags waving, singing, chanting and much downing of Doradas. just one point needed now to ensure promotion, and a good chance of going up as champions – what a day.