CD Tenerife & Armada Sur

Pride, passion, loyalty,

SO there you are on the beach at the weekend with the sun sizzling your body and a beer at your side, but you are still not happy. Something important and fundamental to your life is missing, you are pining for your football fix.

CD Tenerife may not be your first love but they can always be your mistress, and the atmosphere of a live Spanish league game is a unique experience well worth sampling. Half of the fun of going to a game is the comradeship of shared despair or elation and for that you couldn’t ask for better company than the Armada Sur.

The name means South Army and if that conjures up unwelcome images of marauding hooligans, rest assured that the only battling this army does is to get pole position at the bar. Chris Todd, “The General” a 40-year-old salesman, was weaned on his English home town team of Aldershot and graduated on to following Arsenal. When his parents moved with him to Tenerife in 1989 he turned to CD Tenerife to fill the void and now runs this fan club, officially recognized by CDT.

Originally around ten southern based, like minded football nuts banded together calling themselves, The Las Am̩ricas Army and traveled by cars up to home games in the north at Santa Cruz. That rapidly grew and now, a name change later, they have around 200 members made up of a mix of relocated Brits, visitors specifically over for a game and a scattering of other nationalities Рthere are no barriers in the Armada Sur.

Home is The Toby Jug in San Eugenio Alto, where a wide range of allegiances are on display with shirts from Bolton to Brazil and a good sprinkling of the blanquiazul (white and blue) of Tenerife. Huge banners are unfurled and large quantities of singing juice are downed as the coach load, two for big games, assembles.

Pick up points are attended to en route with new passengers greeted with good natured abuse about their “home” teams but with a whole hour to Santa Cruz a refueling stop is essential at the Oasis restaurant bar half way up the motorway. The ground is normally reached an hour before the game allowing a relaxing top up in the Gin and Tonic bar while tickets are distributed.

The stadium may look dowdy and unimpressive from outside but once in, you are consumed in a swirling mass of colour and noise. All the officially recognized fan clubs or “peñas” are grouped together at the Grada popular end of the ground amid a sea of drums, flags and paper confetti and the songs and chants are constant regardless of score, weather or league position. Sorry, you wont find your half time Bovril or curled sandwiches here but full marks to the souvenir stalls for shifting hundreds of woolly scarves while the thermometer nudges the 30 degree mark.

Sometimes it is a struggle to break the locals of their support for Real Madrid and Barcelona but on the big occasions the island pours out it’s emotions for their local team.

In 1989 Tenerife won promotion for the first time in 30 years, clinching it on the mainland at Betis. Tenerife airport was besieged by 10,000 fans and when the plane landed at 4 am they stormed past security and flooded out on to the runway, singing , dancing and waving banners. Unfortunately they got the wrong plane and the passengers on the charter flight from East Midlands airport thought they had landed in the middle of a revolution.

That started a brief golden age that included making the UEFA Cup semi finals before bowing out to Shalke 04 in 1996. Relegation followed in 1999 but a fledgling manager called Rafa Benitez took them back up in 2001, before leaving for Valencia. Relegation followed and barren years of financial struggles but the Armada Sur stayed loyal.

Local derby games have a special flavour of their own and in Tenerife, everyone loves to hate Las Palmas from Gran Canaria. The “enemy” play in yellow and before one typical home clash, the Armada Sur hung a cuddly Tweetie Pie from a tree outside the Gin and Tonic and blew it apart with strategically inserted fire crackers in front of Canarian television cameras, much to everyone’s amusement.

So what do the Canarians make of this strange breed of supporters? A common bond unites all the supporters of CD Tenerife but the Armada Sur have formed strong links with the Frente Blanquiazul whose fans intermingle with Sur socially as well as on the terraces.

It normally takes just one game to hook new fans, many yearly visitors put their Tenerife scarf and shirt way above the sun screen on their list of essentials for their holiday. A thriving London branch makes several pilgrimages per year to see games, and win, lose or draw the Sur know how to party. At the end of the day, to borrow a football cliché, nothing beats being there.