A Home Full Of Strangers For Spain v Sweden

Like an out of body experience, it was a surreal feeling to be in the Heliodoro stadium with very few of my CD Tenerife friends around me, and red replacing blue and white as the dominant colour. International football had come to Tenerife, well the under 21 game between Spain and Sweden on the road to the Euro Championships in Poland 2017.

Three of us from the Armada Sur had parked up in the CC Meridiano car park and threaded our way through the back streets and a tide of Spain shirts and flags. Buying a ticket at the sales window (10 euros) was another novelty, the street stalls had loaded up with red scarves and replica shirts and it was pretty busy but I could only pick out a few familiar faces. I better explain at this point that there is a certain resistance to supporting Spain among my football friends, many are proud Canarians, new graffiti outside the stadium underlined that feeling. For me it was a rare chance to see a high profile game and future world stars.

The Heliodoro is owned by Santa Cruz Ayuntamiento (council) and FIFA had hired it for the night, that meant they had control of advertising, announcements etc but that still doesn’t excuse some of the glaring omissions and lack of any publicity for CD Tenerife. There was no programme, not even a team sheet, most of the stadium advertising hoardings had been covered over leaving just the FIFA approved sponsors to push their products. We were offered free plastic Spain flags at the turnstile but declined, inside our usual Popular Baja area was covered in red but I did spot a couple of Canarian independence flags and a few CDT shirts.

Onto the game, Spain dominated the opening exchanges and the Sweden goalie Cajtoft made some impressive saves. I took particular interest in Spain’s captain Deulofeu of Everton, and Bellerin (above) of Arsenal. The atmosphere was subdued, many of the 15,000 crowd were groups like school parties or youth football clubs, it reminded me of Home Internationals at Wembley years ago on school outings, the bits of singing and chanting that broke out were in quite high voices. Spain’s persistence paid off after 19 minutes when the classy Oliver Torres of Atletico Madrid scored from a Deulofeu pass. Both sides were struggling to cope with the poor state of the pitch, it hasn’t been good since rock band Maña performed on it a week before the season started. The ball wasn’t bouncing true, it bobbled when passes were made and little clumps were standing out, in fact the only ones liking the pitch were the flock of pigeons that kept landing and playing dare in front of the players.

The second half got off to a bad start for Spain, Saul got a second booking and was off, this derailed the reds and they never really recovered. Sweden seized the initiative and put the Spain goalie Kepa under siege. Despite the keepers valiant efforts Sweden broke through after 59 minutes with a goal from Engvall. From them on a draw seemed the likely outcome and it proved to be the case. As the players took their applause and left the pitch, Oliver Torres trotted down to our end of the ground and gave a Spain shirt to some female fans, well they were Atletico supporters as well, but a nice gesture. Sweden had done their PR bit the day before by inviting a large group of young Swedes from a local language school to their training session and they added a pocket of yellow high up in the far stand. It was nice to hear the PA blasting out Tenerife Adelante as we left the stadium, it all went off pretty well and there is more talk of a full international soon – best sort that pitch out though.