A plume of blue and white despair hung over the 1,300 CD Tenerife fans in the Mestalla stadium as Spain’s La Liga served up the last few twists in the season’s great adventure. It wasn’t the 1-0 defeat to hosts Valencia, or Malaga’s surprise 1-1 draw at home to Real Madrid that cut CD Tenerife’s La Liga lifeline. It was down to a season of poor away form that produced just one win and 3 draws, coupled with the directors” decision to forgo buying new players in favour of cutting the 30 million euro debt. All that was scant consolation to the football army that had travelled more in hope than expectation.
I arrived on one of the two Sunday charter flights from Tenerife South, with some of the Armada Sur peña (fan club) . Several others had flown in the day before to join exiled fans from the mainland and the UK. Binter Airlines even put up an 18 seater plane with places to be won via their Facebook page. The 81 possible scenarios that could decide the three relegation spots were pushed to the back of our minds, a draw would probably be good enough.
Valencia was sunny and welcoming. Dropped off at the stadium for an abortive attempt to pick up match tickets early, a large group of us overcame our poor navigating skills to arrive at the Plaza del Virgen. Cars beeped their support and locals wished us luck on our short hike and the plaza was a sea of blue and white as the pre match lubrication began. Traditional dancers and singers had already been fighting a losing battle to be heard among the Tenerife anthems.
A large ornate fountain provided a focal point and we think we witnessed a modern miracle. The water began to froth and bubble inspiring a foam party as the suds blew across the square. It’s difficult to say what caused this transformation, but it certainly wasn’t due to any Tenerife fans tipping in cups of washing liquid, begged off the surrounding cafes.
We had all afternoon to kill so I took a brief cultural break from my half of shandy, paying a couple of euros to scale the shallow stone steps of the 70 metre tall Torre Del Micalet. The views of the city were wonderful and I timed it just right to avoid the 12 ancient bells deafening me on the hour. One familiar sight caught my eye, the roof of the Palace of the Arts near the coast. Valencia is the home city of architect Santiago Calatrava and his trade mark wave-like design is also familiar to visitors to our Santa Cruz, especially the Auditorium.
The nerves were kicking in as game time drew nearer; we all headed across town to greet the Tenerife players as their coach arrived at the stadium. It was a taste of home as hundreds packed the roadside and entrance as mounted police kept watch. The players looked tense with just a couple managing waves to the blue and white army. A few more beers and we filed up to our lofty terrace among the 50,000 crowd. A roar greeted CD Tenerife onto the pitch and we were encouraged to see that Valencia had rested big guns Villa and Silva.
The game was no classic, Valencia had already ensured a third place and chances were few and far between on both sides. After 10 minutes we suffered a body blow, relegation rivals Malaga were leading Real Madrid 1-0, that meant we now needed a win to have any hope. Manolo and Alfaro had half chances while our hearts pumped a bit faster as Sergio Aragoneses had to make a string of great saves to keep Valencia at bay. The home team grew stronger in the second half and even news of a Real Madrid equaliser failed to hold back the feeling that it was slipping away from us. Then in the final minute of the game a home corner found the head of Alexis who made it 1-0 to condemn us.
With a final defiant effort we cheered Tenerife off the pitch and simmered in our sadness as the local police kept us penned in for 30 minutes before we could get to our coaches. The flight home was quiet as we slept, hoping to wake to find it was a nightmare ““ alas no. Hopefully the club will learn from its mistakes and come back stronger for another promotion push. As for the fans, we are never down long, at least we get our derby clashes with Las Palmas next season. Once the hangovers fade away, first thoughts will be when are the new season’s fixtures out? Vamos Tenerife