What got you into Spanish football? Perhaps it was watching La Roja for the first time. Matthew Hirtes profiles the Spain national football team known and loved as the Reds.
La Roja….in 90 seconds
La Roja | Home
There’s no Iberian version of Wembley. Whilst La Roja train at La Ciudad del Fútbol, their own complex in Las Rozas 20km northwest of central Madrid, they play in stadiums around their mainland and islands including the Estadio Gran Canaria which hosted a 1-0 friendly win over Bosnia Herzegovina in November 2018. Indeed, with their entertaining style of play, the Reds are not unlike a footballing Harlem Globetrotters.
Legends of La Roja
Although he’s very much alive and kicking (and also still playing for FC Porto), Iker Casillas became a saint on Sunday 16th June 2002 in South Korea’s Suwon. Since then, he’s more commonly referred to as El Santo or San Iker. That’s down to saving a penalty during a World Cup game which opponents Republic of Ireland dominated and a further two in the shootout, to send Spain through to the quarter-finals.
Where his former Barcelona manager Johann Cruyff is celebrated for his Turn, Andrés Iniesta (the outstanding midfielder of his generation) is feted for his La Croqueta. This move comprises of Iniesta pushing the ball across his body at pace with his preferred right foot before playing the ball past the defender with the inside of his left foot. EA Sports added La Croqueta as one of Fifa 19‘s nine new skill moves.
Spain’s leading scorer David Villa is a teammate of Iniesta’s, as both currently ply their trade in the J-League’s Vissel Kobe. They’re combining well, as they did for many of Villa’s 59 goals from 98 appearances for the national side. The striker’s four goals in four games at Euro 2008 earned him the competition’s Golden Boot and helped Spain win their first trophy of the New Millennium.
La Roja Form Guide
The Spain national side first got their hand on silverware in 1964 when they won the European Championships, defeating defending champions the Soviet Union 2-1 on home soil. Yet it was from 2008-12 when they picked up two more Euros and a World Cup in between that many believe they became the greatest footballing nation of all time. Spain also won a gold medal at football, at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
Club Shop Essential Purchase
Pencil cases don’t get much more stylish than an appropriately crimson La Roja one.
Fans tend to meet for a caña (half pint) before the game in bars just around the corner from whichever stadium the Spain national side are playing at. A popular snack to take to matches are pipas. These are salty sunflower seeds which are chewed seemingly to relieve tension as much as to stifle hunger pangs.
Spain’s most famous fan Manuel Cáceres Artesero aka Manolo, el del bombo has a matchday checklist comprising of three items. They are beret, number 12 Spain shirt, and, most importantly, the big bass drum he bangs in support of La Roja. Such dedication, Manolo’s been following Spain all around the world since 1979, has cost Cáceres Artesero his family as after returning to his Valencia home from yet another away day, Manuel discovered that his wife and children had left him.
Damage to Your Wallet
Depending on where La Roja are playing and whether it’s a competitive fixture or friendly affects the price. You can buy tickets for the Spain’s men’s side, the women’s team, the U21s, and for indoor internationals online. By visiting the Spanish Football Federation’s official site.
Matthew Hirtes, our resident broadsheet journalist, moved to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria back in 2004. He’s travelled extensively through Spain, covering it for such publications as Telegraph Travel, Metro, and The Independent. The author of Going Local in Gran Canaria: How To Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home, Matthew truly is a resident expert.