Domingo, Febrero 21st
Sunday is, in some circles, regarded as a day of rest and, having sorted my apartment in four days, I feel I’ve earned one.
What to do?
I have arranged to collect my first house guest from Malaga airport at 8.30pm but, until then, the day is my own.
I know, of course, exactly what I’m going to do.
You see, dear reader, until the middle of last week, I had considered Marbella to be very close to perfection, but with just one thing missing.
And then, quite by accident I found it when I took a wrong turn on the way to Fuengirola…
… drum roll…
Marbella Rugby club.
Thursday, and I’ve had my email answered telling me that there is a game on Sunday — 1pm kick off.
I arrive and first impressions are good.
The car park is just a dusty track you park either side of. No Bentleys, Ferraris or Porsches. Just the usual conveyances driven by most rugby players — vans and other tired looking vehicles held together by rope and gaffer tape. Vehicles abandoned in the wonderful anticipation of excitement that rugby generates.
Both teams are going through the last vestiges of their warm-ups. I incorrectly assume they will head back to the dressing room to put on their match shirts.
Nope — what they’re wearing is what they’ll play in.
Marbella in blue, are close to having a set of matching shirts —although I clock the hooker
has no socks — but the opposition play in an eclectic set of what used to be called jerseys, predominantly, but not exclusively red in colour.
This is a ‘training game’ between a ‘Marbella XV’ and Malaga University. The referee is a tall Jesus-like figure: skinny with a beard, long greying hair restrained in a ponytail and wearing a shirt with the number eight on the back. But he knows his stuff, old Jesus.
In all honesty, on this evidence, the best thing one can say about Spanish club rugby is that it keeps 44 young men from smoking for around ninety minutes.
In Spain — as I’ve said in a previous blog — everyone smokes. If you see someone running, it’s usually because they’re out of fags. I’ll come back to this in another blog; for now let’s concentrate on the rugby.
The game consists of three thirds, and after each period of play the coaches give their feedback. It is interesting to note that Jesus, the referee, gives the Marbella team-talk.
The home side wins comfortably, with a final scoreline of 59-14.
They have two standout players, bizarrely both wearing number 22. The better of the two is a strong running back, who started in the centre, moved to fullback but then popped up where and when he could be bothered. Each time he touched the ball he made an impact, although he ‘show-boated’ to the extent that I have the distinct impression that he feels this is all a bit beneath him. He could probably play in National 3, if he put his mind to it. As for the others, anywhere between Sidmouth 2nds and 4ths (if they had one).
At the final whistle, greeted by all other players with prolonged applause for the opposition, each other, the referee, the coaches and the crowd, No22 ‘the better’ removes his shirt for the senoritas and prances victoriously towards the dressing room. Perhaps — I wonder — he has a bull to fight? Then I remember it is still some way off the bull-fighting season.
A cheerful hombre called Boris is in charge of a small team of animated enthusiasts preparing the post-match meal — paella — of course.
I tell him — through an English-speaking Argentinean chap — that I would like to write a feature article on Spanish rugby in general and rugby in Marbella in particular. Could he introduce me to the Comms Manager?
‘Ah…’ he says, ‘You need to speak to Ruben.’ But Ruben has gone.
That’s for another time. For now it’s enough to know that rugby is played within a spit of my world, and I will spend many happy hours here for sure.
And so it’s back to the beach for a slow Sunday roast then off to Marbella airport to collect my first guest.