Although still busy with football and other stuff, I did a travel piece last week for top English language Spanish comment and news website Iberosphere, advising people that the best time to learn about Semana Santa in Sevilla is when it’s not Easter. That might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but given the crowds and hassle of holy week in the city, and the way Sevillanos spend the rest of the year preparing for Easter, it does kinda make sense. Here’s a taster…
El Señor del Gran Poder, carved in 1620 by Holy Week master Juan de Mesa, now resides in a purpose-built basilica on Plaza de San Lorenzo. The deep-purple, cloaked, dark wooden figure dominates the building from his post over the altar, with a mix of intense agony and weary acceptance carved deep into his face. Such sublime pain can be difficult for modern non-believers to fathom, but was presumably deeply resonant when the Spanish Inquisition was burning heretics. Steps beside the altar bring you right up close to the Great Power, for female visitors to kiss his shiny wooden heel.
The rest of the piece is through here on the Iberosphere site. Enjoy. Hopefully.
A preview of last week’s Barcelona Sociedad game which hinted at the defensive issues Barca would show is here, while a report on Madrid’s ding-dong 4-2 win over Getafe is here. A preview and then report on Málaga’s impressive 4-0 win against Getafe at La Rosaleda followed on Monday. Then there were match reports on Barca 2 – Milan 2 and Dinamo Zagreb 0 – Madrid 1.
Possibly the most interesting tie this week in Spain though is Atlético Madrid hosting Celtic in a match which has brought back memories of the team’s previous meeting in the 1974 European Cup semi-final. My preview of 2011′s Europa League group game for Sport 360 is here, while I also did a piece for the Football Ramble looking at how the Scottish and Spanish media have taken contrasting approaches to recalling the 1974 tie which saw three Atléti players sent off and left a lot of bitterness in Glasgow.
Last week also saw some off-the-field debates in Spain, with some of La Liga’s other 18 clubs looking to challenge the TV rights arrangment which gives Barcelona and Madrid the lion’s share of the revenues. Sevilla’s president comparing the situation to the French Revolution is here and coverage of the meeting where 12 clubs discussed the issues is here.
The international break also saw, well international football, with Spain ensuring they would be in Poland and Ukraine next summer to defend their European Championship crown. For Sport 360 I did a preview and a report on their easy 6-0 qualifying victory over Liechtenstein. For the Ramble, there was a more in-depth look at Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque’s defensive problems in the run up to the tournament.
Moving a bit further south from Spain, I had the pleasure of reviewing for When Saturday Comes a new documentary film called Soka Afrika, which looks at the hard time many teenage African footballers have when the come to Europe to try to make a career from the game, and uncovers some pretty shady practices by agents and clubs exploiting these youngsters’ dreams. The film’s website is here , but I can’t link to the article as you’ll have to go and buy the magazine.
La Liga did kick off, eventually, and I was busy enough on opening weekend writing pieces for the Sport 360 paper, including some previews of the first weekend’s action, a match report of Madrid’s easy opening day and then some exciting transfer news stories as the window slammed shut.
The blogs on the Football Ramble site allow for a more light hearted / in depth look at what’s going on in La Liga – and the last few couple have examined the battle of personalities between Jose Mourinho and Iker Casillas at Real Madrid, and how Sevilla still seem to be on the slide.
With the Rugby World Cup coming up I also co-wrote a profile of Irish boss Declan Kidney for the Sunday Business Post. It says that what was once seen as Kidney’s strength – his preference for man-management over tactical wizardry – might now be holding him and his players back and you can read it by clicking here.
If you fancy keeping an eye on what’s happening in La Liga and Irish sport you can follow me on Twitter for more links and updates.
I’ve been following events pretty closely, and writing about them for the UAE-based daily sports newspaper Sport 360. Here’s the latest Saturday morning with La Liga opening fixtures shelved as row rumbles on, and this was from Friday when the headline was Strike casts dark clouds over the start of La Liga.
As well as this I’ve been blogging away as usual in a few different places. Recent Football Ramble columns have included a look at how Valencia always manage to the ‘best of the rest’ in Spain, a deeper look in to the funny-seeming €8.6m transfer of Roberto to deep in debt Zaragoza and an admiring look at how the ‘quiet billionaires’ at Málaga are impressively building a real La Liga force.
I’ll be keeping more of this going throughout the La Liga season (when it eventually does get going). Feel free to follow me on Twitter for more links and the like.
I’ve been ramping up the football writing in preparation for hopefully get more regular work reporting from here in Madrid on La Liga and related events. This week so far has been busy enough, with three different pieces published on three different websites.
First up was a piece for the When Saturday Comes site looking at how YouTube’s coverage of the recent Copa America competition might lead to more of us watching our live football through a web browser rather than on a TV screen…
“The most interesting novelty at the Copa America – which concluded on Sunday with Uruguay beating Paraguay 3-0 in a surprise final pairing – was not a swing in the balance of power of South American football, but a peek at the way football will be mostly watched in the coming years.”
Next was a piece for the Football Ramble’s blog looking at how preparations for the new season are going at Atlético Madrid. Badly, is the answer…
“This almost instantaneous slump from on-the-up Europa League winners to shambolic also-rans might seem pretty drastic, but won’t have surprised experienced Atléti-watchers.”
Finally today there’s a piece on Iberosphere.com arguing that Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho now has enough power to ignore the nudges, winks and full-summer long front page campaigns of AS, Marca and the marketing department…
“Some of the front-page photos looked suspiciously photo-shopped – one showed a disconsolate Agüero looking wistfully at a Real jersey, another had Neymar holding a Spanish phrasebook as evidence he would move to Madrid.”
Hope you like ‘em. I’ve also got a piece in August’s When Saturday Comes magazine on the less bright sides of the links between Udinese and Granada which helped the Andalucian club gain promotion to Spain’s top division for the new season. There’s no link to read that, you have to buy the magazine, which you can do online here though if you wish.
The plan is to keep the productivity up throughout the coming La Liga season. If you’re interested in reading more keep any eye out here or follow me on Twitter. If you’re an editor or x looking for Spanish football coverage for your publication feel free to get in touch via the contact me page of this site.
Over the last couple of weeks the Sunday Business Post has run a couple of stories from me looking at how the web and particularly online social media can be helpful in building careers.
First up Marie Moynihan, vice-president HR, Dell EMEA spoke to me after the recent Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT) event in Dublin. In the feature (out Sunday July 10th) she discussed how people could build their own ‘personal brands’ online.
‘‘These new tools give people the opportunity to plan their professional online presence in a really positive way. There is value in really analysing your network and knowing the key people to reach out to and engage with. The key thing is to put the work in to build relationships, build trust and build your own credibility.”
The second piece was out last Sunday (July 17th) – a chat with Richard Clunan founder of Wordfruit.com, a new online recruitment service for the advertising industry. Clunan told me that the web and the rise of social media were changing the way agencies were structured, and helping previously under-valued staff break through glass ceilings:
‘‘Since the 1960s, advertising agencies have produced campaigns from core teams of copywriter-plus-art director. The newer digital agencies instead have larger teams, with more diverse skills, to deal with the diverse needs of new media. These collaborative environments generate a greater sense of inclusivity, telework and flexi-time are often more acceptable. There is also more of an emphasis on communities and on nurturing relationships. These trends are more conducive to increasing the numbers of and promotion of women, and of people from ethnic minorities.”
My latest column for Iberosphere looks at this week’s quite exciting presidential contest at Athletic Bilbao, whose group of extremely promising youngsters could be set for the top, given the right guiding hand in charge at the club. Last week on Iberosphere I wrote about the triumphal return of Real Betis to Spain’s top division after a couple of pretty disastrous years both on and off the pitch (see pic). I’ve also done pieces recently on Depor’s unfortunate but deserved relegation and a little known fresh-faced Portuguese boss.
You may also have caught me in recent issues of When Saturday Comes. June’s magazine included a look at how attitudes in Spanish football community / media evolved over the year as first Málaga, then Racing, then Getafe were taken over by apparently rich foreign owners. July’s WSC issue features my (mostly complimentary) review of Tim Hanlon’s A Catalan Dream – Football Artistry and Political Intrigue, which follows the political machinations, boardroom intrigues and personality clashes at Barcelona from 2003 to 2010.
Also, and just to show I’m still keeping it real and staying in touch with my roots, the current WSC magazine has a piece from me on former Ireland underage star Eamon Zayed’s decision to play international football for Libya just as it all began to kick off over there.
I had an idea something was going on, but was a bit shocked at the scale and reach – China, the Ukraine, Singapore, Peru and even Kazakhstan got a mention.
Colin Donnery, president of the National Recruitment Federation (NRF), told me the trend was a new one for an industry that traditionally played closer to home.
‘‘Until recently, many Irish recruitment companies did not really look outside Ireland as they were doing quite well here. Now they are starting to look for overseas opportunities. People see success in other companies and look to replicate it. They are weighing up what is happening in Ireland versus the situation in Europe and worldwide.”
For the record the other interviewees were Robert MacGiolla Phádraig, executive director, Sigmar Recruitment, Gerald FitzGerald, chief operations officer, Morgan McKinley and Jason Kennedy, global chief executive, Grafton Employment Group. The full piece is through here on the SBPost.ie site.
Ahead of this week’s Europa League final in Dublin, I’ve a piece on Spanish English language online magazine Iberosphere looking at the similarities and differences between FC Porto’s all conquering manager but fresh-faced André Villas-Boas and his former boss Jose Mourinho.
The gist is that while their careers histories show a certain undeniable commonality, their paths diverged radically in the last month or so. While Mourinho’s Madrid were retreating into a defensive shell, trying and failing to grind down Barcelona, Villas-Boas’ Porto were going goal crazy, and nearing a league, domestic cup and Europa league treble.
The full piece is through here on the Iberosphere site.