A Valencia fan 'Down Under'
Santiago Cañizares. A club legend & Spanish footballing icon who is responsible for me becoming a Valencianista. I’ve supported Valencia for almost 15 years now, which many friends & family find hard to believe, whether it be because Valencia is seen as an obscure club, a small club, or a club that just made up the numbers in a ‘two-team league’. You have probably worked out that coming from Australia, football (soccer) is a not the number one sport (yet), but the majority of football fans follow the English Premier League with a small percentage following the Serie A, but little know or have time for La Liga. Australia’s very own Maty Ryan joining fills me with optimism that Valencia’s Australian fanbase will grow. At least with fellow Valencia fans reading this from around the world you can appreciate on what a passionate, big and historic club that makes Valencia so special to us.
It all started way back in 2001, when I was 11 years old, around September or October to be precise. We just had Foxtel (pay TV) installed & I began to flick through the sport channels. I landed on ESPN & a replay of a La Liga match was being aired. I don’t recall who Valencia were playing but it was a night match in front of a packed Mestalla. It was an entertaining match with both sides creating a number of opportunities. But only one keeper was producing world class saves. He had this combination of interesting hair, white boots which were rare at the time & cat-like reflexes with eccentric behaviour. He was hard to forget or not notice and after several Valencia matches being aired over the coming weeks, I had started to follow Valencia’s progress.
The next four or five years were a highly successful period for Valencia. Since I began to support them, they have won two Liga titles, a UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup after previously suffering Champions League heartbreak losing in successive finals in 2000 and 2001. However, Valencia matches aired in Australia were becoming less frequent. It was almost a bit of a lull period regarding my passion for the club. But my passion was ignited in July 2006 when my grandparents told me they were going to fly to Europe for a holiday. Spain was one of their stops; however it was to be in Barcelona, not Valencia. Before they had flown out I asked them to buy me my first Valencia jersey and scarf. I emailed a photo of the 2005-06 season home kit that I wanted but could only find the 2004-05 strip which was worn under an unsuccessful Ranieri-managed season. But I still loved it. The iconic Nike Valencia strip with TOYOTA printed across the front.
My love for the club had risen quickly throughout the 2006-07 campaign, starting off with some impressive results such as winning at the Vicente Calderon 1-0 and an impressive 1-1 at the Nou Camp. They also played some lethal, free-flowing attacking play that involved a young David Silva, record signing Joaquin, local speedy winger Vicente with a clinical partnership of the newly arrived Morientes and arguably Valencia’s greatest player and my favourite player, David ‘Guaje’ Villa. Whilst in the rear guard we still had experienced stalwarts that had been through all of the highs with the club; Santi, Ayala, Marchena, Baraja and our own home grown David Albelda leading the side. This was some side in my opinion and one of our best squads in recent times. Ever since those days, Valencia was part of me. Almost every season I buy the upcoming seasons jersey, or tracksuits or jackets or more scarves. Anything I can get my hands on.
And finally one of the top items on my bucket list was ticked off. In the European summer of 2014, I arrived in Valencia and visited the historic Mestalla, one of Spain’s biggest and most iconic stadiums. It was a surreal feeling arriving and gazing at the colossus home of Los Che. My dream had come true. I had a beer as most would at Manolo’s bar across from the stadium whilst having a photo and a chat with Spanish football’s most passionate supporter. The stadium tour itself was fantastic. I did all I could do and see there. Sat in the dugout where some of our best players have been, in the change rooms, trophy cabinet shining brightly and the famous Valencia ‘naranja’ seats. I promised myself that I would soon return one day to watch a Valencia match.
Slowly, though, we have found it harder to compete with Barca, Real and more recently Atletico. Money, TV rights and worldwide popularity have propelled Spain’s ‘big two’ further away from us. I think it’s fair to say that we are no longer the third best in Spain but I know we will be back there sooner than we know it. It wouldn’t be Valencia if there weren’t massive highs and the lowest of lows. As we Valencianistas say, Si Se Puede, GANAR GANAR GANAR & AMUNT!
Copyright 2013-2018 Valencia Club De Fútbol. Quoting text from this article is permitted provided that en.valenciacf.com is credited as source, with a clickable link. Photographs by Lázaro de la Peña, re-use is not permitted.