Real Avila v Unami Club Polideportivo, Sunday 5th February 2023, 6pm

The second game of our trip was in Avila itself and so I was able to walk to the match from our apartment next to the cathedral in the town centre. We’d previously walked the city wall, both on the outside and where allowed, along the top. It was described as medieval, but I doubt much of it was there even a hundred years ago. Still, it looked good, particularly in the dark when lit up.

The route to the Estadio Adolfo Suarez took me though the stone entrance arch and then down to the part of town that would presumably have been left exposed whenever the place was attacked. I passed closed shops and some low-level housing blocks. Not much of it looked worth ransacking.

It wasn’t clear where the entrance to the ground was and there weren’t many fans heading to the match. I ended up walking three-quarters of the way around the ground before I found the spot where people were going in and a hole in the wall that served as a ticket office.

My ticket was ten euros and it made a welcome change to be able to pay in cash and not to have to download an App. I’d read online that Real Avila sell season tickets for a hundred euros with roughly half-price concessions for pensioners, under twenty-fives and the unemployed. Well done, that club. And well done to the lady in the ticket office for not assuming that I’m of the age where I qualify for a senior discount.

Just inside the gate was a bloke raffling a pig’s leg. There’s a time when I’d have been keen to get involved but Jen was already close to her luggage weight limit and with us being outside the EU I think that it’s now prohibited to take meat products into the UK from Spain. It would have been little use to me either, as I was heading back to a country that doesn’t look favourably on the importation of pork.

The game was in the Tercera division, which up until recently was the fourth tier, but after the latest reorganization is now the fifth. Real Avila went into the game in third place, no doubt with ambitions of moving beyond the Tercera for the first time in their history. Opponents Unami were propping up the sixteen-team division.

The Estadio Adolfo Suarez dates back to 1976 and looks like nothing has been spent on maintenance since. There’s one big covered stand, which is where I sat, and an abandoned open stand opposite. A cycle racetrack runs around two thirds of the ground but had enough pot holes to be more of a BMX obstacle course than anything suitable for racing. The pitch was behind the type of fence that you might use to keep someone from accessing a building site and a handful of people gave up the option of sitting in the main stand to loiter pitch side and watch through the mesh. The stadium capacity was given as six thousand but I doubt very much that’s the case these days.

Real Avila were in a red and navy combo with Unami in white. Not a lot happened in the opening stages which is just as well as few people seemed to be paying any attention to events taking place on the pitch. There was a constant low-level conversational hum which was clearly friends catching up with each other and talking about whatever they had got up to in the past fortnight.

The noise levels increased twenty minutes in when half a dozen ultras rocked up with flags and a loudhailer. They took up positions at the edge of the stand and had me wishing that I’d selected a seat much further away than I was.

Avila broke the deadlock a few minutes from half-time when a player chased a through ball and got there a fraction of a second before the keeper did. He managed to pop it over the goalie’s head with just the right amount of pace on it to drop down before it reached the goal and beat the despairing lunge of a defender who did his best to get a boot to it.

Unami should have levelled in added time when one of their strikers hit the bar from three yards out. He tried to put more on it than it needed and if he had just let it ricochet off his outstretched leg then it would probably have been sufficient to make it one-each.

At half time I had a wander about and caught a glimpse inside the room where the ultras kept their flags. It was graffitied with swastikas and mentions of Hitler. Bizarrely, the outside was decorated with a painting of Andy Capp.

I took a closer look at the occupants in the second half and saw that one of them was waving a Cross of Burgundy flag, which an online search revealed is popular with the far-right. It’s shameful that Real Avila tolerate the presence of neo-Nazis at their ground and something that should have no place at football or anywhere else for that matter.

Any sympathies that I might have had for the hosts went out of the window at this point and I found myself rooting for Unami. Whilst you rarely know the politics of those around you in a crowd, it’s still unsettling to see fascists out in the open at the match. Avila had a ‘goal’ disallowed five minutes from time to my delight and then an Unami block on the line brought a further smile to my face. Sadly, the visitors couldn’t nick the point that would have pissed off the home supporters and sent me back into town with a spring in my step.

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