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Men’s football Hermanos de la Izquierda: Part 2

‘Sangre Gaditana en vena Vallecana.’ This roughly translates as ‘Cadiz blood in Vallecas veins,’ a strong statement of the bond between the leftist supporters of these two Spanish teams with which we began last week’s article on Rayo Vallecano. This week, Cadiz, much less well known as a leftist team internationally than Rayo; but their Brigadas Amarillas (Yellow Brigades, sounds better in Spanish) have an intense and wide-ranging commitment to the cause that is second to none

CADIZ is in Andalucia in south-west Spain and is one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in western Europe.

The city was founded by the Phoenicians who called it “Gadir,” and that name lives on in the adjective for something relating to Cadiz, ie “Sangre Gaditana.” 

Cadiz province is the poorest in Andalucia and one of the most impoverished in western Europe.

The place has impeccable leftist credentials: for example, Cadiz province was a centre of operations for the Spanish Maquis, the resistance to Franco, the first recorded guerilla action taking place there in January 1940; and the mayor since 2015 has been Kichi Gonzalez of the Izquierda Anticapitalista, (Anti-Capitalist Left). 

The city is an anomaly in that it has its own power company, Electrica de Cadiz, founded in 1929, in which the council holds a 55 per cent stake.

Since 2017 it has supplied all municipal needs and about 80 per cent of households with energy from renewable sources.

Under Gonzalez, €500,000 of the profits generated by Electrica de Cadiz is used to prevent “energy poverty” among the city’s most disadvantaged, whereas other companies simply cut off the supply to those who cannot afford to pay.

Gonzalez’s partner, Teresa Rodriguez, is a prominent member of Podemos: she caused outrage among the Spanish right in late 2018 when she declared herself proudly a former supporter and follower of the Brigadas Amarillas.

Outrage because the Brigadas have been known to enjoy a row. These are the leftists you want on your side when the barricades go up. 

Kichi is also a Cadiz fan.

The Brigadas Amarillas was formed by a young anti-fascist group of Cadiz fans originally called Frente Cadiz. 

The following year they changed their name to Barra Ultra and became a proper ultra group, making long away trips to support the team.

The “ultra” term has associations with the right, ultrederrechista, so in 1982 the name changed again to the Brigadas Amarillas, inspired by Verona’s Brigate Gialloblu (who started as a leftist crew but became increasingly racist).

The group kept growing till 1987, becoming notorious for their massive away game turnout and political demonstrations — most notably against high unemployment in Cadiz province.

This angered the local fascists and kicked off large-scale riots and punch-ups. 

The fines, arrests and fights reduced the group membership to just 20 to 30 people at one point in the late 1980s. 

The 1990s brought in young people to the Brigadas Amarillas, but the club went through successive relegations in 1993 and 1994 and ended up in the Spanish third flight. 

But it was around this time that the friendship blossomed with the Rayo Vallecano fans: some of them met up at the Ramon de Carranza (former mayor of Cadiz, the club’s stadium is named after him) pre-season tournament held every year in Cadiz, discovered the consanguinity of ideas, and a beautiful friendship began. 

These days when the clubs meet it’s a nicely organised piece of hermandad (brotherhood). 

On October 26 2017, the club Brigadas Amarillas Twitter account advertised events for the visiting Rayo fans, including guided tours of Cadiz’s Roman theatre and the Fondo del Sur, the southern end of Cadiz’s end which belongs to the Brigadas. 

Such goodwill does not extend to other sets of supporters, particularly those of Xerez CD of the city Jerez de la Frontera in Cadiz province: this is the Derbi Gaditano, and these guys do not get along. 

There was definitely no guided tour laid on for the Biris Norte firm of Sevilla FC fans when they played in Cadiz in early 2018 in the Copa del Rey.

They met quite a different welcoming committee, one that necessitated several police charges. 

Football rivalries can bring out the worst in people and the violence can be a source of conflict both among different factions of supporters and within individuals themselves. 

Some Brigadistas were interviewed for a 2013 study, Political Ideology and Activism in Football Fan Culture in Spain: A View From the Far Left by Ramon Spaaij and Carles Vinas. 

In the study, some of the Vieja Guardia (old guard) of the Brigadas are described as being a little too committed to the violence. 

Others now see a different way, including Pedro, a fan then in his late thirties, who told the study: “We have a long history of violent clashes with fascist groups. We used a lot of violence against that other violence [fascism] but our violence was understood differently [by the media and the state]… 

“But I also have to admit my own mistakes, and one of them has been to defend our beliefs through violence, putting other possible forms of struggle aside.

“There are people who believe violence is the best way but there are others who don’t think it’s the most effective. 

“And some people have been using violence for the sake of violence. Our philosophy has changed a bit though. I am now much more involved in grassroots activities like education and raising awareness.” 

Another fan interviewed by Spaaj and Vinas, Juan (also late thirties), suggests that football affords a point of concentration that can facilitate social and political mobilisation.

“Football has social representation. One way for people to have power, apart from the political class, is football.

“Football has its good parts and its not-so-good parts. They always say that football rocks the common classes to sleep; they think about football and don’t think about other things. For the state, football has always sought to achieve this. 

“What they don’t know is that you can use football for other purposes. In football we bring together people with the same ideology, and when they are together they can unite to act on other things such as political issues.” 

An example of the latter was the involvement of Brigadas Amarillas with the Centro Social Recuperado Valcarcel in Cadiz, where some of its members worked together to decorate the centre and subsequently make dynamic use of the space after unfurling banners at the stadium complaining about the plans to close the centre. 

From a pure footballing point of view Cadiz have been a mostly uninspiring Spanish second-division club in recent years; however, 2019/20 was looking different and the club led the league for the entirety of the season until the coronavirus led to a pause in March. 

I was booked up to visit the city for the Cadiz versus Rayo that very month but the game was called off: let’s hope the next one is in La Liga Primera when Rayo head back up to join Cadiz. 

There have been few outstanding players for the fans to enjoy over the years but the main man, the absolute stand-out, makes up for that hugely: Jorge Gonzalez, El Magico, from El Salvador. 

He played in the 1980s for the club and was a legendary drinker, smoker and didn’t bother with sleeping that much: despite that, he is the best player that you have never heard of.

“He is one of the 10 best players I have ever seen in my life, there is no doubt about it. In training, we always tried to imitate him, but we couldn’t.” 

Diego Armando Maradona about Magico Gonzalez. Yes, that Diego Maradona. I urge you to check out some of the YouTube videos of El Magico, he was terrific. 

I end with these words of the sadly departed Michael Robinson, the former Liverpool player who moved to Spain in the late 1980s as a player and became a top television pundit there.

“Yo creo que no existe ninguna palabra que explique lo que significa ser cadista”

“I believe that the word does not exist that explains what it means to be Cadista.”

Robinson loved the city and became the club’s director of football. After his tragic death from skin cancer at the end of April this year there was actually talk about renaming the stadium after him. 

I don’t know about you guys, but after things get back to normal, my first football trip is going to be to Cadiz. 


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