Competition
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Youth football, the Premier League and Serie A at Christmas

We have the children in Arona to thank for keeping us supplied with regular football during the holiday period when the domestic competition is on hold. When I say the kids in Arona, I am referring to the International LaLiga Promises Under-12 tournament which takes place in Tenerife every December - a host of matches being broadcast by GOL Televisión in which we can take a look at some of the emerging players of the future. This year, it’s the only football we have in Spain at Christmas as this time there aren’t even the usual regional friendlies to keep us occupied. Back in the day, those friendlies came like a bolt from the blue – in a way it was a way for Catalunya and the Basque Country to distinguish themselves from the rest and it gradually caught on with other regions – also partly as a reaction to Spanish nationalists. For the players, it was a hassle to have to play those games over the Christmas break and it all seems to have fizzled out.

LaLiga Promises

LaLiga takes a break at Christmas

As we all know, football for adults stops completely here over the festive period. But the kids can play and have fun – it’s not a sacrifice for them to keep themselves entertained during the holidays. As for the older ones, playing football is their livelihood – it’s their job and like every job, it’s demanding. Everyone needs time off and the Christmas holidays cannot exactly be moved. It’s certainly a triumph for the Spanish Players’ Association – probably their greatest one at that. This time every year, I look at the Premier League fixtures list with envy – in England they do play football over Christmas and those games are broadcast over here (and all over the rest of the planet) taking up transmission space that otherwise would have been occupied by our clubs. Now Serie A has joined the Premier League’s Christmas programming so in Italy, they too now play on Boxing Day.

Atalanta vs. JuventusBoxing Day goal for Cristiano Ronaldo

Festive action

In both leagues we saw some pretty intense games. In the Premier League, Guardiola’s City suffered another defeat while Paul Pogba, now freed from the shackles of Mourinho, bagged a brace... In Italy, Juve were held to a draw with Cristiano watching from the subs’ bench - only to later come on and save the day with a late equaliser. Napoli lost to Inter in a game which was marred by the tragic death of a supporter during a barbaric attack by rival fans. It served as a reminder that even during this supposedly peaceful time of year, there are still some very nasty people on the loose. Here in Spain we don’t have league football, but we do have the children’s tournament in Arona – kids who play purely and simply for fun. And today, here at AS, while the rest of the country is celebrating Holy Innocents Day, I’d like to say thank you to them for always being there for us.