A Sunday without football in Spain was occupied instead by Barcelona and Real Madrid facing each other on the basketball court, a match that Barça won convincingly 83-63. The Clásico of the hoops was not staged at this time of year by accident but by design, with the Spanish Basketball League (ACB) eager to showcase the best of their sport when the football pitches are empty across the nation. To a certain extent, it is a continuation of the old Torneo de Navidad (Christmas Tournament), organized by basketball administrator Raimundo Saporta to fill the afternoon slots on the television on the 24th and 25th of December. “They’d stick Madrid in the Christmas pudding if they could,” a Catalan friend joked several years later. But at this time of year, basketball is still the main course.
In the absence of Spanish football, and in the age of a thousand channels that bring whatever you want to your house, wrapped with a bow, I instead alighted on the LaLiga Promises tournament and the Premier League. In England, Liverpool beat Wolves, one of the country’s proudest old clubs now firmly on the path to being restored to its former glory after a Boxing Day humbling of second-placed Leicester City secured a 13-point lead for Jürgen Klopp’s side, who also have a game in hand. The wind is currently blowing in Liverpool’s favour and so is VAR, which ruled in their favour in two touch-and-go decisions at Anfield.
José Antonio Reyes Jr lights up LaLiga Promises
But the real joy of this winter lull was the LaLiga Promises. The final in Abu Dhabi was a cracking affair, Real Madrid beating Sevilla 5-3 with the son of the late José Antonio Reyes, who was killed in a car accident last June, scoring four times against his father’s formative club. Reyes junior, who also found the net twice against Villarreal in the semi-finals, ensured the title went to Real Madrid, whose team were less physically imposing than Sevilla but more assured technically. The young Reyes was clearly emotional after the game and we all know what he was thinking, because we were thinking it too. From where was his father watching. And that if only he had been there to give him a hug.