December 15, 2018
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
I was positioned in my usual spot, close to the halfway line. I was equidistant from the penalty area where my 15-year-old son, the centre back, was defending and the opposition goal his Real Club Victoria teammates were attacking. The ball came flying fast toward me. I saw it coming.
My first thought was not to avoid getting hit in the head but to preserve my trusty Nikon and the long lens I’d attached for the morning kick-off. I used to use my Nikon exclusively for assignments until my eldest son Dani, now 18 and playing for CF Arucas in the inter-island Juvenil División de Honor category, asked if I could take some photos of his games. Six years down the line, I’ve become the unofficial club photographer for all three of my sons’ teams.
I ducked, and the ball missed me.
This was no park kickaround. It was a Cadete Preferente fixture, the highest category for the 15-16 age group on the Canary Islands, between Real Club Victoria, from the Gran Canaria’s capital, and a team from the south-east of the island Cruce de Arinaga, called CD Doramas. If the ball needs to be kicked out of play, it’s whacked.
I’d previously assumed Real Club Victoria were named after the Spanish word for victory. However, a taxi driver recently told me that they were named after the famous English queen. Their founding father Pepe Gonçalves studied in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which also explains their black and white shirts.
Doramas are named after a canarii legend. The canarii were the Berber-descending tribes who occupied Gran Canaria, then called Támaran, before the Spanish Conquest of the late 15th century. Doramas was a warrior who was lanced in 1481’s Battle of Arucas. His severed head was displayed on a spike in the capital by cruel Castilian captain Pedro de Vera as a deterrent to any canarii continuing to resist the Spanish invasion force.
Resettled, I returned to taking pictures to share with fellow parents in our WhatsApp group and on my social media channels. I have a long-running LinkedIn series called, “Things we can learn from Football.”
I recorded the four goals scored by Victoria, who by the end of the game move up to seventh in the table from ninth. I also caught the celebrations on camera, and the coaches looking pensive from the dugout.
When the game ended, I nipped to the shop opposite to buy a post-match Isotonic drink for my son. Despite being a centre back, he likes to bring the ball out of defence, so he was thirsty.
If you look from a distance at the stadium which is in the Las Coloradas barrio of the city, you might think it stands totally separate from civilization. Its precarious-looking cliffside position is in the most northeasterly part of the capital. It has a real end-of-the-world look to it.
On the way to the shop, I spotted a friend who was about to watch his son play. So I bought a couple of beers and joined him and his family.
Except I couldn’t quite relax. As my friend’s son plays for Real Club Victoria’s Juvenil División de Honor side whose next game is against my son Dani’s Arucas. So I switched gears from photographer to scout.
My son got a lift home from a teammate. My friend’s car was full, rather than wait for the irregular bus to arrive after the second game finished, I decided to walk home.
It was December but still part of the extended Indian summer, and I was pleased I’d remembered to bring sun cream with me.I skirted Las Canteras beach, and I was tempted to stop for a dip. But I continued through Parque Santa Catalina, a magnet for tourists who have just stepped off the recently-moored cruise ships adjoining the El Muelle shopping centre.
I dropped by the kebab shop in my neighborhood to pick up some chunky vegetable samosas with chilli sauce. Back home, I found I had the house to myself; my wife had taken our boys to see her mother. So I began the lengthy process of selecting and editing photos.
I uploaded the chosen ones to my various social networks, and then took advantage of being alone to take a well-deserved siesta.