On January 20th each year, the beautiful city of San Sebastián (think of a small Paris by the sea) in the Basque Country celebrates the festival known as La Tamborrada. It begins in the evening of January 19th and continues for 24 hours. It’s loud, because the main instrument is the drum.
Drums beaten for 24 hours sounds like my idea of a personal hell. Add some bagpipes to that and you’d have me whimpering in a pathetic, drooling heap in the corner, crying, “make it stop, make it stop.” Luckily bagpipes are the Galicians’ and Asturians’ instrument of torture and didn’t make it as far as the Basque Country. So, only drums it is in El País Vasco.
La Tamborrada is a highly organised event. Groups of drummers, dressed as chefs and soldiers, march through the streets beating out the rhythms and singing songs that have been composed especially for the event. The kids even get into the act with their schools organising drumming corps for the children’s marches which happen during the morning of the festival.
How does this fit in football? Thanks for asking.
Kicking off La Tamborrada
Into the second half of the season, and tonight’s game starts early at 6pm CET. Before the game, Real Sociedad has organised a demonstration of 2 drumming corps that will march around the athletic track, supplying the warm-up beats for the players and entertaining the crowd. The drummers will also beat out the Sociedad anthem “Txuri Urdin” (White & Blue) as the players emerge from the tunnel before kick-off.
If we’re not deaf by then, what can we expect?
Nestled in a little gully overlooked by the city’s Velodrome and Bullring, Real Sociedad’s pretty little 32,000+ capacity stadium also occasionally serves as a rugby pitch for French Club Biarritz Olympique.
Barça’s last 2 visits there have yielded a loss for the Blaugrana (2010/11) and a draw (2011/12) after they were leading 0-2, went to sleep and then let Sociedad catch up. In fact, Barça hasn’t won away against Sociedad since 2007, but the Basque team did play 3 seasons in the Liga Adelante since then.
Tomorrow’s crowd could be a good one given that it’s the start of La Tamborrada, although it may also be affected by the festival because those who are drumming may have to be elsewhere. (As for the weather – see below.)
Real Sociedad’s Form – Rather Erratic
This season, Sociedad’s record at home is 5W 2L 3D. Those 2 losses were 0-1 affairs to Atlético de Madrid and Espanyol. Their away form has been less successful: 2W 5L 2D for a season’s result of 7W 7L 5D thus far. They’ve beaten notable in-form teams such as Rayo and Málaga, as well as Sevilla and Valencia.
A couple of weeks ago, they participated in a controversial game away to Real Madrid (where Mourinho selected Adan ahead of Casillas, but the reserve keeper lasted about 10 mins before being red-carded, so Casillas had to play after all), and narrowly missed winning by 4 goals to 3 when, perhaps with a little more pressing, they could have won or at least drawn the match. (But then our guys didn’t do any better when they allowed a 10-man Málaga to come back to level 2-2 last Wednesday night.)
With 29 points, Real Sociedad sits 9th on the Liga Table – 4 points behind Valencia in 7th and Levante in 8th.
Players to Watch
Coach Phillipe Montanier (his French accent when speaking Castellano is so cute!) has a full squad for selection with no players injured and 3 players (Iñigo Martínez, Dani Estrada and Mikel González) back from serving a 1 match suspension from Yellow card accumulations. Hmmm… do you think that their last cards (awarded in the Madrid game) were deliberate so that they were not suspended for this match?
The squad is:
GKs: Bravo, Zubikarai.
Defence: Carlos Martínez, Dani Estrada, Mikel, Iñigo, De la Bella, José Ángel.
Mid-fielders: Pardo, Illarra, Markel, Elustondo.
Forwards: Xabi Prieto, Vela, Ifrán, Agirretxe, Chory Castro, Griezmann.
Real Sociedad used to follow the same system as Athletic Bilbao of only using Basque-born players, but the club abandoned that practice in 1989. The team is now a mix of Basque (who have progressed through the Sociedad youth teams to the Senior level), and International players.
Notable local players are:
~ Captain Xabi Prieto has played at the club since he was 5 years old. He scored his first hat-trick 2 weeks ago in the 4-3 loss to Real Madrid. Lying second on the goal-scoring table, his tally stands at 4 for the season, with 3 assists.
~ 21yo CB Iñigo Martínez is gaining a lot of attention from overseas clubs, and it won’t be long before Real Sociedad is presented with an irresistible offer for him. Although he’s a promising player, Iñigo was part of the disappointing Olympic Team and suffered the ignominy of being sent off (for a last-man tackle) in the first game against Japan.
~ 20yo Mid-fielder Rubén Pardo has 2 goals and 2 assists for his 743 minutes played. In 2011, he was part of the successful Spanish U-19 team to win the UEFA U-19 Football Championship in Romania.
~ Forward Imanol Agirretxe is a threat in front of goal, especially when linking up with his captain. The 6’1″ striker is often used as an impact player and has 3 goals and 1 assist.
The squad also has a few Internationals, some of whom are also members of their countries’ National Teams.
~ GK Claudio Bravo is the captain of Chile and has been with Sociedad since 2006. When he makes a good save, you can shout “Bravo!” and really mean it.
~ 21yo French player Antoine Griezmann is no slug on the left wing. Our Right defence is going to have to be on their toes to contain this guy, who can also play as a striker. With 3 goals and 2 assists for Sociedad, Griezmann also plays for the French U-21 team.
~ Uruguayan “Chori” Castro made the move from Mallorca to Sociedad this season. The winger, still feeling his way into the team, is mainly being used as a sub, but still has 2 goals and 1 assist for his 639 Liga minutes.
~ In August 2012, Mexican Carlos Vela signed permanently to Real Sociedad after being on-loan to the club last season from Arsenal. Signed by the Gunners in 2005, Vela has spent most seasons out on loan because of UK work permit restrictions for non-EU citizens. The 23yo Striker leads the goal table with 8 netted and 3 assists. He has also accumulated 6 cards – the second-highest total in the club for the season. Vela has been a member of the Mexico squad since 2007.
Qatar Strikes Again
For some inexplicable reason, but most likely for healthy monetary compensation, the home team’s camisetas will bear a new sponsor for this game – and this game only. The name of Qatari firm Al Gosaibi Capital (with a really bad website – don’t click on it if you are at work because the music is loud) will be splayed across the chiseled abs of the Sociedad players.
Unfortunately, it’s not great. Rain, sometimes heavy, is forecast for Saturday and it could also be quite windy. And cold. This will not suit our boys. Shades of the conditions at San Mamés last season, but hopefully the pitch won’t be as water-logged.
Who’s Tito gonna play?
Because of the early game time, the Barça team travelled to San Sebastián on Friday night.
Once again, Jonathan dos Santos was left behind to mop the floors and turn off the lights, and David Villa still has an injured thigh and also didn’t travel. Abidal, Cuenca and Muniesa, although training again with the main group, have not received medical clearance and won’t be going anywhere until they do.
The squad is: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Montoya, Piqué, Bartra, Puyol, Mascherano, Alba, Adriano, Xavi, Thiago, Busquets, Iniesta, Cesc, Pedro, Alexis, Messi and Tello.
Alex Song travelled with the group but has already been ruled out with a minor injury that has seen him training in the gym since the Málaga CdR game.
Anyone else think that Tito is going to have selection headaches when the whole squad is back in business?
I anticipate a no-nonsense-let’s-get-the-job-done team although, with the expected weather conditions, he may decide to rest a couple of key players to save them for the return CdR match against Málaga next Thursday.
The game kicks off tonight, Saturday 19th January at 6:00pm CET
Click here to convert the match time to your timezone: Real Sociedad vs. FC Barcelona