Last Thursday evening, in the snow and the sadness, we were lucky enough to be invited along to watch the first episode of COPA90’s latest Derby Days series. The episode, centring on the Galician derby between Deportivo de La Coruña and Celta de Vigo, pitched our friend, and perennial office annoyance, Eli Mengem into the nautical-tinged madness of one of Spain’s most fiercely partisan fixtures.
Afterwards, we sat down with Eli in between mammoth editing sessions, and allowed him to tell us what he learned whilst making the film, and why there is more to Spanish football than El Clásico…
“Before I went to Galicia I knew that it was a rainy, grey place. I knew that they liked to talk about being different, but seeing how that manifested itself was amazing” he explains, “absolutely everyone felt the same way. We had been in Asturias a few days earlier, and some people felt like they were Spanish, some felt Asturian. It wasn’t quite as clear-cut. In Galicia, it was ‘this is who we are’.”
Galicia, a historically autonomous community on the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, has long considered itself separate from Spain. Culturally, and in footballing terms, the reasons are laid out in Eli’s film. “The obsession with Scotland and Ireland really blew my mind, they knew about small town names, a lot of them spent their gap years or their student exchanges in Ireland, so they have this strange dialect when they speak English. They see themselves as Celtic, and they talk about the weather being the same as theirs in Ireland. It was fascinating.
“The only thing I knew about Deportivo and Vigo as football clubs was the club sponsor, Estrella Galicia. I used to get them confused because they had the same sponsor. I couldn’t tell them apart. When I was there though, I found there was a very good reason for that. The brewery couldn’t sponsor just one team, for fear of the other fans boycotting their drinks.
“The Galicians are fiercely loyal. Estrella Galicia is absolutely everywhere. They reject Spain, right down to the beer they drink. That was all I really knew about the clubs. What you learn when you get over there though, and you learn pretty fast, is that the rivalry is real. On and off the pitch. They have to compete on every level.
“Deportivo are historically more successful, but it’s a little bit chicken and egg in terms of the rivalry. When you get there, you realise there’s a big divide within the cities primarily, and they were never going to like each other. Football or no football.
“The success that Depor had was always going to be temporary, the early ‘90s and the early 2000’s, when they had their successes is used as a stick to beat Vigo with, but it’s just added fuel to a pre-existing rivalry. Which for me, makes it all the more interesting.”
Check out the film above and keep an eye out for the next three episodes in the coming weeks and months on COPA90. For more fan culture, trendy Australians and stories about the sea, subscribe to our quarterly print publication.