Words: Will Dawson
Have you ever been to a funeral? Sad places, full of sad people, and sad food. Much like football stadiums, in a way. Depending on who you support. Anyway, a football stadium can be the perfect place to hold a funeral, and so on Monday night, Alavés did: a funeral for modern football.
Fed up with regularly having to watch football on a Monday night, Deportivo Alavés ultras, Iraultza 1921, did something a bit special. Having left the stands empty for the first five minutes of play, fans dressed in black filled the stadium, before a group walked in and paraded a coffin carrying ‘the soul of football’ around the ground. People lit up their mobile phones. Funeral songs were chanted. People were upset.
Alaves fans tonight dressed in black and with mobile phones alight, all part of a 'mock funeral' for the death of the soul of modern football.pic.twitter.com/yVi16Crvjo— Paul Reidy (@paulreidy67) February 11, 2019
Monday night football was introduced to Spain in 2012 and has always been unpopular, no more so than with fans of mid-and-lower table clubs. In La Liga, teams involved with midweek European competitions have priority over playing on a Saturday: Barcelona have only played on a Monday or Friday once in the last six years. In the same period, Real Sociedad have played 45 times. On Twitter, Spanish fans have said they would rather see a league of lower quality than one geared to make life easiest for those teams that play in Europe.
Both managers speaking about night night's ´mock funeral' at #AlavesLevante— Paul Reidy (@paulreidy67) February 12, 2019
Alaves-Pitu Abelardo:"I can only show total respect for the fans and what they decide to do".
Levante-Paco López. "Fans are feel to do what they feel right as after all , we play for them" #TebasVeteYa pic.twitter.com/8PxfSnCgUC
The really brutal twist comes from the fact that clubs most likely to play on a weekday are the ones that need the ticket sales the most. There is an obvious correlation between the day of the game and the size of the crowd. What’s worse is that fans are struggling to get to games. A representative of a Rayo Vallecano fan club has said that Monday night games, in particular, isolate young fans who have school the next day. Representatives from another Rayo Vallecano fan club have called the scheduling ‘a way to laugh at a hobby, a lack of respect’.
Eintracht Frankfurt ultras organised something similar in the Bundesliga last season. Frankfurt played at home to Leipzig on a Monday, but kick-off was delayed by hundreds of tennis balls being rained down from both sets of fans. Nine months later the Bundesliga called off Monday football until the 2020/21 season. Raúl Corralejo, a representative of Iraultza 1921, said: ‘In Germany, fans have a voice and a vote. Here, we have asked to meet someone from La Liga, and no one has let us.’
After the game, Alavés Head Coach Pitu Abelardo supported his fans’ actions, stating: ‘I can only show total respect for the fans and what they decide to do’.
The future of Monday night football in Spain remains to be seen, but Spanish fans may end up having their own funerals before they stop grieving for weekend football.