Friday, November 17, 2006

Spanish Football For Beginners....The Pelotazo

The pelotazo is a complex offensive manoeuvre usually initiated by the president of the football club. Play begins when the president invites the mayor of the city which the club belongs to out for dinner at an expensive restaurant. After juggling with some finely sliced Iberian ham, and dribbling around a choice selection of seafood, the serious part of the move begins. The objective for the president is to make the mayor understand that the best way forward for the football club is to redevelop either their stadium or their training ground, whichever happens to be situated on the most valuable piece of land. As a result of this slick piece of trickery, and before anyone can shout “fuera de juego”, there will be a few thousand new homes built, a new stadium is constructed on the edge of the city, the football club’s debt will disappear overnight, and everyone involved will do very nicely for themselves. This manoeuvre usually works better if the football club president owns a construction company. If the mayor owns one too then success is almost guaranteed. It can also have the beneficial side effect of confusing the opposition, who turn up to play at the previous location of the stadium.

The pioneers of this revolutionary tactic were of course Real Madrid, when Florentino Perez took over as club president. Having their central Madrid training ground reclassified to allow construction of four massive office buildings has wiped out their debt and paid for all of the major signings of the last few years. The income generated is estimated to be around 500 million euros, not that it has had much effect on their results. Murcia has already followed the Madrid example, and Valencia is set to do the same; both clubs stand to benefit to the tune of 150-200 million euros, and other clubs are lining up similar operations. Atletico Madrid intend to make the pelotazo a key part of their strategy for the future, and are expecting profits of the same magnitude that Real obtained. The debate about whether to play 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 is all very well, physical preparation is of course important, but the most important thing in today’s game is never to take your eye off the pelotazo.

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