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A firsthand report from El Madrigal on Sunday's match

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Full credit to the fans who sat watching this one in the rain.  Quite a nice mix of colours of umbrellas and raingear! (photo--Thomas McIlroy)
Full credit to the fans who sat watching this one in the rain. Quite a nice mix of colours of umbrellas and raingear! (photo--Thomas McIlroy)

As mentioned in the Levante preview, Thomas McIlroy is from the UK and is spending a year in Vila-real. We asked him to write about some of his impressions of the ground and the game for VillarrealUSA. He's sent us the article below, which I'm posting for him here. Congratulations to our first "special correspondent"!!

If you want to read more from Thomas and his year abroad in Vila-real, he has a blog at http://tmcilroy.wordpress.com (which also has pictures of him with his birthday present, a Villarreal shirt!)

I was rather excited about my first trip in the home end to El Madrigal on Sunday to see Villarreal take on unbeaten Levante. I had already been to El Madrigal after a mix up meant I had to sit in the away fans’ cage against Zaragoza – an experience I will definitely not be repeating – the only good thing I can say about that is that from up there, Vila-real looks beautiful!

After the performance against Man City, I was hoping that the Yellow Submarine would be able to take something from the game, how wrong I was!


I arrived at El Madrigal about an hour before kick-off, collected the tickets that the school I work at had reserved for me, and headed in rather excited. Our tickets were in the front row, in line with the 18 yard box. I have a season ticket at Fulham, and usually sit a lot further back, and the view from the front row definitely gave me a different experience, I could see the players’ faces clearly and hear them shouting to each other.

Before the game, during the warm-up Javier Camuñas made a little boy’s night by signing his shirt. From the way the substitutes were warming up, I would’ve said there’s a great team spirit within the Villarreal camp, they looked very relaxed, and happy to laugh and joke amongst each other.

The match started, and I was shocked by the lack of fanfare as the teams came out. In England, fans always stand up and applaud the teams as they come out, whereas the fans clapped the players but hardly anyone stood up, and I was a little disappointed that for a local derby, there wasn’t the atmosphere that would’ve intimidated the away team.

When the match started, however, the atmosphere was definitely kicked up a notch. A group of Villarreal supporters, they looked to me like the Ultras, seemed to find their voice and the atmosphere I was expecting finally appeared. A Cani flick early on had the entire crowd impressed, and there was a definite belief amongst the supporters that Villarreal could get something from the game.

Sadly, after the first Levante goal, a lot of the crowd seemed to lose their belief, and there was a lot of grumbling amongst the locals. The most surprising thing for me though, was the amount of Levante fans in the home end. In England, there is segregation between the two sets of fans, and if an away fan had celebrated a goal in the home end like the Levante fan behind me did, he would have definitely been ejected by the steward. No-one even batted an eyelid.

When Levante’s second goal went in, the frustration amongst the fans was even clearer, and the team was booed off at half-time. There was hope at half-time amongst some supporters, although others were moaning about the defence, with Gonzalo seemingly the only defender escaping criticism. Indeed many were saying how Javi Venta was showing Villarreal what they were missing, and the ex-Submarino received a very good reception from the fans! The reception wasn’t as nice for fellow Levante player Juanfran though, who after staying down for far too long was (fairly in my opinion) chastised by the Villarreal fans for the rest of the match.

The substitution of Cani was unpopular, with many fans booing the decision, and questioning why one of the team’s best players was being taken off. The third Levante goal was the final nail in the coffin, and it was greeted with a chant from nearly every Villarreal fan in the stadium calling for Garrido’s head, ‘¡Garrido vete ya!’ There was one fan who didn’t seem to realise that the chant had finished though, and continued to sing it until the final whistle.

Despite the result, I will without doubt be returning to El Madrigal. The stadium is intimate and feels like a stadium with character, which many new stadiums lack. Last night saw the first rain I’ve had since I’ve been living in Vila-real, which I have been doing for a month now. It provided one of my highlights of the match – everyone who was in the open had brought a mac and an umbrella, and protected themselves from the rain with ridiculously fast reactions! When the rain worsened, everyone moved to the back of the stand, and no-one moved at half-time so they wouldn’t lose their seat in the dry. It became a pretty bad thunderstorm! I also loved how everyone was eating sunflower seeds, including the ballboy who was sitting in front of me, by the time the game had finished, the floor around him was covered in the remnants of the shells.

At the game, I saw alongside many of the students I teach, as I’m an English Language Assistant at the school which the youngsters who live in the Ciudad Deportiva go to. In class today, many of them wanted to talk about the game, and everyone described it as ‘fatal’ or ‘muy malo’, and no-one seems to have much hope for the trip to Madrid in midweek.