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The match-to-watch: Rayo vs Cádiz

This is more than just a rivalry - it's a friendship between clubs, fans and ultras alike, writes Sarthak Kumar

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Rayo against Cádiz isn't the match to watch for sporting reasons. Rayo against Cádiz is the match to watch because of their fans. Both sets of fans don't care about results, both sets of fans have left-wing ultras and both sets of fans can rightfully boast to be the best fans in Spain.

So let's talk about the fans.

The Brigadas Amarillas was formed by a young antifascist group of Cádiz’s fans who decided in 1980 to create an ultra group. It was called "Frente Cádiz", were placed in the Preferencia sector of the stadium, and started to support the team more passionately than ever before. The following year they changed their name to "Barra Ultra" and became a proper ultra group, with all the joy of making long away trips to support the team.

In 1982 the name changed again to the "Brigadas Amarillas" and the group now moved to the Fondo Sur sector (a cheaper sector behind the goal). The story goes that the woman who made the banners for the group put a red star in it, then removed it when she thought that the red star was connected to GRAPO - an anti-fascist resistance group. And thank God she did, as GRAPO is now considered to be a terrorist group and anyone who supports it can be arrested. The name was inspired by Verona's "Brigate Gialloblu", and, given the left-wing and working class ideals of the players and club, had the face of Che Guevara on it.

The group kept growing till 1987 - the group became notorious for their massive away game travels, for their support of the team, and even for political demonstrations - most notably against high unemployment due to industrialization at Cádiz’s Bay and in favor of industry and public education. Unfortunately, since security at most stadiums was private, there were large-scale riots and the fines, arrests and fights reduced the group membership to just 20-30 people.

The 90’s brought in young people to the Brigadas Amarillas, but the club went through successive relegations - from La Liga in 1993 and the Segunda in 1994. The club struggled to stay alive.

Somewhere in Madrid, however, there was something interesting happening - in Vallekas, a new ultra group was created, Rayo Vallecano's Bukaneros, and members of Brigadas started to send letters to them and kept regular contact. It was the birth of a brotherhood that, nowadays, includes not only both groups, but also both teams and supporters.

In fact, when Rayo Vallecano were promoted to the top flight in 1995, for a season they were jokingly called "Rayo gaditano", as four of Rayo's players (and starters) were from Cádiz: Jose González, Calderón, Barla and Cortijo. Additionally, the interim coach between Zabalza and Marcos Alonso on matchday 8, Francisco Baena, was from there too.

When in 2003 Cádiz returned to the Segunda, after 9 years in the Segunda B, the Brigadas became bigger than ever, filling stadiums like never seen before. And now, the Brigadas are much more than just a local action group. They have connected with other groups around the world, participated in global actions against racism, homophobia and discrimination, and their protests are not just limited to the stadium - they now organize on the streets and in various conferences.

At the end of the 1991-92 season, a group of seven young guys formed an antifascist group with the focus of supporting Rayo the following season at the Estadio de Vallecas. At the time, the only other group, formed from a hundred members and non-political, was called the "Brigadas Franjirrojas". So they formed their own group. The Bukaneros, named after the traditional "Batalla Naval" celebrated every year by the people of Vallekas, was formed.

The peaceful coexistence did not last too long. Some members of the Vallekas’ section of Ultras Sur took control of Brigadas Franjirrojas, so the seven lads of Bukaneros decide to move to the other stand to show their support, together with the unforgettable fan group called Los Petas.

Bukaneros' ideology was clear: Rayo - working class and anti-fascist. But the group did not grow in the first two years, with only fifteen members and few away trips - although trips to Cádiz gave rise to the friendship with the Brigadas Amarillas.

During the 1995-96 season, some members of the Madrid chapter of the Brigadas Amarillas joined the Bukaneros, increasing the membership from 15 to about 40 members. Feeling stronger, the problems and fights with Brigadas Franjirrojas started to go their way, and two years later the Brigadas Franjirrojas disappeared - according to them, the "trash was out of the stadium". Away trips become more common, almost always in the company of Los Petas. The Bukaneros started to get more recognition outside Vallekas.

When Rayo were back in the Segunda, the Bukaneros became bigger and stronger. Better merchandise, frequent away trips, and dominating rival ultras at Vallekas followed, as Rayo were promoted in 1999 - inspired by their ferocious fans. After the membership rose above 200, the Bukaneros took their political causes even more seriously, with more involvement in issues such as racism. The Bukaneros even got international attention as Rayo qualified for the 2000-01 UEFA Cup, and they clashed with rival groups in Andorra, Vitoria and Bordeaux.

The Bukaneros still had problems - against Real Madrid private security would regularly steal their banners. But it was Rayo's successive relegations in 2003 and 2004 that really brought the Bukaneros together - their membership rose to higher that 300, and they would even travel to the island teams such as Mallorca and Las Palmas. Four years spent in the Segunda B, a hardcore group of 100 people within the Bukaneros became especially known for their regular appearances throughout the country and support for Rayo.

Yes, the Bukaneros still face repression from rival security, from Tebas and from Presa. Yes, the Bukaneros are, wrongfully, vilified and deemed as hooligans. And yes, the Bukaneros are political and that doesn't leave a good taste in most people's mouths.

But they, like the Brigadas Amarillas, stand firm in the face of adversity - whatever it may be.