At 4-0 down with rain lashing across their Santa Cruz stadium the game was over for CD Tenerife, the fat lady was singing. In fact the fat lady was a fat hairy man who was not only singing but also dancing along with many other weird and wonderful Carnaval characters. A late consolation goal for the home faithful was greeted like a World Cup winner by the die hard remainder of the 17,586 crowd. The Carnaval song book was being given a thorough workout and even soggy wings, fur and party frocks failed to dampen the enthusiasm.
Football is like a religion to the people of Tenerife and the Heliodoro stadium is the place of worship. Once a year a home game falls during Santa Cruz Carnaval, that crazy whirl of colour and music, then the two big passions combine and fun takes on a new dimension.
Gathering at our usual pre game haunt just down from the stadium, the Armada Sur peña (fan club) soaked up the pre game atmosphere and Dorada beer as a procession of fans in their party clothes passed by. Many families took on a themed approach and proud fathers led their children in their costumes to their first Carnaval game. Once inside the ground the recently crowned Carnival Queen Naomi Cabrera was introduced to the teams and crowd just before kick off.
Ideally the script would dictate a home win but the visiting Barcelona B team had been plundering goals all season and was crammed with young talent. Tenerife had their moments early on, goal scoring hero Nino squandered a close shot but home goalkeeper Sergio Aragoneses had to make two strong saves in quick succession.
Even tucked in the noisy lower tier of the Grada Popular stand I could sense a commotion upstairs and looked up from pitch side to see a pink army of padded “ladies” holding the most unusual beauty pageant. Maybe they distracted the Tenerife players or maybe it was just the superior skills of the Barca team that saw them build a 2-0 half time lead from Oriol and Nolito as Tenerife struggled to hold back the tide.
The half time gathering out the back of our stand was joyous but resigned to our fate. At least we had the extra entertainment of watching clergy, animals and gender defying figures crushing into the gents. Back on the pitch Tenerife were attacking our goal, good reason to crank up the volume even higher. The dark clouds were gathering and a few of the younger party people showing signs of tiredness but Barcelona weren’t letting up. The blanquiazul (white and blue) were reduced to 10 men after Dubarbier was sent off for two bookings and the sky opened up sending down a deluge of biblical proportions.
Heads dropped in defence as Nolito wrapped up a hat trick within a couple of minutes, both goals meeting little resistance. Some of us crammed under the cover of the top tier of the stand but many chose to revel in the rain, warm and water proof costumes showed great forward planning by some. Carnaval bows down for no one, the anthem Chicharrero splashed around the ground and recent forward Brazilian signing Igor used his height to knock down a ball for Nino to crack home a late pride restoring goal.
The rain slowed to torrential as the final whistle blew and fans waddled out of the ground. Some were popping home first to dry their feathers and wring out their false breasts but a large river of people headed down into the heart of town to continue the dancing, singing and drinking into the small hours.