BarcelonaThe internal debates within Barcelona seem small compared to the internal conflict that Rayo Vallecano is experiencing. The modest club in the Vallecas district has returned to Primera through the front door thanks to the genius of Andoni Iraola, the young Basque coach who seems destined to do great things on the benches. With a modest squad, he plays in attack and is currently ahead of Barça in the standings with a well-defined style. Iraola is one of the few things that generates union in a club, the Rayo, which is living a “civil war” in the words of the president of the confederation of supporters clubs. Most fans can’t even see the club’s owner, Raúl Martín Presa. It is the story of two cities in one. On the one hand, Vallecas. On the other, the neighborhood of Salamanca. The Madrid of the left against the right, the Madrid of the worker against the elegant. The city itself and a club turned into a social mess, without this affecting the results on the turf.
When the first week of September Rayo Vallecano presented its latest brand new signing, the Colombian Falcao, Presa opened the stadium to the fans thinking of the hundreds of Colombians who would come to see one of the best players in the history of the southern country. American. That’s how it was. But in front of hundreds of journalists, the stadium was also filled with fans who kept singing. “Dam, veto now“Every time he wanted to talk. Falcao did not know where to look. According to Antonio Castilla, president of the Federation of Supporters Clubs of Rayo,” Presa is an authoritarian person who does not fit with the way of Rayo. We are a humble neighborhood, of working people, where people help each other when it is not the end of the month. And the Lightning is our symbol. Now a gentleman has arrived who does not consult anything, who treats the hobby badly, who acts with a dictatorial way of doing things. Sportingly, things may be going well, but the women’s team has been loaded and the fans are being treated badly, “he said. they are given a paper with a handwritten number to know what their turn is. “In some things the Rayo is a club of Primera, in others of regional,” half jokes Castilla.
Although the Rayo has always been a symbol of a neighborhood with a long political tradition on the left, business people who look the other way usually enter the market. For years the Lightning was controlled by the Ruiz-Mateos family, who used the equipment to campaign in their lost wars. Teresa Rivero, the wife of José María Ruiz Mateos, presided over the club by briefly naming the stadium after her own name, for a few years in which money was spent that Rayo did not have. In 2011, Presa bought most of the shares. A member of a family in the screen printing industry, Presa was diversifying investments and creating a constantly growing holding company, with money in the construction sector, for example. When Presa bought the club, which was ruined, for little money, he did so advised by his lawyer, a certain Javier Tebas. Yes, the current president of the League. It was a dark operation where the pacts with the previous directive are not clear, which is still pending trial for defaults and debts. In fact, the representative of the previous board, Jesús Fraile, has found work managing the stadium restaurant thanks to the efforts of Presa.
The war between the fans and Presa broke out immediately, when it became clear that the new owner did not see with good eyes the will of the partners that his voice be heard. Because some partners had shares, the assemblies ended in shouts. Presa clashed especially with the radicals, the far-left Bukaneros, and tried to prevent them from gaining access to the tickets for away matches. “When he saw people from half the world see Rayo as a symbol of football against racism, he started selling this image of Rayo to sell shirts,” says Castilla, referring to the club’s second kit, which included the LGTBI flag. “But it’s the fans that have made Rayo a club against fascism, racism and homophobia. Then Presa takes these people to the stadium,” says a member of the Bukaneros. Last season Presa invited Santiago Abascal and Rocío Monasterio, from Vox, to the stadium box to watch the Rayo-Albacete match. “He chose this game to annoy, to hurt,” say the Bukaneros, as the Ukrainian Roman Zozulya played in Albacete. A few years ago Rayo wanted to sign this footballer, but the fans boycotted the signing proving with photographs that Zozulya had contacts with far-right groups in Ukraine. The footballer ended up in Albacete. And the first time he visited Vallecas he was insulted throughout the match by a fan who called him a Nazi. Presa would give the right to the League, which sanctioned the Lightning. And the next time Albacete visited the Vallecas stadium with Zozulya, he invited the Vox leaders. The response of the Rayo fans was to disinfect the exteriors of the stadium the next day. “It needs to be cleaned up, lest the fascist virus stay,” say the Bukaneros, whom Presa accused of cutting off power lines to suspend a match against Madrid in 2013. “They are communist terrorists,” he said. namely the president of the radicals. That year, 13 members of the Rayo were arrested by police on charges of being part of a criminal organization and threatening to kill Presa. The president denied being the one who had filed the complaint.
“It’s a complex case. He’s done good things in sports, and he’s made Rayo competitive. But it’s clear there’s no connection with the fans,” said Rayo coach Paco Jémez. “The two sides have moved away and now it is difficult to see a solution,” adds the Canarian coach, who visited the bars around the field to meet the fans. Presa, on the other hand, has even denounced some modest bars in the neighborhood for putting the Rayo coat of arms on the establishment’s sign without asking permission.
The management of the women’s team in recent years has been one of the other points that have moved away from the fans and Presa. The property has neglected the management of what became one of the best women’s teams in Spain, which has led players to use social media to report poorly organized trips, where they received a small sandwich as dinner. Or the club’s decision to start the season without the footballers having the contract ready. “Rayo fans want to make it clear to this gentleman that for us the club is part of our lives. It’s not about wanting to win and enough. Of course we like the way the team plays and seeing us face the big ones, but many would rather be in Segona with the club controlled by the members than in Primera with an owner who insults our neighborhood, “says Castilla, referring to statements made by Presa a year ago in a report where he recalled that when as a child he went to the Rayo camp and “had to jump over the syringes of drug addicts.” Presa, who has seen Rayo fans cross the city to fill the street in the Salamanca district where he lives with stickers against his person, is still determined not to sell the club. And the fans sing every Sunday in the field that wants him out. El Rayo is still well divided, except when the match starts.