Anglo-Galicia Cup – The Origins

Just a little over eight years ago a friendship began that was to going to lead to the creation of the Anglo-Galicia Cup.

September 2001 was remembered, and still is, by most as being the fateful time when many died in the 9/11 attacks. On that day I was swimming in one of Galicia’s amazing rivers and enjoying the late-summer sun near the town of Ponte Caldelas. However what most history books will forget is that a few days earlier a more momentous occasion happened…

My father, later to be known to the unfortunate locals of Pontevedra as DJ Dennis, moved to Pontevedra in Spring 2001. His first description of Pontevedra was that, “…it smells like cabbage and is full of hippies.” Hmmm, hardly the most inspiring image.

Trying to dispel my fears and encourage me to visit him in the vile smelling town of flower people Dennis “sold” me three things about why Pontevedra was a good place to visit;
1) The town has an amazing medieval centre where there are so many bars. Two of his favourites being O Grifon and The Highlander.
2) The area of Galicia is unspoilt by tourists, in particular the English and the Germans (neither are particular welcome when trying to enjoy a holiday).
3) There is a man, called Fran, who loves a lot of things English, in particular real ale and Liverpool FC, and who regularly argues in the streets with another man who supports Manchester United.

The images of 1 and 2 were good. Of number 3 I pictured an aging, grumpy man who was showing the signs of alcohol abuse. Maybe this was a vision of Fran in 2009!

Once I’d finally plucked up the courage, and stocked up with LSD, I ventured to Galicia for the first time via flights to Paris and Porto. My first night in Pontevedra was a relaxing evening eating tapas and drinking wine in La Alqueria Mudejar. My second night in Pontevedra was less serene, the first meeting between Thompson and Mendez Brea.

I stood in O Grifon for the first time and, armed with shoebox full of bottles of real ales, I awaited the entrance of the quickly becoming infamous Fran. Every time a person entered O Grifon I peered over towards the door to see if the man I expected to look like a Galician Columbo had arrived. Still no sign of the wizened US detective look-a-like but then out-of-the-blue a younger (slightly younger!) man said hello to Dennis and then proceeded to introduce himself to me. Alas Fran was not "Pedro" Falk but in fact a Galician version of Hugh Grant. Obviously a far less handsome and far less charismatic version.

Handing over the real ales (some of Yorkshire’s finest) I was shocked and surprised to hear Fran announce that he’d already tried and tasted each and every bottle that I’d brought from Old Blighty. Knowing him as I do now the only shock would have been if he had said that he’d not heard of the ales!!!

Several pints later and a friendship was born. Over the next few years I continued to visit Pontevedra and enjoyed many many, generally alcohol-fuelled, meetings with Fran, his family and friends (all of which I now consider my friends apart from the Argie, Lutsky ha, ha, ha, ha). Whether I was staying at Fran’s home in Bon or meeting him in London or Liverpool during one of his Old Blighty pub crawls, the beer and nonsensical discussions were never far away.

In September 2005, and despite Fran’s best advice, I proposed to my now wife Lizzi, whilst at the Grand Canyon. This gesture not only led me to being off the market to the rest of the world’s women but it also led to the planning of the first game of the Anglo-Galicia Cup.

As is traditional a stag party would be in order and our plan was to hold it in Pontevedra and include the inaugural Anglo-Galicia Cup match. Many questions were pondered…Had Pontevedra ever accommodated such a party? Could Pontevedra hold and recover from such a party?? Would the game harness Anglo-Galician relations or would there be blood spilt on the pitch and/or in the bars afterwards??? And most importantly, who would come out on top of the first meeting between these newly spawned rivals?????????

Regardless of the above, 17 Englishmen (The Sheffield Stags) invaded an unsuspecting Pontevedra in April 2007. On Sunday April 29th, and after the Stags were “entertained” by the Porcos Bravos to a large and very heavy meal (including numerous bottles of local wine (the type that turns a table cloth blue!) and local firewater), the first whistle of the Anglo-Galicia Cup sounded (or was that the ringing left in my ears after the Aguardiente?)…

…the rest is fast becoming an integral part of footballing history.