Ten Years Have Got Behind You...

I was going to write a report of 10th Anniversary match from the Stags perspective but the last post seemed to cover everything just right. It was spot on and I really couldn’t add anything meaningful. Instead I have decided to give my thoughts on 10 years of the AGCup, it’s past present and future.

“I’ve got a great idea for a Stag do” – these words will ring down in history along with Custer’s “Go get em boys” and Captain Smiths “It’s only a bump, New York here we come”. I knew little of Galicia and Pontevedra in particular. Of course, like many Brits I had been to Spain (I know Galicia is not Spain but stay with me on this) Barcelona is one of my favourite places and I’ve been there 5 times, seeing Bob Dylan there one time. I have also visited Seville, a beautiful city. Our leader was obviously taken with that part of the country so a momentous decision was made to visit the Emerald coast. It was the usual mix of Sheffield based lads all with a keen interest in beer and footie. Football allegiances were put aside and Owl and Blade set off in unison. Everyone who has ever played any role in the AGCup is important from the players, the musicians, the camp followers (oh eer missus) those who watch the game and importantly the administrators who oil the engine and keep this old banger on the road but there is a special place for those “originals” from both sides. You know who you are.

It was clear from the outset that this thing had legs and would not be a one-off. Pontevedra was such a beautiful place and the Porcos lads so welcoming. There was a language barrier. In the usual British Colonial expectation, it was a surprise that everyone didn’t speak perfect English. If we landed in the middle of the Amazon we would expect the same. I could manage “Dos cerveza por favour” and that seemed enough! After ten years I’ve improved to “Dos Estrella Galicia por favour”. Or Nasas. The first game was played in driving rain on a sand lot. Galician rain. We would see a lot of that in the next ten years. The result of the game didn’t seem to matter (we won we won ha ha ha). It was a memorable trip and when we headed back to Sheffield we knew that was the beginning of something.

When the Porcos came to Sheffield the same year (2007) a meeting in the Fat Cat resulted in the Anglo Galician Cup becoming an entity. In the intervening years, we have moved between Sheffield and Pontevedra at regular intervals. Each expedition having its own place in the history of the competition and its development. I can say for myself that Galicia feels a bit like home to me now. I love the countryside and its people. We have the football of course but we have also developed a distinct musical bent to the AGCup experience and Galicia has many fine musicians. I am in regular contact with a certain Record shop in Vigo who regularly supplier me with CD’s from Galician/Spanish bands. Fantastic. I have many friends on Facebook who I haven’t met yet but hope to do so on a future trip. This is what the AGCup has allowed. An amazing offshoot to a “Kick about”. How have we achieved this? Clearly this whole thing has only got where it is by a massive commitment. This is from the players and travellers but a critical part of keeping the flame alive is the blog and its various offshoots. It has become a monster we should all be proud of and must continue to contribute to. A massive thanks to those who contribute the articles and administer the blog the unsung heroes of the AGCup. I’m deliberately trying to not name any names in this article as everyone is important in the AG universe but you know who you are. With one exception: The good friends we have lost along the way. Steve "John Terry" and "Smoking" Batty will always be remembered. Their contribution to the AGCup was immense. Fly on brothers. On this issue, I have to admit the Stags need to do much more to contribute to this element. In defence, a few of the Stags view this as a Galician site and have real difficulty in getting a decent translation of the blog so many of the nuances are lost. We must think how we address this so we can contribute more – maybe a separate Stags blog administered through The Main? Let us know what you think.

The Porcos certainly seem more of a group in that they meet regularly. Any excuse for a piss-up it seems. Excellent. We are like the British Lions. To be honest there are many of the Stags crew I only see in the departure lounge or the week before a home game. We need to improve that so we feel more like a group.

Then there are the games. This is a competition, both sides want to win, to get their name on the cup. But how important is that? Is it the purpose? If so that automatically excludes non-players, increasing in number as the years go by. After a string of defeats the Stags reinvigorated the playing staff with an influx of younger players. More importantly we made it clear this was not simply to make sure we were competitive but that they signed up to the whole AGCup ethos of developing friendship. This was underlined when the new influx included some who were not players but had heard our stories of fine times in Galicia and wanted to be part of that. This is the essence of the cup to me. That camaraderie whether you are a player or not you are equally important. I know the Porcos had a similar moment of doubt. The last game proved that whilst in a period of transition and playing in a style which suggested they had been managed by Karanka, they will always play with pride skill and passion. I know issues had arisen after the last visit of the Stags. The game did indeed get a little out of hand but as I said earlier this is a competition and we want that passion though that must be balanced with the knowledge that this whole thing is not simply about the game at all costs. More telling to me was the aftermath where once the game was over we were all friends again after a few beers. So, I suppose that’s what I want it to be – passionate on and off the pitch but a commitment to develop the AGCup as an entity with all that entails.

So, what of the future. Though after ten years times winged chariot is catching us with us, the AGCup seems to be in a good place. On the last trip, the Stags took more tourists than ever to Galicia and the expectation is that next year’s party will be even greater. The 10th anniversary addition was an epic weekend and well attended by a number of Porcos legends. I’d be interested to hear from the Porcos on where they think they are in these terms.