Amelia del Castillo: La Pionera

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Image Credit: rtve.es

 

Situated halfway between the centre of Spain’s capital Madrid and the picturesque day-tripper destination of Aranjuez the community of Pinto is not the kind of place where you would expect a revolution to have begun, never mind one that would not only have a lasting impact on women’s football in the Iberian Peninsula but on Spanish football as a whole. It’s the early 1960’s and El Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still in power. For woman of the time even the most mundane of activities, ones that we all take for granted to this day, cannot be completed by will alone. Should you want to apply for a drivers licence your ability to do so is subject to the rationales of your marital partner. If you needed to open a bank account it would be your marital partner that would have the final say on whether it’s need meets the requirements of the home. You can’t get divorced unless your husband decides your relationship has reached its end and should you have a child it is the father’s right to give them up for adoption without the need for your consent. Nostalgia at times can be a wonderful thing, a misty-eyes nod to the past towards perceived better times, but for many Spanish women who grew up in Francoist Spain memories of that time leaves no such warm and fuzzy feeling.

It’s these challenges, plus the many, many more that she would face that make the story of Amelia del Castillo, Spanish football’s first female president, even more remarkable in the face of continuing and sometimes boundless adversity. From an early age Amelia was already aware that the emotions that can be elicited from football fandom show no discrimination for gender. Atletico de Madrid became her first enabler with a communion gift of a club pin becoming the first bump to what would eventually evolve into a life long addiction. This addiction though was destined for far greater things than just waving a scarf on the terraces.

With her friends keen to participate in a Youth Front organised tournament in the southern Madrid town of Getafe Amelia took on the role of organiser. As the only person old enough in her group to do so she completed the registrations and sourced the equipment so that they could compete, all this despite the fact that she herself was unable to play as regulations stated, “it was forbidden for women to play football or be coaches, delegates or referees.” They didn’t however mention anything about the presidency of a club and so in 1961 the then 18 year old Amelia, with her resolve emboldened by what she had achieved with her friends in Getafe, founded La Flecha de Pinto (The Arrow of Pinto) football club. At a time when women could hardly achieve anything without the gesticulation of a man’s hand, this truly was a huge step for any woman to take, let alone a teenager. Of course though there were many more challenges to come.

Firstly Amelia did not just undertake the role of president but that too of match delegate and coach, three roles as absolute in their distinction then as they are today but even with this workload and despite the strides she was trying to make it was not only men who seemed determined to stand in her way. In a 2014 interview with Canal Plus she recounted, “Amazingly there was not much criticism at first but even friends of mine, their mothers, they did not let them come with me.” As if the hurdles weren’t already enough she was also refused entry to training courses again as a result of her gender and instead relied on theory based classes, coupling these with her background in gymnastics to help in the training of her team. A team, it’s worth making clear, of men.

In 1963 Amelia decided that to truly progress the step needed to be taken to move La Flecha underneath the auspice of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). This however would require funding with the need to play within an enclosed stadium as opposed to an open field proving to be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Never one to back down from a challenge she, and those that were helping her, acquired a camera with which they aimed to raffle off to raise funds. As football fans are often inclined to do she looked to one of her heroes in her time of need approaching Vicente Calderon (the same Vicente Calderon who Atletico de Madrid had named their stadium after until their 2017 move to the Wanda Metropolitiano) to see if he would be interested in purchasing some tickets. Much to Amelia’s surprise Calderon not only bought all the tickets on offer but also invited her to a meeting where she could further articulate her aspirations.

Clearly her case had been compelling and it would soon prove to be the start of an extremely fruitful arrangement as Calderon continued to support her endeavours in a number of ways. For a start he provided free medical services for the Pinto players. The everyday sundries of football that are so often taken for granted such as balls, shirts and even training cones he gave her provision for and perhaps most significantly he donated the building materials required from his own company to help close off the pitch and raise the levels to meet RFEF regulations. These acts, no doubt boosted by her affection for Los Rojiblancos, prompted Amelia to change the name of the club from La Flecha de Pinto to Club Atletico de Pinto, the name it continues to go by to this day and an enduring act of gratitude to the support given to her by Calderon. It’s worth noting that her cause was also aided by the likes of Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid but it is her relationship with Calderon that was key in seeing the club grow. Her story soon gained international attention, after all she was the only female president in Spanish football, with her story even crossing the Atlantic and landing in New York. With the club now fully affiliated to the federation and Franco’s reign entering it’s final years it would be fair to assume that from here things would have only continued on an upward trajectory but in football, whether it be on the field or off it, things never go quite that way.

In 1975 and after twelve years Amelia, with a board of directors in place and with designs on improving the commerciality of the club received a letter from the then mayor of Pinto, Daniel Martin, it’s content adding an unnecessarily cruel twist to her story. Having seen the club gain increasing support and recognition within the community Martin, instead of engaging with Amelia, sent CA Pinto’s founding mother a letter demanding that she step down from her role with the club and that if she did not he would create another club in the town, throwing all the administrative finance he could at it with a view to running Club Atletico de Pinto out of business. Despite the protestations of her colleagues within the club, Amelia decided that it would be for the greater good to step aside, her only crime, being a woman.

Her work in bringing football to the town never went forgotten, and although a wait of 25 years is most certainly a wait too long, on the 5th August 2000 a petition started by the incumbent president of the club led to a motion that would see Amelia del Castillo installed as honorary president along with a renaming of the side’s home ground from the Estadio Municipal de Pinto to Estadio Municipal de Amelia de Castillo.

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Image Credit: Roddy Cons @TheTeamOnTour

 

She still attends games at the stadium which she is now synonymous with to this day and in a February 2019 sit-down interview conducted via CA Pinto’s YouTube channel she tells of the strong relationship that she has with the side’s current president Oscar Garvin, acting as a confidante and offering advice as and when requested. CA Pinto, despite their modest status in the Tercera Division are committed to the creation of a women’s side something which Amelia is excited for with a hope that one day she will see her granddaughters don the black and red of a club which she calls in that same interview, “mi primer hijo” – my first child.

Her legacy has been lasting not only in Pinto but across the women’s game in Spain. In 2016 Eibar, currently plying their trade in Spain’s top tier, appointed Amaia Gorostiza Telleria as their, and also the Primera Divison’s, first ever female president. A role she is still succeeding in to this day. At a time of oppression for Spanish women, where it seemed your chromosomal constitution was more important than anything you wished to do or achieve, Amelia del Castillo not only survived but she thrived.

She was not only a pioneer she was: La Pionera.

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If you want to see what Estadio Municipal Amelia del Castillo looks like now then you can do so via Roddy Cons excellent YouTube Channel The Team on Tour exploring the lower leagues in Madrid and beyond. If it wasn’t for his video from CA Pinto’s Tercera Division clash with Santa Ana I never would have known about Amelia del Castillo, had my curiosity raised to read further about her story and then commit what I had learned to the pages of Leading the Line. The link to it I have included here.

 

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Assessing Scotland’s Potential New No. 1

With Allan McGregor calling time on his international career ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and with both Craig Gordon and David Marshall now being viewed as yesterday’s men the Scotland national team has entered into a period of uncertainty in relation to what is often viewed as one of our strongest positions. With the three aforementioned goalkeepers now no longer in contention a 123 cap void has been left in Alex McLeish’s latest squad for the qualifiers away to Kazakhstan and San Marino.

In their place, a trio of goalkeepers with only one cap each and an end of season tour of the Americas to their name in the shape of Scott Bain, Jon McLaughlin and Jordan Archer. The recently installed Celtic number one seems primed to have first go at being the national team’s in-goal custodian and so Leading the Line looked at his path to the national side and how he stacks up against the other goalkeepers who have made it into the squad.

Bain’s journey to the national side has not been without it’s peaks and troughs. A youth player at Aberdeen he started to gain attention during a three season spell with Alloa Athletic where he was a key part of a squad that achieved successive promotions with the Wasps as the Clackmannanshire side moved up from the Third Division to the Championship and then maintained their position under the guidance of Paul Hartley.

After Hartley moved to Dundee and just about led the Dark Blues to the Championship title one of his first signings in the following summer was to bring in the highly rated Bain. His 108 game spell at Dens Park started well with his form earning him a call up to the national side in June 2015 after Allan McGregor was ruled out through injury. Over time though his form started on a downward trajectory and soon he fell behind both Jack Hamilton and Elliott Parish in the Dundee pecking order and following a fall out with manager Neil McCann a loan move to Hibernian followed at the start of January 2018. That loan move though was cancelled on the last day of the transfer window with Bain instead moving to Celtic to act as understudy to both Craig Gordon and Dorius De Vries. He went on to make seven appearances in the league as the Parkhead side completed another domestic treble. He started the 2018/19 season as Celtic’s league back up and cup goalkeeper playing in every knockout tie including the final as Celtic won the Betfred Cup. His first league start of the campaign came in November away to Livingston with a home game against Dundee following a month later, in both games Bain kept clean sheets.

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His ascent to the role of Celtic’s number one didn’t take place until after his side’s 1-0 defeat to Rangers in the most recent Old Firm derby of the season  as he replaced Craig Gordon with the 54 time capped international having come under increasing scrutiny for some error strewn performances as well as his inability to fully embrace the style of play Brendan Rodgers was looking to implement. With Bain in goal Celtic went on an eleven game clean sheet run in all competitions and in the 20 games that he’s played this season he has only conceded six goals. Whilst this is impressive it has to be caveated that he has faced less shots on target per game since the turn of the year than his contemporaries in the squad at just 2.3 per game (McLaughlin has faced 4.2 and Archer 3.1). He has the most clean sheets and highest clean sheet percentages of the three goalkeepers to make the squad at 75% and only McLaughlin is slightly ahead of him in terms of save percentage since the turn of the year. The Sunderland keepers 82% just edging Bain’s 81% into first place with Archer’s rate of just 57% suggesting he will very firmly be third choice for the time being.

Whilst his recent rise seems swift when compared with his competitors for the number one jersey he has racked up over 270 appearances across his career and if it wasn’t for losing his way whilst at Dens Park there is a suggestion he would have been in the national side mix a lot sooner. There is also a popular theory that players in form and who are part of successful sides should be allowed to translate that success onto an international stage. Of the three Bain is currently operating at the highest level, at the biggest club and is the only one to have won a major trophy. Games against Kazakhstan and San Marino should allow him to ease his way into the role but for now the number one jersey still remains very much up for grabs.

For more Spanish, Scottish and women’s football commentary, opinions and stats follow @MFPTasty on Twitter and subscribe to Leading the Line.

Gareth Bale: A Welshman in White

Before Real Madrid lost the second of two Clásicos and the capitulation against Ajax that followed the pressure was on Gareth Bale to step up to the plate and prove he really could be the man to takeover the Cristiano legacy. Here at Leading the Line we took a look at what the Welshman has achieved since his move to the Spanish capital.

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So 13 trophies, key goals and a strong goal scoring record suggest that there is plenty to admire about Bale’s contribution to Real’s recent era of European dominance but has he played enough and now given the end of the era feel currently circulating the Santiago Bernabéu will he still be in Spain come the start of the 2019/20 season?

For more Spanish football commentary, opinions and stats follow @MFPTasty on Twitter on subscribe to Leading the Line.

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Alfredo Morelos: The Buffalo Soldier

Continuing the catch up exercise.

What do you value at Alfredo Morelos at? Has his continued development helped increase the fee that Rangers can demand for the Colombian international when the time inevitably comes for him to depart Ibrox? Or, will the questions around his temperament  put off potential suitors.

History has shown that what the player does on the pitch is often the deciding factor when to comes to clubs loosening their purse strings so how has Alfredo done in the Scottish Premiership this season. After Matchday 26 Leading the Line looked at the impact El Búfalo has had on Rangers league season to date. Is he more One Man Army than just a Buffalo Soldier?

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So there you have it. Unbeaten when he scores, all over the shop when he doesn’t. Whatever happens in the summer it’s clear that Morelos has grown into one of the most feared players in Scottish football.

For more Scottish football commentary, opinions and stats follow @MFPTasty on Twitter or subscribe to Leading the Line.

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Atlético 1-0: Defining an Era

I post these on Twitter and then forget to update the website, I’ll try and get better at this.

Atletico 1-0 is a result that has become synonymous with the El Cholo era first at the Vicente Calderon and now the Wanda Metropolitano but what has the impact been of these results on this, and seasons past. After Matchday 24 Leading the Line looked at how life would have been without these most narrow of victories for Los Rojiblancos during the Simeone Liga Years.

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Since these stats were collated Atletico have not won 1-0 and gone on to cement second in the table.

For more Spanish football commentary, opinions and stats follow @MFPTasty on Twitter on subscribe to Leading the Line.

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Are Valencia Having the Luck of the Draw?

Draws are big business in La Liga this season and whilst Villarreal (11) and Athletic Bilbao (12) have racked up more than their fair share it is Valencia who currently lead the way with the Gameweek 23 0-0 draw at home to Real Sociedad being the 13th of their season.

Currently residing in 8th place just outside the European places after a testing start to their campaign where new signings and the added pressure of the Champions League seemed to affect form it begs the question are Los Che better off with their baker’s dozen of “empates” or will these drawn come back to bite them come season end? Leading the Line delved into the numbers and took a look.

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So there you have it. From the games drawn this season Marcelino’s side could currently be four places and six points better off at the time of compilation if results had gone further in their favour. With 15 games still to go this season these single pointers could still prove vital in what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive La Liga tables in quite some time.

For more Spanish football commentary, opinions and stats follow @MFPTasty on Twitter on subscribe to Leading the Line.

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Stuani: La Liga’s Ultimate One Man Team?

In a previous post on Leading the Line we looked at how a missing Iago Aspas was impacting on a struggling Celta Vigo side. But the Galician Gazelle isn’t the only contender for La Liga’s most crucial player. At Girona, where they have now not won in ten La Liga games (nine at time of data compilation) Uruguayan striker Cristhian Stuani has been responsible for more than half of all his side’s goals this season. But what impact have these goals had? Have they mattered, and where would the Catalan side be without them?

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Note: This data was first compiled at the end of Gameweek 22. In Gameweek 23 Girona continued their winless run with a 2-0 home defeat to bottom side Huesca. Unsurprisingly, given the scoreline, neither Cristhian Stuani or any of his team mates scored.

For more Spanish football commentary, opinions and stats follow @MFPTasty on Twitter or subscribe to Leading the Line.