Ødegaard: The Ode to Joy


By David Whitworth | @DCWh1tworth


Norwegian sensation Martin Ødegaard returned to Spanish football last summer with Real Sociedad and the Scandinavian prodigy has left his joyous mark.

The Ødegaard Origins
Despite the tender age of just 21, Martin Ødegaard has fit in a lot into his short footballing career. Long heralded as football’s bright young prospect since his impressive fledging performances for his Norwegian club Strømsgodset. That debut season he scored five goals in 23 appearances. The fierce race for his signature began in earnest. Ultimately, it was Spanish giants Real Madrid who secured the highly sought-after teenager. The Whites paying an initial €4 million euros for his services.

Galactico Status
He was even awarded the privilege of a ‘Galactico’ style signing. The new kid on the block was flanked by the club’s legendary player and now head of International Relations, Emilio Butragueño. He was full of praise for him in a packed press conference covered by world wide media. He also stepped on the pitch too for photos; billed as Real Madrid’s new hope.

The Real Madrid Beginnings
Ødegaard would train with the first team and made his debut for Los Blancos (The Whites) in the final fixture of that 2014/15 season. It was a debut to remember to be part of a famous 7-3 victory over Getafe in the Santiago Bernabéu. The youngster would join the fun and make his debut from the bench in the 58th minute. In the process, he became the youngest footballer ever to appear for Real Madrid in their history. All this at just 16 years and 157 days.

But, as the footballing world followed his every move, curious to follow his progress, Madrid’s new hope didn’t turn out the way they planned – and subsequently went out on loan later with a spell at their academy team, Real Madrid Castilla which yielded a goal and seven assists in 34 games in second season with The Whites.

The Eredivisie Journey
The Netherlands would be his next destination – signing an 18-month loan deal with Frisian side Heerenveen. His time in Friesland would be crucial to his development both on and off the field, scoring two goals in 38 games. His next stop would be with fellow Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem, which was where he would really find his footballing feet. In 31 league appearances, he scored eight goals and assisted 11 times as his confidence skyrocketed.

His outstanding performances earned him a place in the 2018/2019 Team of the Year in the Dutch Eredivisie league. An impressive achievement given he was the only player voted outside of the top two teams; Ajax and PSV. He also became better known for his dribbling ability and his entertaining tricks and flicks. Just search his name online to see his own highlight reel.

Back To The Future in La Liga
And so returned to La Liga with another loan move – but this time to the Basque region and Real Sociedad. The Txuri-Urdinak (The Whites and Blues) saw enough progress to acquire him for this La Liga season. The deal also comes with an option for next season and the player is happy to stay in San Sebastián.

Subsequently, he linked up with another Scandinavian prospect with playing experience in the Netherlands in Sweden’s Alexander Isak. The two young guns have shown promising form this season with an exciting partnership forged; certainly one of the narratives of this La Liga season.


The Swedish striker has scored seven goals in 27 games in his debut season in Spanish Football. Meanwhile, Ødegaard’s star has continued to rise. Improving once again and raising the bar with four goals in 23 games with five assists and countless moments of magic.

Ødegaard Steals Show in Bernabéu Bright Lights
He even made his parent club step up and take notice when he dazzled on his return to the Bernabéu. A Copa del Rey match which was won by Real Sociedad in a thrilling match 3-4 with the Norwegian opening the scoring. Madrid were vanquished and Ødegaard was at the heart of it all, pulling the strings to knock out The Whites.

His slalom runs, driving from deep and the way he effortlessly glides along the pitch with the ball close to his feet make him pleasing on the eye and a candidate to be in the team of the season.

Both Isak and Ødegaard, the Scandinavian duo together are certainly ones to watch out for once La Liga resumes.

Glory for Norway
Back in Norway, his national team also wanted a piece of Ødegaard. He duly made his bow on the international scene. By doing this, he became the youngest capped player in Norwegian history. A ridiculous achievement at the age of 15 years and 253 days.

However, a further call up to the squad didn’t take place. A tactic done on purpose so he was able to be given the time to grow and hone his footballing craft away from the limelight of fans and media who followed and scrutinized his every move.

After a hiatus of 18 months in development, he returned to the international set up and now has 22 caps to his name, scoring one goal to date against Romania in Norway’s Euro 2020 qualifying match last June. Thanks to his improvements, the young prodigy now features for his country on a regular basis.

The problem of his enormous expectation proceeded him in his teenage formative years. But that burden has gradually eroded as he caught up with the hype which initially surrounded him. A boy changing to a man in the face of the footballing world must have been tough. To live in a goldfish bowl with unrealistic pressure at such a young age. However, in the frenzied world of football, it is the norm as supporters pin their hopes on the next big thing.

From Raw Wunderkid to Flourishing Talent
Martin Ødegaard took his time to fully prove himself on the big stage. Yet, he is now consistently showing signs of why there was such a big fuss about him years ago. He continues to solve the next big challenge and finds answers to the questions thrown his way.

A maturing prospect and a perfect symphony could be written by the Norwegian sensation by the end of this season. With that, he will continue to write his way into the record books with his very own ode to joy.

The Rise of Gutsy Getafe

By David Whitworth | @DCWh1tw0rth

The edgy, less illustrious neighbours of the Madrid giants continue on a roll after an impressive last season. It must be stressed: the evolution of Getafe has been no fluke.

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Out of the Shadows

For a team in the shadows of their grander neighbours, Getafe have put themselves firmly in the spotlight thanks to their recent outstanding achievements. Achievements that have come to fruition thanks, in large, to one man: their talented coach.
Getafe are lead by their studious and meticulous manager José Bordalás, who has worked wonders since his arrival. Los Azulones, as they are known, were in the relegation zone of the Segunda División when he took charge. Yet he masterfully navigated Getafe to promotion that very same season – overcoming Huesca and Tenerife in the play offs. Since then, he phas successfully stabilized the club by moulding together a team of players with a point to prove or clever signings from left field.

A Resurgent Club

The Madrid based team’s return to La Liga ended with an impressive 8th placed finish followed by last season’s magnificent 5th place berth. The club were challenging all the way for an unlikely, yet would have been deserving, Champions League classification. Not bad for a team with the fifth lowest budget in La Liga. Sustainability being the key to their success.

Overachieving certainly springs to mind. However, thanks to a solid organization, high work-ethic and sheer guts, Bordalás’ team has a notable 45% win rate from his 160 games in charge. This is backed up with a healthy points per match ratio of 1.63. The manager has a keen eye for the team that he wants, whilst being able to work to a small budget.

No Substitute for Hard Work

Precisely at Getafe, he and his club have successfully worked within their means. They have acquired talented individuals to fit into the spirited work ethos and togetherness of the club. The ‘all hands on deck’ approach from his players has contributed to huge reward.

Attacking Prowess

Players such as Jorge Molina have been mighty impressive and invaluable. After leaving Real Betis, he was the forward fulcrum of Getafe’s promotion season with 20 goals. He continued that form with eight goals two seasons ago, then plundered 14 goals last season. Remarkably, in spite of being at the club for just three seasons, he is their record goal scorer with 45 goals. This season, the spritely 37-year-old has still chipped in with five goals in 23 appearances.

His strike partner Jaime Mata has been just as impressive. He found the back of the net 14 times last season – A total which earned the forward a Spanish call up. He made his debut for La Roja in their win against Norway in La Mestalla. This season he has scored in eight goals in 23 Liga games with three goals in six Europa Liga encounters.

Defensive Rocks

The unmistakable Spanish defender Marc Cucurella, on loan from Barcelona, has made his mark with some impressive displays at left back. He plays as both an accomplished defender and attacker adding a new dynamic threat to Getafe. He has five assists and one goal in 25 La Liga games. Getafe have the option of a permanent deal for the player worth €6 million euros. It would represent an astute and clever signing given that he was an integral player in Eibar’s successful last season in La Liga. But many clubs are keeping a watching brief over this highly sought-after player.
Another impressive performer has been their Togolese defensive centre back Djené Dakonam. The defender has proven to be a shrewd buy since his move from Belgium side Sint-Truidense. Djené has had many outstanding performance and is proving to be a rock solid and effective defender.

European Fairy-tale

Their players have worked immensely hard throughout this somewhat golden period for their success. The town from the south suburb of Madrid deservingly welcomed European football once again this campaign. Naturally, there was much excitement on their return to the Europa League. Their supporters cherish this competition with fond memories of their most successful European jaunt. That was when they got to the quarter-finals stage in the 2007/08 season. It was a highly entertaining tie, which they narrowly lost on away goals 4-4 to the might of Bayern Munich. The first leg yielded an impressive 1-1 draw in the Allianz Arena followed by a thrilling return match at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, which ended 3-3 after extra time.

This season’s run in the competition has been just as remarkable – safety navigating through Group C made up of eventual group winners Basel, Getafe, Krasnodar and Trabzonspor. But the best was yet to come with a magnificent memorable win over Ajax in the Round of 32. Getafe won the first leg at home 2-0 before going through 2-3 on aggregate after a slender 2-1 defeat in the Johan Cruyff Arena. It was a tremendous triumph where Getafe out ‘Ajaxed’ Ajax at their own possession game. No mountain too tall to scale for this humble club.

Their reward would be another titanic clash in the Round of 16 against another European powerhouse in Internazionale. A juicy tie that one will hope will be fulfilled in the near future as football takes a pause due to the worldwide pandemic of the coronavirus.

Consistency The Key

The Madrid side have coped admirable with their latest European adventure. Safe in the knowledge they could attack it with complete freedom and revelry. The added challenge of European football allied to La Liga has been a juggling act. Yet the club and its manager have demonstrated that the consistency shown through their hard work and resolve, which has brought them this far, are in fact sustainable and is yielding further success.

Flying High Again In La Liga

Impressive league displays against Barcelona and Valencia and another consistent season mean Getafe sit currently in 5th place. Firmly in and around those lucrative Champions League places with 46 points. They continue to belie critics and amaze the footballing world.

The club’s successful track record under the tenure of Bordalás proves that this is a team not built on quicksand. It is quite the opposite: the club maintains a strong foundation through laying down the necessary groundwork to ensure long term success.

Focus on the Future

Getafe have been in the news recently, with their President Angel Torres confirming that all 13,500 season members of the club will be given free season tickets for the 2020/2021 season. This membership will include all 19 La Liga games with the Copa Del Rey and potential European matches separate. But with money being tight, it still represents a nice touch on behalf of the owner.

With their forward momentum, the signs are there that Los Azulones have every opportunity to continue their progressive evolution. Most of all, continue to show all the hallmarks of a gutsy Getafe. Their rise and rise continues apace.

Never to be Forgotten Football Grounds: Juventus’ Stadio delle Alpi

By David Whitworth | @DCWh1tw0rth

The Grand Opening

After two years of construction and a cost of €200 million euros, the Stadio delle Alpi opened its doors on 31st May 1990 to give a new home to Turin’s two clubs of Juventus and Torino. The delle Alpi held a celebratory match consisting of both the Turin based clubs. They united together to form one team again Porto, with the twin Turin team winning 4-3.

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With that, the stadium was ready for business and on the horizon was the showpiece Italia 90 World Cup.

The World Cup Legacy

The Stadio delle Alpi was one of the venues used for the 1990 World Cup. The stadium averaged attendances around 60,000 and hosted five matches in total. Highlights included the Semi-final between England and West Germany, which West Germany won 4-3 on penalties.

A Frosty Alpine Atmosphere

The stadiums’ original capacity was 69,041 and included an athletics track which surrounded the pitch as the Turin authorities wanted a multi-purpose stadium.

That decision backfired with the stadium’s poor acoustics and supporters were too far away from the action. Add to that the grey and bland colour scheme made for a cold match day atmosphere.

Matches at the delle Alpi were very rarely sold out, even for Juventus’ most important Champions League matches. Naturally, supporters took a quick dislike to their new surroundings. The general feeling was one of a cold experience in all parts of the stadium.

This was the case in the noisy singing stand of Curva Sud. Even the press box was not up to the standard required.

The poor stadium design meant that there were significantly poor sightlines and viewing restrictions in many seating positions. Especially during the winter time with the stadium open to the brutal elements of the Alps. Hence the name of the stadium ‘Stadium of the Alps’.

The stadium gave a nod to its mountainous neighbour with the erection of two massive mountain shaped structures to signify the Alps.

Ballon d’Or Presentation

In the pre-match festivities between Juventus and Perugia on the 6th January 2004, Czech Republic midfielder Pavel Nedvěd received his Ballon d’Or trophy. The classy attacker beat Thierry Henry and Paolo Maldini to the much coveted prize.

In a match with severe snowy conditions, Nedvěd scored the winning goal in that game with a thumping long range strike and gave the delle Alpi a rare moment of joy.

Stadium Milestones

Although attendance figures suffered during the winter months, towards the business end of the season the Juventus supporters flocked to the delle Alpi. Usually, they would see their team regularly in the hunt for domestic and European honours.

The attendance record occurred on 14th May 2003 when Juventus took on Real Madrid in the Champions League. A record 73,583 supporters were in attendance the Semi-final tie.

Contrast that with the lowest attendance record in the 2002-03 season when Juventus hosted Sampdoria in the Coppa Italia. Just 237 fans witnessed the delle Alpi nadir.

Stadium Sharing

The subject of rival clubs is always the topic of debate. Inter and AC Milan both do it and between 1990 and 2006, Juventus and Torino were footballing neighbours too. Over time, and as both sets of supporters continued to criticize the stadium, the attendance figures dwindled.

During the nineties, Juventus attracted an average attendance of mid-40,000. However, by the end the delle Alpi era, only 25,000 were coming to the matches. Similarly with Torino, who originally attracted mid-30,000. But by the end of its time, only around 15,000 attended. This was except the last season as Torino attracted around 25,000.

Financial Burdens

The stadium was budgeted to host high profile athletics events but they were few and far between. Couple that to the fact that maintenance fees were much higher than projected numbers meant that the delle Alpi haemorrhaged a significant amount of money. That only added to the doom and gloom of its popularity, or rather lack or it.

The End of an Era

Much to the delight of many, the stadium played host to its final game on 11th June 2006 with a Serie B Play-Off Final match between Torino and Mantova for a place in Serie A.

Juventus, along with Torino, moved into the brand new Stadio Olimpico in 2006. A stop gap in wait for their new delle Alpi to open. Torino purchased their old stadium, the Stadio Comunale, and after refurbishment for the 2006 Winter Olympics, it became the Stadio Olimpico in its honour.

No tears were shed as the Stadio delle Alpi became rubble soon after. The demolition finished in February 2009 and it had a short and fleeting existence of just 16 years.

The Aftermath

In the place of the unloved Stadio delle Alpi was the redeveloped Juventus Arena, which stands on the same area. It opened on the 8th September 2011 and Juventus became the first major club to downsize their stadium with the new arena accommodating 41,507 spectators. The new stadium has no running track and it has better viewing areas and upgraded facilities fit for the modern era. All in all, it is a stadium at the cutting edge of technology.

Much like its mountainous range which towered above it, the Stadio delle Alpi had some rocky moments throughout its time. However, it does have its place in footballing history as a ground never to be forgotten; for the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Maverick Rivaldo

By David Whitworth | @DCWh1tw0rth

Brazil has given the footballing world many gifted talents throughout history. One of them plied his trade during a 24-year-spell and caught supporters imagination during his time in Europe. His name is Rivaldo Vitor Barbosa Ferreira, better known as Rivaldo.

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The Brazilian, born in Recife, started his club career at Santa Cruz during the 1991/1992 season, making nine appearances and scoring his first professional goal. But it was three seasons later at Palmeiras that would prove to be the springboard to his career. During two seasons with ‘El Verdão’ (The Big Green) he would score 14 goals in 30 appearances and help his team to win the 1994 Brazilian Championship. In doing so, he picked up the Brazilian Balon de Oro for the season’s best player.

That stand out spell caught the attention of various European clubs. The Italians of Parma originally announced his signing, but after a legal dispute, Rivaldo would swap Brazil for Spain and sign for Galician outfit Deportivo de la Coruña for €12 million euros.

It proved to be a highly successful first season in Europe with 21 goals in 41 games, further enhancing his promising career. Deportivo would finish a lofty third that season and the performances of the Brazilian alerted Barcelona and Sir Bobby Robson, who was convinced his talents would light up the Camp Nou.

Sure enough in 1997, and after just one fleeting season with Deportivo, Rivaldo signed for Barcelona for €23.500,000 euros and it was the platform in which the attacking midfielder really blossomed.

His first season at Barcelona proved spectacular with winning La Liga and Copa del Rey. He scored 19 goals in the league from 34 matches and eight goals in just seven appearances in the Cup.

The turn of the new millennium and the 2000/2001 season was Rivaldo’s standout period with his highest goal scoring record. The Brazilian scored 23 goals in 35 games in La Liga with 11 goals in 13 Champions League ties.

But Rivaldo will best be remembered for his match vs Valencia on 17th June 2001. Picture the scene, minute 87 on the clock with the game deadlocked at 2-2 at the Camp Nou, a game that Barcelona must win to ensure Champions League qualification.

With Barca fans fearing the worst, cue Rivaldo to score one of the best bicycle kicks every scored to send their fans into raptors and amaze the footballing world. His first goal was a trademark bending free kick from outside the box. His second was a thunderbolt strike from 25 yards out after outwitting two bedazzled defenders and goalkeeper.

Then the icing on the cake arrived. A magnificent assist from Frank de Boer gave the ball to Rivaldo, who on the edge of the area and with his back to goal, nonchalantly chested the ball, leaped up and let fly with his left footed bicycle kick to beat Santiago Cañizares in the Valencia goal. True class.

It was an iconic goal for the ages, a hat trick for the ages with Barca’s number 10 scoring all three goals that famous night. One of the greatest hat tricks and arguably the most important in history in terms of what was riding on it.

It was a victory so important that the then Barcelona president Joan Gaspart leapt up and punched his hands towards the air in joy and mostly sheer relief. Rivaldo tossed his baggy Barca shirt off in the air and received a yellow card in the process but the only colour he was seeing was striking pure gold.

The following season proved to be his last in Barcelona colours. Overall his record shows 86 goals in 157 appearances over a five-year-spell in Can Barça. It yielded two La Liga titles, a Copa del Rey and a UEFA Super Cup win over Borussia Dortmund by 3 goals to 1. That was his Barcelona legacy. His own legacy was the 1999 Ballon d’Or, beating David Beckham and Andriy Shevchenko to the prestigious title.

In Catalonia, he might not be as revered as similar Brazilians of his generation such as Ronaldo or Ronaldinho – a case of too much of a good thing with so many Brazilian entertainers shadowing Rivaldo, but his skills and important goals firmly put him as equals.

After a highly successful time in Spain, Rivaldo started a somewhat nomad tour in the twilight of his glittering career. Starting with a spell in Italy with AC Milan where he won the 2003 Champions League, to Greece and a highly successful spell at Olympiakos and AEK Athens, a lucrative move to Uzbekistan with Budyonkor before bring the curtain down with clubs in Angola and his native Brazil.

Brazil also fondly remembers Rivaldo with the national side with 35 goals in 74 games. A decade defending the famous yellow and green shirt. In that period he won the 2002 FIFA World Cup, as well as the 1997 Confederations Cup and the Copa America in 1999. For his achievements with the Seleção, he has been inducted into the Brazilian Hall of Fame. No mean feat with so many Brazilian footballing gems throughout history.

Rivaldo was a mercurial talent, a maverick who conjured something out of nothing with his fierce left foot. A versatile footballer who was indeed comfortable with both feet, his skills and creativity amazed fans whilst his dribbling ability bamboozled many a defender. The Brazilian possessed wonderful dead ball technique with scoring countless free kicks and penalties.

But what was remarkable was his strength – capable to muscle opponents off the ball despite being inferior in height to many. He also loved to drive forward towards goal at will and enjoyed lashing powerful volleys with his left wand – scoring a hatful of goals thanks to that strength allied to a wonderful natural technique.
Check out his amble highlight reel of goals, tricks and entertainment. His flair was typical Brazilian and Rivaldo was one of the true great maverick talents of world football.

The Beauty and Brilliance of Banff

By David Whitworth | @DCWh1tw0rth

Canada has lots to offer its visitors from lush greenery to mythical mountains. And its mountains are precisely where you can find outstanding natural beauty, the picturesque Rocky Mountains and its diamond of Banff.

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Banff and its National Park entices you from the get go. This uber cool tourist hotspot attracts four million visitors annually and it is not hard to see why it is so popular with its gorgeous scenery towering over the township of its near 8,000 population.

Banff is a bustling resort full of bars and restaurants catering for its huge visitor numbers. Visitors from all walks of life come to experience this delightful part of the world. Ramblers can roam free, families explore, dogs are treated to great exercise and elderly people can marvel at the stunning sights Banff has to offer.

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The town really welcomes everyone, even deer have been known to be found in local residence gardens and wander the streets freely.

When visiting the town, it is a must to scale its gondola ride to the summit of Sulphur Mountain. Located just five minutes outside of Banff and at 698m (2,292ft) this maverick mountain is the centrepiece which lies within the Alberta Rockies. Amazing views greet you as you gradually chug up the mountain. The gondola journey takes eight minutes to ascend as you glide over the Canadian treetops and sampling its steep valleys, lakes, flora and fauna. The landmark has a rich history of attracting tourists from all over the globe.

At the summit, breath-taking views show off the colourful and rugged topography of Banff’s grandeur. Its visitors center offers refreshments at the 360 degrees rooftop restaurant and observation deck and a variety of souvenirs to choose from. Also, you can learn interesting information about Sulphur Mountain through exploring its extensive interactive exhibition catered for both the younger and older generations.

On a clear day from dawn until dusk, you can view Banff town and its six mountain ranges. Whilst at the top you can attempt Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk – a hiking trail through the summit’s greenery and mountain table top where you climb its steps to the top of Sanson’s Walk. This viewing platform was named after explorer Norman Sanson, who every week would walk all the way from the bottom of the climb to the mountain summit to check the weather at its peak. Remarkably, he did this for 30 years until he was 84-years-old.

For a trip on the Banff Gondola, prices are $64 Canadian dollars for adults and $58 when purchased at an advanced rate. Children between the ages of 6 to 15 are priced at $32 with an advanced rate of $29. Children under 5 go free to the attraction.

One of the beauties of Banff is there are various hiking routes from the keen walkers to the gentle strollers. A popular hiking trek is Tunnel Mountain, which takes in views of Banff and Bow River. It is a fairly short and pleasurable walk of a 4.3km (3 miles) round trip with an elevation gain of 300m.

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At the summit there is a panoramic view of Banff with the ability to see perfectly 360 degrees the entire resort. Ascending to the summit and walking back down this particular route takes around an hour and a half but there are other routes which can fill up your entire day.

From Tunnel Mountain, the Fairmont Banff Springs can be seen – the famous and spectacular accommodation nested in the Canadian pine trees. The hotel has 757 rooms and includes a restaurant with great panoramic views whilst dining and at an affordable price.

If you want to venture out of town a little more, well worth a visit is Lake Louise. Its a 45-minute drive away at 57km (35 miles) from Banff. At Lake Louise, you can see some breath-taking views of the sheer mountains backdrops and the impressive Victoria Glacier.

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To fully immerse yourself in this mountainous wonderland, you can take a trip on its famous turquoise lake on a canoe boat. The area is also ideal for hiking and skiing and there is the stunning Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise located on the shores of the lake, accommodating 539 rooms and features impressive views overlooking Lake Louise.

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For a trip on the lake, the canoeing experience for visitors can be purchased per canoe for $125 Canadian dollars per hour and $115 per half hour. Guests staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise resort take priority over the general public and enjoy rates of $85 per hour and $75 per half hour. Up to three adults or two adults and two small children under 25kg are permitted in a canoe. One person in a canoe must be 16 years or over to board.

To beat the crowds, hotel guests can reserve an exclusive night time canoeing experience which departs at 8:15pm, priced at $85 per hour. Guests must show their key pass as proof to board a canoe.

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Banff is home to various other outdoor sports such as skiing, scrambling, fishing and biking. There is even an annual running race in the town every September – The Melissa Run – which participants run around the undulating resort. There are three different courses for runners depending on your level with distances of 5km, 10km and a half marathon to choose from.

Prices are $110 Canadian dollars for the half marathon, $89 for the 10km route and $69 for the 5km trail.

Banff has something to offer for everyone and Alex Corbett, who resides in the Canadian city of Red Deer in Central Alberta, really cherishes her visits to the area:

“Banff is one of those magical places that despite being a very popular tourist location, it feels like a hometown.

“We live two hours away and get to go there quite frequently. And even so, every time we enter the Rocky Mountains and drive down Banff Main Street, we breathe the fresh mountain air, our shoulders drop and we feel so refreshed when we leave. Mountains are good for the soul!”

Banff is a wonderful area to discover; a treasure worth its waiting gold.

Edu: The Prince of Style

By David Whitworth | @DCWh1tw0rth

Brazil has given the footballing world many gifted talents throughout history. One of them plied his trade during a 13-year-spell and caught the imagination of each club he played for. His name is Luis Eduardo Schimidt, better known as ‘Edu.’

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The Brazilian grew up a huge football fanatic. “My idol growing up was Rai who had so much class and quality. He played in my infant team of São Paulo, who were world champions at the time, defeating Cruyff’s Barcelona and Milan,” recalls Edu.

His senior career path would start at São Paulo in 1998 where he would make 11 appearances and entered the international fold with a call up to the Brazil national team, debuting against Thailand in February 2000. “Playing with your national, team is really beautiful and satisfying. The fact of being chosen from within so many footballers to represent and defend your country gives you a lot of pleasure and pride.

“That journey started with the national team when I was just 17-years-old and playing for São Paulo.”

His talents were generating growing interest. Europe came calling and signed with Spanish La Liga outfit Celta de Vigo in summer 2000. It was a summer where he represented his nation at the Sydney Olympics, scoring two goals and qualifying for the Quarter Finals, narrowly losing to eventual winners Cameroon 1-2 in extra time.

“Although we didn’t win the tournament, the Olympics were very beautiful and I performed very well. Scoring those two goals gave me a lot of joy.”

The flying start to the new Millennium and his move to Spain were his big break and he took it with both hands, amassing 117 games during a fruitful four-year-spell and scoring 27 goals. During his time in North West Galicia, he would appear in the UEFA Champions League, notably scoring against Arsenal in their round-of-16 encounter.

“It was a great game from a personal perspective where I scored with a great headed effort and in the Champions League too.

“That Celta team were very good and personally we didn’t deserve to lost that game but Arsenal had a great team with spectacular players who took advantage of their chances on the night.”

In 2004, the Brazilian would make the move south of Spain and to Andalucía, signing for Seville based club Real Betis Balompié. It was initially a two-year-loan deal but would turn into five seasons which became the becoming of Edu.

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His first season at the club would prove highly successful, scoring 14 goals with 10 assists and created a prolific telepathic tandem with fellow Brazilian striker Ricardo Oliveira. Both were the goals on many occasions which catapulted Betis to 4th place and a Champions League qualification place.

“My connection with Ricardo was fruit of what can happen in football and in life. With time, we understood each other perfectly both inside and outside of the pitch. Having said that, I also had a great relation with my other team mates like Dani, Marcos Assunçao, Juanito, Joaquín, Fernando, Toni Doblas, David Rivas…In short, a great feeling with all my colleagues.”

That same 2004/05 season, Real Betis would end the campaign clinching the Copa Del Rey too and it was a glorious time for Edu:

“After so long without winning a title, it was very special in my first season at Betis to win the cup and qualify for the Champions League. A great season which we enjoyed very much with that team.”

Real Betis would successfully quality for the Champion League group stage by defeating AS Monaco over two legs and the Brazilians were at the heart of the success – Edu scoring the only goal in injury time of the first leg home game before Oliveira would score twice in Monaco and secure a 2-2 draw and achieve their European target.

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Edu, by now a fully fledged Betis player following his €2 million purchase in 2006, would achieve cult status in the seasons after with a knack for crucial goals. In 2017 with the club celebrating its centenary anniversary, Betis were involved in a relegation battle. The drama would go down to the final day and against opponents Racing Santander, Betis were virtually relegated for 10 minutes with results going against them. Cue Edu, the savour with two crucial goals to save Betis from relegation and achieve hero status amongst the Betis faithful.

“The pressure was palpable of course. It was a unique match with everything on the line for us as the next season would be our 100 year anniversary and that the B team of rivals Sevilla gained promotion to the Second Division so it would have been a huge blow for us to be relegated and play our centenary season against the 2nd team of our eternal rivals. Thank goodness we stayed in La Liga and didn’t have to go through that.”

The following season Edu was at it again with vital goals, this time scoring twice once again in a famous comeback for Betis against Barcelona – A Barça team which were 0-2 up at half time at the home of Betis, the Estadio Benito Villamarín.

A classic game of two halves it proved to be with Betis roaring back with a spirited second half showing from the Green and Whites with Edu the beacon of hope with his two majestic strikes to further enter Betis folklore. In his own words, the player clearly cherished his special night:

“With regards to my match in Santander, this match had a different pressure to line up against a top team as is Barcelona. It was a magical night and personally I loved playing against big clubs. The sensations and emotions of that night I will never forget for how we came back from 0-2 to win 3-2. The stadium went crazy when I scored the winning goal. It was tremendous to live that with our fantastic supporters. Barcelona is actually one of the teams which brought out the best in me in terms of goals and assists.”

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The Prince, as he was coined by supporters, firmly showing he was the royalty of a club whose name has royalty inscribed within its name (Real is Spanish for royal and this title was anointed to Betis in the 1900’s).

It was, however, to be an unhappy end to his Betis and Spanish football career as in May 2009 and after years of Betis flirting with danger, the club were relegated on the final day of the season. A cruel way to end what was a highly successful spell with Betis and in La Liga. Yet Edu remains philosophical about his time in Spain:

“The memories of playing in La Liga are of gratitude and being very thankful. To be able to play in the best league in the world was fantastic with wonderful players which I was around and playing for and against. What stimulated me even more was to be the best every day and find ways to improve all areas of my game so when matchday arrived I was fully prepared and at the level expected of me.

“I remember that I have played 80 matches without receiving not one yellow card and had one of the best disciplinary records in the league. In one year I also held the record for most headed goals in La Liga, which was very nice.”

The Brazilian would wind down his footballing career with spells in Brazil with Internacional and Vitoria before a season in the MLS with Colorado Rapids.

Nowadays, Edu keeps his toe in football working as a representative presiding over footballers and it is a job which gives him a lot of satisfaction to give back to football:

“After I finished my playing career, I started to work inside what I love, which is football. I have a company which looks after footballers who are at the likes of Real Madrid and some are based in such countries as Russia. I work with my great friend from school, my brother-in-law and the ex-footballer Fabio Aurélio.

“We want to create a different job with these young footballers – to give them security and develop them into adults who are capable to deal with this life and the difficulties they may come across both from a mental and psychological perspective. It is fundamental they possess these characteristics as they can focus on playing football to the best of their ability. The question isn’t to work in quantity but with quality.

“A winning mentality and discipline are necessary tools to realize that the quality in the end makes the difference and ultimately win football matches.”

Looking back, Edu reflects with joy upon his career. When asked about his favourite goal, he says it is difficult to choose just one but notes the first goal in the career of any professional footballer is very special. He also remembers with great fondness his favourite matches playing against Barcelona, Racing Santander, AS Monaco and versus Real Madrid, where he scored the first goal (below) and assisted the second in a 2-1 victory.

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Asked whether he had any regrets from his playing days, Edu was clear:

“When I look back, I don’t regret anything. I believe in a lot of occasions I gave my all to be the best on the pitch. Obviously I couldn’t be 100% all the time.

“I left home when I was 16-years-old from a humble and simple family. I wanted to give them better living conditions and thank goodness I achieved it. I have managed to overcome the obstacles, the challenges and improve day by day through discipline and drive.”

Edu indelibly left his mark in the game throughout his career with 300 appearances and 64 goals to his name. He successfully blended silk through his footballing style of flicks and tricks allied to steel with a battle hardened approach and combative playing style demonstrated by carrying on through the pain barrier with a bloodied head in one game.

His gracefulness in which he moved around the pitch very much confirmed the nickname he lived up to as the Prince.

A royal Rolls Royce player who left a notable footballing legacy.

#Edu #Brazil #Football

The Fabulous Figo

David Whitworth | @DCWh1tw0rth

He was a mercurial talent showcasing elegance on the ball, dribbles that made your mouth drool and possessing a magnificent footballing brain – characteristics of the fabulous Luis Figo.

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A winger from the city of Almada, Portugal, his origins started in his native mainland as he rose through the Sporting Lisbon ranks amassing 137 games with 16 goals to his name.

His talent would alert major European clubs and although he signed contracts with both Juventus and Parma, it was Barcelona who eventually won the legal battle for his signature in a bargain £2.25 million deal.

It was money well spent and a shrewd deal which reaped huge rewards during a five year spell where he would dazzle the Camp Nou faithful and become their new icon. The Portuguese prince made 172 appearances, scoring 30 goals during a trophy laden half decade where he would win back to back La Liga titles in 1998 and 1999 as well as back to back Copa del Rey cups in 1997 and again in 1998. A Spanish Supercup was secured too and European glory was achieved in lifting the 1997 Cup Winners Cup defeating PSG 1-0 in the final. The European Supercup was also added later that summer.

His skill, personality and model looks made him a mega star in Barcelona and the world over. His dribbling ability, fantastic free kicks and ability with the ball captivated fans but the hero would become the villain in July 2000 when Figo would sign for eternal rivals Real Madrid for a world record fee of €62 million euros.

As presidential elections took place, a candidate for the Real Madrid presidency had the Portuguese superstar in his sights: Florentino Pérez. The construction magnet promised the signing of Luis Figo if he was sworn into office. He duly won the elections, acting on his word by enticing the midfielder to the Santiago Bernabéu that summer.

It was a staggering deal at the time not just monetary wise but to the astonishment of people in the football fraternity of Figo changing his allegiance to a bitter rival. Naturally, Cataluña were incensed by what they called the actions of a traitor. World football was in shock and Barcelona were angered. The ultimate act of betrayal.

Barcelona’s loss was very much Real Madrid’s gain. Figo was 27-years-old at the time of his signing and very much in the peak of his powers. At Madrid, his game elevated to new heights and heralded the start of the Galactico era of President Pérez signing a world star each summer.

Over his five year spell in Madrid, Figo world surround himself by the Galacticos of the likes of Zidane, Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Raúl and Ronaldo. Much like Barcelona, his stay lasted five successful years with Figo becoming an icon for the whites, starting in 164 games and scoring 38 goals. He would collect a further two La Liga titles in 2001 and 2003 – wrestling the crown away from Barcelona providing insult to injury where it hurt most. Madrid also won the Spanish Supercup of the same season too.

Figo helped Real Madrid in gaining European honours too with a Supercup victory in 2002 and the Intercontinental Cup later that year. His appearance in that competition made possible by Real Madrid’s European Cup triumph that May over Bayer Leverkusen in Scotland when Zinedine Zidane famously scored one of the best goals in a final. Crowning glory for Figo and Pérez who both arrived to the White House the same time in search of the holy grail of the prestigious European Cup they yearned for.

Personally, Figo become FIFA World Player of the Year in 2001 and his achievements endeared him to the Bernabéu faithful despite his previous Barça past.

However, for all of Figo’s successes in Madrid, his past with Barcelona would be never be far away. His return to his former stomping ground at Camp Nou took place on 21st October 2000 when Barcelona hosted Real Madrid in El Clásico. It was to be the winger’s first taste of the grudge match wearing the white of Madrid and he was welcomed to a cacophony of whistles and abuse. The fallen idol was subject to cigarette lighters, mobile phones and bottles raining down from the stands. A case of rivalries going too far and was an unsavourily scene in what should have been a festival of football.

The Portuguese schemer was the clubs regular corner kick taker, yet tellingly didn’t take not one single corner that night through fear of his safety due to the torrential abuse from Barcelona supporters. He and his team naturally got a bout of stage fright and ended up losing 2-0 with Figo notably underperforming.

Figo would miss the next seasons clash in Barcelona, a 1-1 draw in March 2002, but would start in the following seasons match on 23rd November 23 2002. A match which would be known for one infamous incident.

The game itself was a disappointing 0-0 draw yet the headline takeaway was the incredible image of a pigs head being thrown towards Figo. You couldn’t write the script. Throughout the match there was a hostile atmosphere with a deafening noise ‘welcoming’ Figo as he touched the ball and took the corner kicks, this time stepping up to the plate and taking charge of his set piece responsibilities. Although no short corners were offered up as normal team mate and set piece foil Michel Salgado stayed well clear of the wrath of the baying Camp Nou faithful.

The pigs head thrown to the pitch in the 72nd minute was the final straw for referee Luis Medina Cantalejo who brought the players off the pitch to calm the tense and hyped situation. 12 minutes past before the players would return to the field of play.

The match concluded scoreless, a duel dubbed ‘The derby of shame’ by Spanish newspaper Marca and Barcelona would be fined 4,000 euros for the incidents – a poultry figure for such a frenzied and international incident.

Figo was a villain of the peace for Barcelona’s heartbroken supporters but fast forward to today and the Portuguese ace remains one of footballers most gifted talents of his generation.

#Figo #Barcelona #RealMadrid #LaLiga

The Phantom Season

By David Whitworth | @DCWh1tw0rth

Whatever happens from here on in, the 2019/2020 football season will forever be remembered due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.

An outbreak which has caused sobering devastation from a humanitarian perspective and organized chaos from a sporting standpoint. But let’s be clear: Sport is secondary.

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From a footballing viewpoint, at this juncture, leaders of various footballing bodies are deep in talks about how best to deal with this unique situation and to navigate their way through these choppy waters of sheer uncertainty. Major tournaments have been postponed such as Euro 2020, moved to 2021, and the Copa America, slated also for the same year.

It seems highly unlikely our beloved circular ball will roll anytime soon – if it will at all this season. If the season does return, it will almost certainly be played out behind closed doors but predictions are so very difficult at this time due to the ever-changing landscape this pandemic is causing.

If the season does not return due to results being frozen or eradicated altogether, a host of enormous decisions will have to be made in terms of awarding titles, European places and sorting out relegation and promotion places, not to mention the financial implications. Therefore, with so much at stake, all will be done to safeguard this season to be played to a conclusion on the pitch by any means necessary.

But what if the season was null and voided? If we zoom out and put ourselves in that scenario of a ‘phantom’ season, it is a bitter pill to swallow but there has been some amazing highlights to look back on that, although officially would not be on record, those moments would be cherished by supporters of their respective teams.

In the Premier League, the marvellous campaign of Liverpool, who have dominated the league like no other with 27 wins from their 29 matches and seemingly romping to the title with a huge 25 points advantage to nearest rivals Manchester City. The imperious form of Sadio Mané, Jordon Henderson and Virgil van Dijk would sadly not be consigned to the history books.

La Liga has been one of the most open seasons in years with shocks aplenty for the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Both giants are in a titanic tug-of-war tussle at the top of the table with just two points separating the sides.

In the Bundesliga, we have marvelled about the form of 19-year-old Norwegian starlet Erling Braut Håland – plundering an impressive nine goals in just eight appearances since his winter transfer move from Red Bull Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund. A run which included scoring a hat trick on his debut, as a second half substitute no less, and became the first player in Bundesliga history to score five goals in his first two games. His performance against Paris Saint-Germain was especially mighty, scoring both goals in a 2-1 first leg victory meaning he has scored 10 Champions League goals in seven games in the competition. A remarkable tally.

If we trot over to Serie A, there has been the spectacular form of Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus who, after a bedding in period last season, has taken the Calcio by storm. The Portuguese beat the club record of scoring in nine matches in a row, a record held by Juve great David Trezeguet. This culminated in a record equalling 11 match consecutive scoring streak, which amazingly coincided with his 1000th professional appearance. Ronaldo has been breaking record after record as he also smashed 700 career goals this season. Records continuing to tumble for the gifted number 7.

If the season was annulled, there would be no official trace of the swashbuckling show that has been Paris Saint-Germain with their impressive foursome of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria – entertaining with tricks, flicks and goals aplenty. The form especially of Neymar has galvanized the club through more solidarity towards his team mates and the displays of Mbappe, the league’s joint top scorer, have illuminated Ligue 1 as his star continues to rise.

In general, the record books wouldn’t recognise unforgettable goals like Athletic Bilbao’s Aritz Aduriz’s bicycle kick in injury time to beat Barcelona in the opening round of La Liga. Hakim Ziyech’s fabulous long range effort for Ajax against Valencia in the Champions League. Nor Jamie Vardy’s magnificent chip for Leicester vs Bournemouth. The list goes on and on and you will no doubt yourselves have your personal highlights.

Nor it would count for anything those thrilling matches such as Champions League classics such as Chelsea drawing 4-4 with Ajax, Borussia Dortmund’s 3-2 triumph over Inter Milan or Liverpool drawing 5-5 against Arsenal in the League Cup.

It would be a huge shame not to see these feats being recognised. However, health will always override all. We would, however, remember in our minds and hearts those extraordinary achievements, come what may.

It remains to be seen the outcome of this delicate situation. Football fans around the world dearly missing their footy fix. Will we see a ball, not kicked in anger, but in joy? Or will this league campaign forever be consigned to the cutting room and labelled the phantom season?

#PremierLeague #LaLiga #SerieA #Bundesliga #Ligue1

Liverpool 4 Newcastle 3: A Swashbuckling Sensation

By David Whitworth | @DCWh1tw0rth

The 3rd April 1996 is indelibly etched in the minds of many football supporters worldwide. The date of what was one of the greatest football matches in history. Two teams, one enthralling match – Liverpool 4 Newcastle United 3.

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This fixture would be the third contest between the two teams that season with Newcastle United gaining the advantage on both occasions in both the League Cup at Anfield and in the Premier League at St James’ Park.

Coming into the game, Liverpool, under the tutelage of Roy Evans, was 3rd in the table with 59 points from 31 games played. The Reds were 22 matched undefeated in the Premier League – losing only once to Nottingham Forest at the City Ground by a goal to nil, which was their previous match.

Newcastle United, the entertainers as they were known back then and managed by Kevin Keegan, were also riding high in the league with 64 points from 30 matches, but had hit a sticky patch in the new year with only one win in their previous five matches with three defeats, losing to Arsenal 2-0 last time out.

The battle for supremacy in the Premier League that season was a battle between the Black and Whites and Manchester United, bossed by Sir Alex Ferguson. At the time, Newcastle had a two game advantage over the Red Devils but were three points adrift in the league table. They held a vice like lead of the league at the end of January with a huge 12 points in their favour but late season jitters would eradicate their advantage immensely.

It was a hotly contested battle for the trophy and this game was pivotal to the outcome of the 1995/96 Premier League season. Anfield was a caldron of noise, an expectant crowd baying for goals and entertainment – and they weren’t to be disappointed.

The match was a relentless basketball style paced duel where for the entirety was your typical Premier League match played at full speed. The match started in fifth gear with Liverpool taking the lead through Robbie Fowler nodding home in the 2nd minute before Newcastle would hit back in the 10th minute with a powerful equalizer from close range by Les Ferdinand with great assist play by the electrifying, yet unpredictable Faustino Asprilla.

Newcastle’s tails and confidence was on the up as four minutes later they went ahead through a superb breakaway run and crisp left footed strike from the effervescent David Ginola, who would hand Newcastle a timely lead.

More chances came and went from the likes of Peter Beardsley and Steve McManaman but the scoreboard wouldn’t move again as the teams would go to the break with Newcastle holding a slender lead after a first half played at breakneck speed. Both supporters and viewers watching live that night certainly needed the break to gather their thoughts. They needed it as more drama and entertainment would be on the horizon.

The next goal to arrive would be an equaliser for the Reds through Fowler, who drilled home with an instinctive finish for his second goal of the night. The game continued to ebb and flow like a turbulent tug-of-war contest.

A fifth goal would arrive only 120 seconds later thorough Asprilla, who caught goalkeeper David James in no mans land and haplessly out of goal to fire with the outside of his right foot past the charging goalkeeper with aplomb. It was a plucky performance from Newcastle who showed bottle despite being on the rack for many periods of the second half.

However, the Tynesider’s would give up their winning advantage for the final time in the 68th minute when Stan Collymore struck at the back post after a sumptuous and teasing cross by Jason McAteer to level the content at 3-3. Fans were at fever pitch with a rousing atmosphere growing exponentially as the match entered the twilight moments of an illuminating and pulsating encounter. A crescendo was on the horizon of this frenetic battle.

Like a thrilling film with a dramatic twist in its plot, this feature episode had its own fitting finale. The move of the match brought the final killer goal as neat interplay of one-two’s by John Barnes and substitute Ian Rush enabled Liverpool to gain space on the left flank with Barnes duly stroking the ball to a free and oncoming Stan Collymore, who would steal the show and put his name in the limelight with an emphatic left footed strike in injury time. 92 minutes on the clock and the euphoric striker would wheel away in delight as a remarkable contest finished with a fitting remarkable conclusion.

Although Steve McManaman was announced the Man of the Match, it was Collymore’s match winning goal which gave him legendary status as the star but most will remember boss Keegan slumping into the advertising hoarding- visibly crestfallen to come so close to gaining a crucial point for their title bid only to be snatched away at the very end.

It would have huge ramifications as Newcastle United would lose further ground to eventual Champions Manchester United as their cavalier approach, albeit entertaining many a supporter, ended in failure as the Black and Whites finished the season runners-up by four points and a reality of what might have been.

Liverpool, on the other hand, finished in 3rd position that season’s edition – their highest Premier League finish since lifting the old First Division Title in 1990. They also basked in the afterglow of prevailing in one of football’s most historic matches of all time.

Amazingly, lightning would strike twice as the following season on 11th March 1997, Liverpool would again win 4-3 over Newcastle with another injury time strike winning the game, this time from Robbie Fowler.

But it is the first instalment which is the most famous and talked about in footballing folklore. A fabled storybook adventure conjuring polarizing emotions of ecstasy to joy, despair to anguish. It was a work of art fit for a theatre and in this case, Anfield was the theatrical setting for this swashbuckling sensation never to be forgotten.

#Liverpool #Newcastle #PremierLeague #Football

The Enchanting City of Sevilla

By David Whitworth | @DCWh1tw0rth

A place which encapsulates a wealth of emotions and feelings. If you fancy venturing to somewhere a little different, then the city of Sevilla will be your ideal destination. Here, they do things different – in the bucket loads.

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The sun baked Plaza de España in all its majestic beauty

The city is the bedrock of its province and its flagship capital, Andalucía. At 2,200 years old, this ancient city is steeped in history and dripping with nostalgia.

It really is a surprise city for many people in some ways as it is not as mainstream as your Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia. However, Sevilla, the fourth largest city in Spain, is a different city. Once you visit, it will leave an indelible mark and touch your heart so strong that you will be hooked on coming back – as this very writer can certainly point out!

Sevilla is a city with a happy vibe – transmitting passion, colour, positivity, history and most of all something which the locals call ‘arte’ or art.

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A lady dancing the traditional ‘Sevillana’ dance of the city. Flamenco is folklore and fun here in deepest traditional Spain.

The ‘arte’ is the typical joy the locals possess and really are a happy bunch of people and who wouldn’t be for a city which has on average 300 days of sunshine a year.

There are a variety of sights to see in Sevilla. The city has a rich Moorish past, emphasized by La Torre de Oro (The Golden Tower) which used to be a lookout tower to guard the city. Located on the banks of its Rio Guadalquivir river with the majestic Triana Bridge in the backdrop, La Torre de Oro is well worth a visit to gain a great vantage point of the city from the top of the tower

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The tower is also a fascinating educational museum with an array of beautiful model ships on display exhibiting the Spanish naval history. Its river snakes its way through the ancient city, navigable all the way to the Gulf of Cádiz. The river’s names comes from Arabic roots meaning ‘the great river.’

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La Torre de Oro with the Puente de Triana Bridge in the backdrop. The River Guadalquivir cuts through the city with elegance.

Entrance fees start at 3€ for adults and 1.50€ for students and elderly guests. Children go free and there is free entrance to the attraction on Mondays.

Well worth a visit too is the Real Alcázar Gardens, the Royal Palace. located slam bang in the centre of the city. It was awarded the prestigious title of becoming a World Heritage Site in 1987 – joining the cities fabled Sevilla Cathedral, the world’s largest gothic building of its kind, and the General Archives of the Indies in acclaim.

It really is a concrete jungle as you can go from walking around the urban city centre to be enclosed in a tropical haven of beautiful plants, idyllic architecture and local wildlife such as its peacocks who roam freely.

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The lush gardens of the Real Alcázar

The Real Alcázar, which was used as part of the film set for the widely acclaimed Game of Thrones for their fifth series and the 1962 blockbuster Lawrence of Arabia, is wondrous as you walk around this magnificent old world intertwined with beautifully kept and vast gardens. Even the Spanish royal family call the Alcázar home as it is their official residency.

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The hustle and the bustle of the Real Alcázar

For the past 20 years, the Real Alcázar has opened itself up to night time summer concerts from June to September hosting genres from flamenco and classical music to jazz to violin quartets perfectly making use of the unique acoustics and spectacular settings when dusk hits.

Prices for adults for general entrance are 11.50€ with elderly guests and students between 17 and 25 are 3.00€. Under 16’s and people who are either born in the city or hold a residency enter free of charge. To get the best out of the experience, there is an audio service with headsets to guide you through your experience, priced at 6.00€.

Throughout the city you will be see ‘No8do’ motto which is a puzzle which in Spanish can be phrased as, ‘No me ha dejado’ with the English translation being, ‘She (Sevilla) hasn’t abandoned me.’ The middle part derives from ‘medeja’ which is skein or head of hair. It is a legend that the resident of the cities Alcazar quarter, King Alfonso X, held this title during his rule. The symbol features heavily on prominent city facades, the cities municipal flag and the tomb of the famous explorer Christopher Columbus, who resides in the cities Cathedral as his final resting place.

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The No8do symbol below characterising the first kilometre in the city

Sevilla’s cathedral is one of the world’s oldest and it is a modern marvel with its beautiful decorations and inspiring artwork. The spiral steps, made so amazingly horses could travel up and down it, take you to a wonderful panoramic viewpoint of the city from overlooking the nearby Real Alcázar to the Riverside.

Entrance fees are 10€ for adults and 5€ for students under 25 and elderly guests. Audio guides can be purchased for 4€. As the Real Alcázar, under 16’s and people who are either born in the city or hold a residency can enter free of charge.

If you are looking for a bite to eat with a twist, a trip to the oldest tavern in the city has to be ticked off. El Rinconcillo, or the little corner, opened its doors way back in 1670 and still to this day the waiters still take your order by traditionally jotting on a blackboard with white chalk. Fittingly charming for this city. The tennis player Maria Sharapova has been pictured sampling the delights of La Rinconcillo and this place is Sevilla in a nutshell – passion, vibrancy and more arte.

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The quirky yet lovable El Rinconcillo

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Sevilla has an intangible charm, capable of putting a smile on anyone’s face. It has a clear identity to enjoy itself with its flamboyance present in every little street you stroll through – a place which conjures all the senses if you will.

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Sevilla Castle walls guarding the city since the medieval times. Its entrance to the Real Alcázar the centrepiece of the quarters

The city is rich in tradition, especially with its flamenco heritage and there are many flamenco shows dotted throughout the city.

On canvasing opinion about this spectacular jewel of Andalusia, Ricardo Ortega, a PE student from nearby Jerez and currently studying in the city, said:
“Sevilla is a very welcoming city with impressive monuments and a beautiful city centre. The best thing for me is it has the vibrant atmosphere of a big city yet the friendliness and closeness of a little village with people so kind and gentle and who want to get to know you. It has the spirit of a little village with everyone close to one another.”

A visitor from New Zealand I spoke with about the city was Steven Jenkins, who added:
“I found Sevilla to be a cultured and very traditional city, which took me a little back in time. It has a pleasant, safe feel with a good selection of places to eat and grand attractions to visit.”

Martine de Jong, an English and Spanish teacher from Stiens in The Netherlands, fondly remembered her time in Sevilla whilst studying an Erasmus programme in the city:
“I remember Sevilla as a city which opened my eyes to a new way of living. A new way of living which allowed me to feel so much more warmth both physically and human warmth with the locals more open, extrovert and fun. I discovered that side of me too and could express that as I lived to the heartbeat of the city as if I were coming home.”

Sevilla is a city that needs to be seen to be believed and you will not regret coming. On the contrary, from a journey to this magical city, you will be enhanced and enriched thanks to sampling what has to be one of the most outstanding and vibrant places on earth.

#Sevilla #Spain #Travel