Sunday, 23 December 2012

Goalposts 2012: Bilbao and Moldova

When I wrote about Steve McLay's now defunct No Movement for Goalposts blog this time last year, my picks of 2011 included a UNESCO-listed dust pitch in the centre of one of Elche's many palmerals, a congested goalmoath at Jarrow Roofing, and movable posts on the shores of Biwako, Japan's largest freshwater lake.  This year's top two take us to a lesser known tributary of the Dniester and the Basque country, where I spent a weekend in January watching Marcelo Bielsa's then rampant Athletic at the soon to be demolished San Mames.

An hour's drive along the potholed roads out of Chișinău, we pulled into the cave monasteries of Orheiul Vechi just ahead of a clapped-out coach full of boisterous schoolkids and two men in a horse and trap. Fishermen paddled along the listless River Răut, where local communists had dumped whatever religious icons they could lay their hands on at the end of World War II.  Wreaths shaped like teardrops and mounds of bare earth marked the graves in the village cemetery, old women tied on headscarves before shuffling into the church, and the souvenir stand was a plastic table wedged against a crumbling stone wall.  The goalposts were crooked, the grass rubble-strewn and overgrown.  A horse stood by what might have been the edge of the penalty area, dribbling a pebble with its nose.

Our final morning in Bilbao. Hungover but ignoring the concrete lift, we panted up a flight of steps from the Casco Viejo and took an unplanned left into Park Extberri. The pitch was made of concrete, still wet with the previous night's rain. A metal fence stopped balls bouncing down the hill. The goalposts, of course, were painted red and white.

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