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Robin Bairner arrived in Spain just in time to watch Málaga play the mighty Barcelona in their La Rosaleda stadium.
Málaga enjoys beautiful sunshine and decent temperatures all year round making it a wonderful destination for a football trip.
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Robin reports: I touched down in Málaga with a healthy amount of time to make it out to the ground, which lies on the north edge of the city centre.
As it happens, getting from the airport to the centre is not particularly taxing. We trotted across a concourse to the underground railway station, which whisked us east into the city centre.
Within 20 minutes we emerged into the heat of Málaga’s warm springtime, with the city slowly starting to gear up for Semana Santa – one of the most important holy periods in Spain.
After dropping my luggage off, we made our way up the side of the canal towards the ground. Although we were on target to arrive at La Rosaleda a good quarter of an hour before kick off, there was no throng along what was little more than a glorified stream – and often very little more than that.
Visiting La Rosaleda
It was only when we approached the ground that there was evidence of a big-match atmosphere.
Although the stadium’s name literally translates to The Rose Garden, there was little evidence of greenery around it save a few trees on the approach, which itself is impressive as the stands loom grandly as you walk along Paseo Martiricos.
Fans were clustered around sandwich stalls in the streets surrounding the steep-sided bowl, which holds a little over 33,000 spectators and was opened in 1941. It was to be bordering on full, and after checking with a police officer we were told we were seated at the other end of the ground.
Navigating to the correct gate number would test even the greatest Spanish explorers. However, the entry process itself was mercifully simple, with the electronic tickets quickly scanned and a cursory bag check.
High up in the uncovered stand – there’s little need of the expense of a roof with 300 days of sunshine a year – provided an ideal vantage point from which to watch the match.
The night was fine but not exactly warm, clearly catching out some spectators, who had dressed for the beach rather than cool of an early-April evening.
Málaga v Barcelona
As Málaga moved into an unexpected 1-0 lead thanks to Sandro Ramirez, the stadium grew increasingly boisterous, leaving the Barcelona fans scattered around the stadium to curse and stamp their feet on the sunflower seed-scattered passageways as their title hopes faded.
By the time Jony added another in the final minute, much of the stadium was rocking, Neymar having been dismissed earlier for a wild challenge in the far left corner.
The walk back towards the apartment was straightforward and punctuated by one of the many spectacular precessions of penitents marching solemnly through the street for holy week.
Hordes of worshippers carry great religious statues through towns all over Spain. The candles, incense and hooded marchers give it an otherworldly feel – as if stepping into a scene from Game of Thrones.
Indeed, over the following days we found Málaga a laidback beachfront city oozing with history, owing to its narrow old streets and Roman and Moorish architecture. It is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, so leave yourself more than a couple of hours to get from the airport to the ground.
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This is an edited version of an article that appeared in Football Weekends magazine. To order a copy visit www.footballweekends.co.uk