##Rafa Lahuerta Yúfera is a Valencian writer, blogger and former member and founder of the Valencia CF supporter’s group Gol Gran. His book “La balada del bar Torino” (in reference to the bar in C/Barcelonina where Valencia C.F. was founded back in 1919) was published to acclaim. It is more than just a book about football; it is a personal chronicle of life, family and growing up in this city of Valencia. David Rhead and José Marín spoke to him about his book and his feelings for the club. Curiously and fittingly, ‘24/7 Valencia’ feature writer José Marin´s grandfather and namesake… was one of the founders of Valencia CF at the Bar Torino!
24/7 Valencia: So why Valencia CF?
Rafa: I didn’t have much choice. My father made me a member as soon as I was born and from when I was two years old I went with him to every game. He was the real fanatic. Between 1982 and 1986 I was Valencia’s junior season ticket holder number 1. Every day I could see the silhouette of Mestalla from the corner of my street and my whole childhood and adolescence was greatly influenced by this presence. Football was at the centre of our home and my father was a true disciple of the game. I’ve never known anyone like him.
In some ways I’ve written this book to perpetuate his memory and also to try to get some understanding of the pull of momentum, which gets built around us and moves us without necessarily being part of our true identity. I didn’t choose to be a Valencia fan. Valencia was chosen for me. It also must be said that out of respect and love for my father I have maintained that link. A link, which, I have to admit, is increasingly filtered through reasoning and emotional distance. I haven’t been interested in football, in itself, for a long time.
What made you become a writer?
I don’t consider myself to be a writer. At least, I wouldn’t say it was a lifelong ambition. My great passion is reading, that’s what I like doing, what I do and what I want to do. Unless I feel a real necessity or some really powerful story takes hold of me, I don’t think I will write another book. That’s not my world. Reading is much more rewarding.
What led you to write the book?The motives were the usual ones: vanity and necessity. A necessity to give a voice to people who are no longer around, who for me are the real stars of the book (my parents, my uncles and aunts, my grandparents…) and vanity, without doubt, for the personal pleasure of presenting my mother with a book written for her. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time. It was meeting the challenge that I had set myself. In that sense it was enormously rewarding and for that very reason it gave me a feeling that is impossible to beat.
Would you say your book was only for football fans or, even, maybe only Valencia fans? No, I wouldn’t. There’s no disputing that football, or rather, Valencia CF has an important presence in the book. But it’s not a book about football. It is, if anything, a book which uses football as the thread in order to tell other stories. I use my long-established inherited passion for Valencia CF as a base to ask questions about my own life. And a man who asks questions of himself is like a mirror for any reader, whether you like football or not, whether you’re a fan of Valencia or not.
What would you hope people might take away from reading this book? That’s a very personal thing. Each reader will read a book that is no longer mine. I wrote a book with very few people in mind, 6 or 7 at most. Whatever the case, I would be delighted if the reader who doesn’t know me at all would be left with the desire to get to know the city of Valencia which in some ways is a different city from the one which appears in the book. Maybe this journey from the city on the page to the city they visit will bring out new stories…which I’d be the first to want to read. Deep down, what I really enjoy reading about is Valencia and its people. Valencia is a city which is in great need of literature largely because for too long it has been a city which has been silenced and compromised by certain self-interested influences, which have either paralyzed it or reduced it to being a place which is well below its true potential.
How would you describe the crowd at Mestalla? It’s a peculiar crowd because Valencia is peculiar. There are very few teams in Europe who are in the same situation as Valencia, which is a “big” club with a great history and tradition that finds itself in a league where the two real giants of world football play. It’s a very complex part to play. In a country where everything is Madrid or Barcelona, Valencia tries to gatecrash the party from time to time. They do so in an atmosphere of incomprehension from the outside, interlopers are not allowed, and all this in a country where the media focus of Madrid and Barcelona is all-powerful. Nobody outside Valencia really takes the club seriously, except as an example to others of the defects that manifest themselves sooner or later in any club. All of this is a microcosm of what the city is and what it represents from the point of view of its role within the state. That’s not being a victim. It’s just fact. Within this unhelpful framework it often happens that our own desire to succeed can work against us. It’s the price we have to pay. But that’s all part of the character of Valencia CF. It is its strength and also a weakness. It is a club with a lot of expectation that is almost never fulfilled. That generates frustration in the short-term but also a strong loyalty. That might be why it is a club which goes in cycles, which has its ups and downs but never stays at the top for too long. This is Valencia’s neurosis. But you know, for us who have been Valencia fans since we were in the cradle, how people see us soon becomes irrelevant. It’s our team… and that’s that.
Do you still go to the stadium? I don’t go to every game anymore but I do go quite a lot. On many occasions… lethargy wins through. With time, you get a bit more set-in-your-ways and football doesn’t have the same immediate importance it used to have. At 40 the thrill is not the same as when you are 15 or 20. That’s the way life works. That’s why I don’t like to express opinions on the day-to-day of the club. Not because I want to make myself seem important or like some sort of oracle. It’s being consistent with myself. Right now, there are a lot of people who are much more involved and have much more enthusiasm and commitment than me. So, the logical thing would be for them to take centre stage and take part in the day-to-day stuff. In order to give an opinion you have to be well informed and that’s not my case right now. I do, however, keep up my membership and my season ticket and that’s my commitment to the club and always will be whatever happens.
What do you think of Mestalla now? It looks great. It’s a shame they didn’t think about doing it up some years ago. If it were up to me… Valencia wouldn’t leave Mestalla. Valencia CF makes less sense without Mestalla.
Interview by David Rhead and José Marín
You can order Rafa Lahuerta Yúfera’s book:
‘La balada del Bar Torino’ via the link