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LaLigaWeekly On May - 24 - 2011

Segunda Special: Rayo Rejoices!

When the Segunda season of 2003-2004 came to an end, the lowest of the lows reverberated around the Madrid neighborhood of Vallecas. Not only had Rayo Vallecano just completed its first season after getting relegated from the Primera the year before, but the club was destined for a new home: the dreaded Segunda B.

By this point, Rayo Vallecano were an afterthought in Spanish futbol. Neighbors Getafe became known as Madrids third club, even though just four years prior Rayo had reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup. Once you are relegated to the Segunda B, it becomes so difficult to get promoted back. Instead of battling 21 other teams, you have to deal with 80 who are all aspiring for four spots.

But Rayo did it finally in 2008 after four seasons in Spains third flight and on Sunday, the stay in the categoria de plata came to a joyous end. Amid the tears and hugs of joy, even between the clubs ultras, the Bukaneros, fanfare and praise rained down on Vallecas.

Rayo is back in the Primera.

The fans have been amazing. Truly, a 10 in every sense, Rayo midfielder Juli said. We are playing for them.

It hasnt been easy this season either. As noted many times before, the players have gone months without getting paid. The fans have been screaming for the Ruiz Mateos family to step down as the club owners. Walking around the Estadio Teresa Rivero (one would think well see a name change soon), you can go more than 10 feet without seeing a Rumasa NO, Rayo SI in reference to the Ruiz-Mateos family business.

The situation is alot more serious than perhaps anyone could ever believe.

We learned in January that if the club didnt get promoted, that it would probably fold, Juli said. Weve been living and playing with this burden for a very long time. There has been alot of pressure so it speaks to the quality of the people on this team.

The former Elche man can crack a smile though when talking about the clubs financial hardships.

Its as if we could have signed Messi, he laughed sarcastically. We could have offered him 100 million euros. It doesnt mean he actually would have received it, but we could have made the offer. You can offer anyone a contract for as much money as you want!

Nevertheless, somehow coach Juan Ramon Sandoval kept his team together and kept them focused on the ultimate prize, even in light of some poor results late in the season.

It would be easy for everyone in the locker room to get down, but we refuse to do so, said midfielder Jose Movilla. We are always motivated and ready to play the next match.

Credit must go to Sandoval for that. Usually in such circumstances, things go south. Players go unpaid, they get angry and dissension builds toward the club and it affects the performance on the field. Only one time was there any evidence of that. The 4-0 loss at Huesca back in February where Rivero herself uttered that her players should stop whining and complaining especially in light of all she and her family had done for the club.

Rivero and company are no longer in charge at Rayo. That now falls to Martin Presa who was sold the club after the Ruiz-Mateos finally caved in. Presas first words appear to be resonating with the players.

He talked to us and assured us that we would get paid and that things would work out, Juli said. For now, we are optimistic.

Presa doesnt exactly come in with the greatest business reputation and many think he is just a puppet for the Ruiz-Mateos regime, but as of now he appears to be doing the right things namely helping some players get some of their wages.

For the first time since September, I got paid, Juli said earlier this month.

But back on the field the attention deservedly should be on the players and coaches. Simply put, Rayo have had a marvelous season and players like Armenteros, Piti, Coke, Amaya, Aganzo, Trejo and Delibasic will forever go down in Rayo lore.

And the fans have done their part too. Witness the Rayo-Elche match from last Thursday May 12. Trejo misses a PK in the 90th minute which would have tied the match 2-2. The Argentine sent his effort wide right. The gasp from the crowd was quickly masked by supportive chants of Trejo! Trejo! Would you ever see that at the Bernabeu or Camp Nou? Doubtful.

So I think I speak for many when I say welcome back old friend to your rightful place of Primera Division futbol. We here in the Segunda love you, but we hope to not see you again for quite some time.

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