“Let's go to El Joyo!” the children would say, whenever there was nothing else to do. And it became a race against the clock to see who would get there first. “El Joyo de la Fábrica” was a big hole in the ground situated on La Playa, next to the electricity works, where the park is today. It consisted of an enormous pit, twenty or thirty metres deep. I believe that when the modernisation of the electricity works took place, the earth needed for the foundations supporting the new machinery was supplied from this crevice, which had been formed by rocks and branches dragged down by the rains from higher ground.
According to the wonderful article by Gabriel Almagro on the Eléctrica Nuestra Señora de los Santos, “In the 1930s the electricity works were converted into a central generator fed by a belt-driven motor, which drove a dynamo, which was connected to a primitive central control panel and distributed electricity throughout the whole town of Alcalá. Very soon, the capacity of the generator was no longer sufficient and in 1932 a second motor was added, which came into use in 1934. With the fuel crisis caused by the Civil War in 1936, the services of the central generator were reduced to a minimum.”
The children believed that the pit had been made by one of the bombs dropped on Alcalá in the Civil War, but this was a childish fantasy. The war had been over for a year and there was still a tendency to regard it as the cause of anything out of the ordinary. It was much more likely to have been an opening caused by a stream breaking its banks and erosion by rocks and branches brought down by the rains from the heights of the Lario.
It was a wonderful space that could be adapted to many purposes; you could comfortably fit a football pitch into it. And in fact the bottom of the pit had been flattened out to make a football pitch. There the Alcalá team played against other teams from the area. On match days the whole town would come down to the Playa to watch the game. In those days my brother Cristóbal played left back and did a great job, being left-footed. The young girls occupied the upper part of the pit and the paths that led down to the pitch. In those days they were more constrained by modesty and I suppose it was the only freedom they would allow themselves. Right from the start, football had a special attraction for young people and children.
Some people say that football came into Spain from Gibraltar, since it was the English who created the sport, and La Balona (from La Linea) was one of the first teams in Andalucia. But the first team was actually Deportivo de Huelva, which was founded by the English working the Rio Tinto mines. The first recorded team in our province was Cádiz FC, dating from 1908. Xerez FC also came into being around that time. In the Campo de Gibraltar, Algeciras CF was founded in 1912. La Balona was officially founded in 1921, but they were already playing regularly against the Gibraltarians by then.
The first football team in Alcalá was called “El Regina” and must have been in existence straight after the War, although there is no reliable evidence to confirm this. But I say this because my brother Cristóbal was in the War and when he came home he played defence for El Regina. There were competitions amongst the towns of the district, and the “local Derby” was always the meeting with Medina. This generated a lot of heat, and the town became inflamed with passion when we lost. It nearly always ended badly. But we also played against Paterna, Vejer and other neighbouring towns. The goalkeeper of El Regina was Manuel Mateo Benítez. The other players were Andrés Camacho Jiménez, Francisco García Gallego, José Gómez León, Luis Fernández Gallego, Juan Parrita, Juan Ramos, Manuel de la Cruz Lamela “el Mela”, Cristóbal Leiva, Salvador Aído Meléndez, Francisco Aído Meléndez, Gaspar Ramírez Román, Juan Llaves, Juan Almagro Pizarro, Francisco Pozanco Álvarez and Alonso Ramos. I might have missed one, but somebody will remember.
In those days football was almost the only sport that could be played in Alcalá. And that was thanks to “El Joyo”. The schools at that time did not have sports grounds. Usually the kids used El Joyo for their encounters, or the Cerro de Ortega, where there was an area of level ground as a result of a sandpit. Football was also played in El Prado, and the whole town used to go down there to watch.
The children of Alcalá didn't need sport for exercise, because they were continually climbing up and down hills, going out into the countryside setting snares, racing each other up to the Plaza Alta, going to the rubbish-tip down the hill of La Salá, the Molino de Romero and El Prado … Keeping on the move was a necessity for the children and they organised their own competitions in Santo Domingo, in la Plazuela and above all in El Joyo. They had races, high-jump, long-jump, throwing stones with a sling to see whose could go the furthest, sliding on boards down the streets on rainy days, bathing in the river … The girls, too, organised their games on the Alameda, jumping over skipping-ropes, playing hopscotch and tag …
There was no organised sport other than football, because there was a shortage of everything: balls, boots, equipment, pitches, organisers … There was no shortage, however, of children with the initiative to stretch their muscles. They were no less fortunate than children today, because they had fewer needs, fewer demands and greater freedom. In a word, a life more simple, less complicated and more natural. “Healthy minds in healthy bodies.”
Translated by Claire Lloyd
¡ALCALÁ DE LOS GAZULES, ENAMORA!
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