The end of the season has raised the bitter rivalry between Unión Deportiva Las Palmas and Club Deportivo Tenerife to a height unknown to date. For six decades, both teams settled their antagonisms in previous rounds of the Copa del Rey or in season crosses in which there was time to correct mistakes. This time it is different: for the first time both teams will meet in a play off fighting for promotion to the First Division.
The reaction of the fans has been immediate: tickets sold out within a few hours for the second leg at the Gran Canaria Stadium, next Saturday (8:00 p.m.), and they are close to being sold out for the first leg (8:00 p.m. Saturday, local time) at the Heliodoro Rodríguez López in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. And that, despite the fact that both clubs canceled the online ticket office to avoid the uncontrolled location of fans: the match has been declared “high risk” by the authorities.
Queues and exalted phrases have been common currency since Sunday in the vicinity of both venues since UD qualified in extremis to play the final phase. “This is the derby of all derbies”, exclaims euphoric Antonio (44 years old) who exhibits two tickets outside the Gran Canaria venue. “This is more than a derby,” the president of the derby admitted to the media on Monday. teaMiguel Concepcion. His counterpart in Gran Canaria, Miguel Ángel Ramírez, has refused to make any statements. “This is a transcendental and very delicate match,” say sources from the entity. Let the players speak on the field.
The two teams finished the season with just one point difference in favor of the yellow team. The trajectory and playstyles, however, are considerably different. UD has gone 11 games without losing (nine wins and two draws), the club’s best streak in all its years in the division. Theirs was an irregular league, weak in defense and with little bite in attack. The change perpetrated has two proper names: that of the coach Xavier García Pimienta, who replaced the dismissed Pepe Mel on March 19; and, above all, that of the undisputed star of the team, midfielder Jonathan Viera (32 years old), who has already equaled his best scoring record with 14 goals and has become the first player in 70 years capable of scoring in six games followed in the Second Division.
CD Tenerife has played against a calmer and more reliable league, marked by an impeccable team game without outstanding individuals and an enviable defensive solidity (it is the second least scored team in the category). Luis Miguel Ramis’ team certified their classification on May 16. Since then, however, he has chained three consecutive losses. This streak has allowed them to transfer the pressure of favoritism to the rival. And the statistics support these predictions: UD Las Palmas has not only beaten CD Tenerife in ten of the eleven knockout ties in which they have faced each other since the sixties; they have also won both games played in the regular season.
“The numbers say that the Sports Union is the favourite,” Ramis himself admitted last Sunday at a press conference after the match against Cartagena. “A derby is something else, they are special matches and it doesn’t matter how you get here,” Suso Santana, a recently retired player from Tenerife, tells EL PAÍS. Santana is the footballer who has played a Canarian football league classic the most times, with 11 appearances. “Dynamics are not valid when the ball rolls in this passionate derby”, agrees the midfielder from Gran Canaria Vicente Gómez, currently in the ranks of the Greek AO Xanthi, to the local newspaper The province.
The island lawsuit
canaries Y chicharreros festering for more than a century by the so-called insular lawsuit, the name traditionally given to the struggle between the two ruling classes for economic, political and institutional hegemony. This is a continuous confrontation between both islands that is expressed in any aspect of life: vocabulary, accent, investments, political positions. And football results. The two representative clubs have been for years the excuse that has allowed the respective fans to pour contempt and envy towards the opposite island. So much so, that the Canarian president himself, Ángel Víctor Torres from Gran Canaria, has been forced to ask the respective fans for calm. “You have to live it for what it is: no more less than sport,” he assured last Monday at the events held on the occasion of Canary Islands Day.
For years, especially in the late sixties and early seventies, it was the yellow group, founded in 1949, that took the lead on the pitch. That was a team led by legendary names in Gran Canaria such as Tonono, Gilberto, Germán Dévora or Jose Manuel Mommy Lion. This team managed to finish second in the League after Real Madrid (1969) and runner-up in the Copa del Rey (1978). The yellow decline coincided with the resurgence of Tenerife, whose birth dates back to 1929. The Blue and Whites reached their zenith in the 1990s, with Jorge Valdano as coach and Fernando Redondo, Felipe Miñambres, Pierluigi Querubini or Juan Antonio Pizzi on the pitch. That tea managed to finish fifth in the League (1993) and snatched two leagues in a row from Real Madrid on the last day (1992 and 1993). In 1997, with Jupp Heynckes on the bench, they reached the semi-finals of the former UEFA Cup (1997).
A lot of time has passed since then for both clubs. For now, they have been unable to recapture the shine of yesteryear and shake off the label of elevator equipment. UD has barely managed to compete in the First Division five years since the beginning of the century, for a total of 34 appearances. Tenerife has played this century only two of its 13 seasons in the division of honor. The two directives have to resign themselves year after year to letting their best players escape (Pedri, Vitolo or Viera himself, to cite some of the most recent cases). The medium-term objective goes through the long-awaited consolidation at the top of football. In short, things change. At least that’s how a fan of one of the two teams assured me this Tuesday: “Look, my boy, as long as they don’t pass, I don’t even care if we don’t go up.”
A match reminiscent of classic
The respective careers of the two coaches give the match a certain air of classics. At the age of 21, Luis Miguel Ramis (51 years old) signed for Real Madrid from Gimnàstic de Tarragona. A season later, Benito promoted him to the first team, although the white club transferred him to Tenerife in 1994 as part of the payment for Fernando Redondo. He played two seasons in the island team.
Xavier García Pimienta, for his part, coincided in the FC Barcelona youth academy with Iván de la Peña and Albert Celades. After a season in the first team, he would begin a pilgrimage through Second and Third Division clubs. As a coach, he was in charge of several Barça lower divisions between 2001 and 2021. That year, Joan Laporta fired him when he had been coach of the second team for three.
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