Poll reveals deep divide in Spanish fans' loyalties
The international break in Spain is normally dull at the best of times, but especially so this last week, what with Vicente Del BosqueÃ¢ÂÂs men having qualified for Euro 2012 way back in 2007.
As a result, FridayÃ¢ÂÂs match against the Czech Republic was a fairly muted affair, save for Spain giving their opponents a bit of a chance by starting with Fernando Torres up front in the 2-0 win.
Most papers in the country's two media black holes tend use this break in hostilities to remind their readers about how great their respective teams are (as if that were ever necessary) or completely make up transfer stories. But AS have gone and hoiked tradition through the window and done something genuinely interesting by publishing a poll of the most loved and hated teams in la Liga.
The poll, published in MondayÃ¢ÂÂs edition, was performed by Ikerfel using 1,400 one-on-one interviews conducted at the 20 grounds of la Primera over September. And the results threw up results both surprising and predictable.
Barcelona are officially the most popular team in la Primera with 18% of votes compared to Real MadridÃ¢ÂÂs 17%. PepÃ¢ÂÂs Dream Boys also picked up most number of votes for everyoneÃ¢ÂÂs second-favourite team, with 21% compared to Real Madrid's 16%.
Overall, 44% of those questioned put Barcelona in their top three favourites, followed by Madrid with 37%. In the overall popularity stakes, AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Betis and Valencia completed the top five.
But before the big two can get too proud of themselves [Too late Ã¢ÂÂ Ed.], both teams are also the most hated by other supporters. Real Madrid top that tree with 39% followed by Barcelona with 30% (51% had Real Madrid in the top three hated teams, Barcelona managed 40%). Next up are Sevilla Ã¢ÂÂ already the No.1 hate figure for MÃÂ¡laga and Betis fans, but increasingly widely unpopular Ã¢ÂÂ with 8% of fans disliking the cut of their jib.
The individual club-by-club breakdown of loves and hates betrays regional rivalries, historical oddities, the "my enemyÃ¢ÂÂs enemy" idea and a number of cuddly non-threatening factors. Take Real Madrid, whose supportersÃ¢ÂÂ other favourite teams are Getafe, Rayo and Espanyol.
The BarÃÂ§a fans obviously like a bit of Basque with Athletic Bilbao coming top of the second-favourite poll, followed by AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid (see also Real Madrid / Espanyol) and then Real Sociedad tied with Valencia. The love is less mutual in one part of that east-coast city: Levante fans most dislike Barcelona while most liking Real Madrid.
One peculiar result sees Villarreal most hated by Mallorca fans, the whopping 79% result reflecting the constant Balearic whining about Villarreal Ã¢ÂÂstealingÃ¢ÂÂ the clubÃ¢ÂÂs Europa League place last season when UEFA excluded Mallorca for going into administration. Villarreal, on the other hand, have a strong dislike for Real Madrid followed by Valencia and Barcelona.
Getafe don't like Racing at all, due to the Cantabrians being a bit moany about them ever since a 2008 Copa Del Rey incident when Getafe scored with a Racing player on the ground.
The results reflect the bipolar nature of la Liga in cold, hard statistics. Whilst the other 18 teams have their fans and feuds Ã¢ÂÂ even Granada ended up in some supportersÃ¢ÂÂ top three disliked clubs Ã¢ÂÂ there is more or less a 50-50 split between those who either hate or love SpainÃ¢ÂÂs big two. And thatÃ¢ÂÂs something that probably isnÃ¢ÂÂt going to change any time soon.