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Prestige Disaster - Celta & Deportivo Fans Club Together

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


The Prestige disaster last November, when an oil tanker broke in two off the northern coast of Spain, caused one of the biggest European ecological disasters of the last decade but, as Phil Minshull reports, it also brought out the best in the fans of bitter Spanish rivals Celta Vigo and Deportivo La Coruna.
This summer in Spain, along the Atlantic coast of Galicia, there has been some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that a few blue flags, that denote a beach is healthy and free from pollution, have started fluttering again in the last few weeks. The bad news is that on many other beaches the sight of men in spaceman-like plastic suits picking up lumps of congealed crude oil is still a familiar sight.
The impact of the Prestige disaster, when an oil tanker sank and then split in two last November and spilt much of its cargo of 77,000 tonnes of crude oil, are still being felt but it also had the effect of bringing together the fans of rivals local rivals Deportivo La Coruna and Celta Vigo, who finished third and fourth respectively in the Spanish first division last season.
The two derby matches earlier this year, which are usually conducted in an atmosphere of mutual hostility, were instead festooned with banners proclaiming Nunca Mais - Never More in the local Galician language - and the two sets of supporters joining in the chants against the Spanish government's handling of the affair.
Fans of both clubs continue to work together to clean the beaches and raise money for the affected communities who have seen their livelihoods devastated.
"We want to show the fishermen that they are not alone. This tragedy has affected all of Galicia. But we will be back to having a first division fishing and seafood industry very soon," said Deportivo president Augusto Cesar Lendoiro recently.
Celta fans concur with a man who has often been a hate figure in their Balaidos stadium.
"This isn't about team rivalries, this issue is much more important. The whole region is suffering. Many of the amateur clubs in this region have players who have fishermen in their side or who come from fishing families. I play for a team that has two fishermen in the side and that has a pitch that is 200 metres away from the beach," said a Celta fan on the eve of the fund-raising game that saw Spanish champions Real Madrid play against a combined Celta and Deportivo side on April 14.
During the worst of the pollution, at the start of the year, fans of both sides organised impromptu football matches during breaks in their cleaning duties, in similar fashion to the famous games between British and German troops in no-man's land during the World War I.
Some pundits have been surprised at how the Deportivo and Celta fans, or at least the majority of them, have buried the hatchet but there have been many other instances of rival supporters 'clubbing together' in emotional adversity.
Everton fans mourned with those from Liverpool after 95 lives were lost in the 1989 Hillsborough stadium tragedy.
Four years ago, Torino had the support of many fans and players from neighbours Juventus during 50th anniversary memorial events to commemorate the Superga crash of 1949, when a plane contained the entire Torino team - seemingly en-route to its fourth consecutive Serie A title - crashed into the hills overlooking Turin.
Deportivo and Celta fans have proved once again that football has the power to unite when there is a greater issue at stake than just the destination of three points.



Phil Minshull, August 2003

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