Real Oviedo FC

I came to the Asturias with the intention of making not one but two pilgrimages , one to Santiago de Compostela and the other to Real Oviedo FC . Why did Real Oviedo become my Spanish team ? It is all down to Sid Lowe , football correspondent for The Guardian . The club was in dire financial straights in the last decade or so and very near to extinction until a social media campaign led by Sid , the supporters club and high profile ex- Real Oviedo players Juan Mata , Santi Cazorla and Michu . A decision was made to raise capital by selling shares in the club for a sum of €10.75 each and the campaign went viral across the world during the window periods for buying shares in 2012 and 2015. Sid was very much to the fore in promoting this and his passion to keep alive a club with so much history persuaded myself , my son and many others to buy shares. In fact the club was inundated with applications for shares from people all around the world and was able to raise millions of euros thereby saving it from liquidation at the 11th hour. The whole story is told here. Since the share issue the fortunes of the club have turned around and they were promoted from the Spanish 3rd tier to the second division the season before last . Promotion to La Liga is the Holy Grail and would help greatly to pay off the remaining debt.

So as luck would have it my Camino trip coincided with a home game v CF Reus. I contacted the club by email before travelling and was put in touch with a lovely guy named Miguel Sanz. A free ticket to the games is given to all foreign shareholders as well as a stadium and club museum tour. Miguel spent a good hour proudly showing me the museum/stadium and telling me all about the history of the club. By the end of it I was a totally convinced ” Oviedista ” and had developed an irrational dislike for Sporting Gijon , the local rivals.

Unfortunately I didn’t bring the team any luck and we lost 1-0 to a goal in the last minute of injury time. Just like watching Blackburn Rovers ……….

Miguel Sanz showing me around the club museum

My first press conference : )
With Cesar , ex Bolton Wanderers in the days of Big Sam



Camino Primitivo

Well I arrived in Oviedo yesterday evening for the latest chapter in my Camino addiction , a serious affliction that I have passed on to others since I walked the Camino Frances in 2012. I returned in 2014 and spent an idyllic week walking the first section of the Frances with our youngest daughter Sally but did not update the blog then for fear of repetition. As this is a new route for me and is walked by relatively few Pilgrims in comparison to the Frances I have brought the mini iPad and will write a few pages as I go along . By all accounts it is a hard route through the Cantabrian mountains with a great deal of climbing and descending so I will light a candle for my knee joints when I visit the Cathedral in Oviedo later this afternoon.

So what is the Camino Primitivo ? ( the ” Original Way ” ).  Put simply it is a walking route starting at the Cathedral in Oviedo and taking you through the Asturias and Galicia ending at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela , which holds the relics of the apostle St James. It is one of the alternatives to the now very popular Camino Frances and is said to be the most challenging of all the Spanish sections of the various camino routes. Given good weather there should be some spectacular scenery. The route is 320 km in length and reaches heights of 1200m so I estimate it will take me 11 or 12 days assuming the old carcass holds up. Drugs may be required …….

How did this route come into being ? By the 9th Century most of the Iberian peninsula had been conquered by the Moors aside from a small strip in the North that included the Asturias. King Alfonso 11 ( the king of the Asturias up until 842 ) fought back the Moors and kept the region and Christianity on the map in this remote  corner of the Iberian peninsula. He built the new capital city of the Asturias in Oviedo , a strategic place in the mountains. It was during his reign that the remains of St James were discovered in Galicia. It is said the king himself travelled to Galicia to help the Catholic Church determine the authenticity of the find. When the discovery was confirmed to be St James the king ordered the building of the original basilica in Santiago to store the apostle’s remains. He the established the first pilgrimage route from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela , hence it became known as ” The Original Way “.

In 840 Alfonso gained possession of the famous Shroud of Oviedo , another great attraction for the medieval pilgrim. The pilgrims walking the Camino Frances in that period would often make a detour at Leon and travel the 121km north to Oviedo to venerate the shroud and thereby gain extra indulgences.The shroud is believed to have covered the face of Jesus at his burial and is housed in the ” Camara Santa ” or Holy Chamber in the Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo. In those days it was said ” Quien va a Santiago y no al Salvador, visita al criado y deja al Señor ( “ Whoever goes to Saint James and not to the Saviour, visits the servant and misses the Master ” )

Travelling to Oviedo from the North of England requires either a journey to Stansted to take the once daily flight to the Asturias Airport ( a 30 minute bus journey from the city ) or as I did , taking a flight from Manchester to Madrid and then boarding a train at Chamartin station for the 4 hour journey to Oviedo. The trains in Spain knock those in the UK into a cocked hat for space and comfort so it was a pleasant journey and I even managed to sleep for a spell. I hope I wasn’t snoring ……