Curling started in Scotland, and Malaga team Los Compadres, the only one in Andalucía, was born there too. On 18-20 March, the locals will compete to be the best in Spain. Before leaving for the Spanish Championship, the team captain, Fernando Galván, tells SUR in English about Scotland's role in their inception.
The sport has been around in Spain for 20 years. The first curling team in the country was established in 2002 in the northern and quite cold in winter city of León. In 2010, the ever sunny and warm Malaga formed its own curling team, Los Compadres, and the discipline was brought to the south, where it remains as a minority sport.
“We are very close friends living in the same neighbourhood of Malaga. One evening, while sitting together watching curling on TV, we thought that it could be a good activity for us because our combined abilities were actually well suited. It might seem a bit surrealistic decision to practice this exotic game on ice in totally ice-free Malaga. Not thinking much about the name of our team we just adopted Los Compadres. Although the word literally means a child's father or godfather, but in Malaga 'compadres' is a traditional male term of reverence and friendship. We indeed have known each other all our lives,” Fernando Galván said.
Only having enthusiasm was not enough without an ice rink to train on. With few facilities suitable in Spain, the Malaga team had to travel abroad. Meeting, as well as learning and trying out curling, took place in Scotland.
“The Costa del Sol has an ice rink in Benalmádena but we were immediately discouraged by limited access. So, we had to search [for] other ways, and one of them brought us to Scotland. We had our savings and decided to fly to Edinburgh. It was a right decision because in Scotland you can really feel the game's atmosphere. There you can come across people playing with stones on frozen lakes like it was around 1500 years ago. Our first contact with curling was really incredible. I even remember one of us stepped on the ice and he immediately fell on his back. It was ok. If you are new to the sport, it can seem a bit daunting. Nevertheless, it didn't take a long time to start feeling at home in Scotland. We consider Edinburgh as our second home, not just because it is the city where we tried curling for the first time. I must also stress that each time when we are in Scotland's capital, we were treated so well that we always want to come back, both for the facilities and for the people who are very welcoming and friendly. By the way, in the world of curling, people are usually super nice and especially if you come from a country like Spain that is in the minority,” said Fernando Galván.
In the beginning, the Malaga locals thought it was going to be very difficult to play, but little by little they got the hang of it. That winter, Los Compadres came back and already competed with Spanish teams. Incidentally, besides Scotland, other countries have welcomed the team from Malaga. For the last 12 years, the curling players have also been hosted for training in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Czech Republic, and Norway, among others. Last November, Los Compadres travelled to Denmark to start the season, participating in the Gentofte cup 2021.
“Spain has only one exclusive track for curling, and it is the Pabellón de Hielo de Jaca (Jaca Ice Pavilion), built in 2007. But it is quite complicated to go to Huesca province. For us in Malaga, with its big airport, it is easier and better to go abroad to train. Additionally, it is even cheaper to reach Edinburgh or another European city than to hire a car in Spain and spend twelve hours travelling. Moreover, in Edinburgh, for example, you can play for three pounds per person. The only disadvantage is that we have to plan our training trips in advance,” Fernando explains.
In spite of the scarcity of curling rinks in Spain, Spanish players are successful enough. For example, two world medals were have been won - bronze in mixed doubles in 2014 and silver in mixed teams in 2018. Step by step, the Malaga curling team has also become successful. Los Compadres are currently competing in the First Division.
“Actually, it is not easy to boast big achievements by training only twice a year. But now that we are playing in the First Division, people respect us more and we are taken seriously. Currently, we (Daniel Palomo, Miguel Ángel Vegas, Alfonso González, Carlos Barquero and Fernando Galván Torres) are preparing to take part in Spain's men's championship, held in the Jaca Ice Pavilion on 18-20 March. By the way, we are not frightened to compete against teams that train every week and have a much more professional structure," Fernando Galván explained.
Los Compadres have managed to hold five open days at the ice rink in Granada, before it was closed in February, due to higher temperatures.
“We have received support from Diputacion de Malaga, but it is near impossible to develop curling without properly equipped rinks. Fortunately, Granada's Ice Pavilion Don Patin has become our venue. We continue to create a love of curling in Malaga and it will probably be more efficient with the help of foreign residents who live on the Costa del Sol. We are looking forward to people that want to try joining us, as well as people who played in their own countries and want to belong to a curling club in Malaga. Curling is a very sociable sport and it is a great opportunity for Brits, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and others, to be extra united on the Costa del Sol,” says Fernando Galván.