Sarthak Kumar narrates the story of van Gaal reject Diego Cascón – a story that involves warding off the evil eye and slaying Real Madrid and Villarreal.
In light of Barcelona B’s promotion playoff game against Cultural Leonesa, this is the story of one of its youth graduates.
This match, they were playing Real Madrid.
Read the Madrid lineup – Dudek; Arbeloa, Albiol, Metzelder, Drenthe; Mahamadou Diarra, Guti, Van der Vaart; Granero; Raúl and Benzema – and you would have goosebumps as a first division side, forget an amateur third division side with an average annual salary of €36,000. Oh, and Gago, Marcelo and Van Nistelrooy also played in that match.
It was AD Alcorcón vs Real Madrid, and it was spectacular. It was spectacular because it was Alcorcón’s first match against top-flight opposition – and what better way to have a match like that than against nine international players in the starting eleven. It was spectacular because no one had known about this small club or that it was based in Madrid itself. It was spectacular because of the financial gap between the two teams. The wage bill of Alcorcón’s matchday squad was one million euros, exactly 110 times less than that of Real Madrid.
It was also spectacular for another reason. Real Madrid were destroyed.
Alcorcón’s midfield, who nobody knew about, suddenly looked better than internationally capped players. Ernesto Gómez and Fernando Béjar, the interiors, ran like dogs, chasing the ball and hassling the opposition at every opportunity. Rubén Sanz, on the tip of the midfield diamond, was neat and tidy in possession, keeping the play ticking and the ball flowing in the final third. And donning the number 10 shirt, Sergio Mora, sitting in the base of midfield in a regista role, became central to every play.
The passing, pressing and possession was excellent. Real Madrid’s midfield looked liked the ones in the third division. They were being outplayed in every department. The desire to win was evident. Shot after shot, world-class pass after world-class pass, recovery after recovery, Alcorcón had the game in their hands.
The first goal was precisely that – a beautiful pass from Sergio Mora found Real reject and striker Borja Pérez, who dribbled past two Real Madrid defenders and scored past a third. The second came from Mora again – released by Béjar, he passed to Borja in the box for a certain goal. It was a goal, just that Arbeloa had got there first.
Real were shocked. And it was disappointing that they had only two shots to show as a recovery, which former Atlético Madrid goalkeeper Juanma easily parried away.
Alcorcón were still dangerous, still playing extremely well. A deadly cross from right-back Nagore found the post, the goal-line but not the goal. A deadly counter from Alcorcón saw second striker Diego Cascón play the ball into the box again. This time, Ernesto made a perfectly timed run to slot past Dudek.
By half-time, Alcorcón were ahead by three goals. By the hour mark, they would make it four, as a poorly cleared set piece found Borja, who coolly finished home. Real Madrid tried. But as hard as they tried something always came in the way – Juanma was spectacular but so was the team. Whenever a Real Madrid player got the ball there was an Alcorcón player in his face. Whenever there was an Alcorcón player on the ball there were four more ahead of him to pass the ball too. With passing that exquisite and moves that intricate, all that was left was to walk the ball into the net.
AD Alcorcón 4-0 Real Madrid. On 27th October, 2009, the damage was done. Real Madrid went trophyless that season; the psychological damage had been too much.
By contrast, Alcorcón were promoted that very season, and for the first time were playing in the professional leagues in 2010-11.
“In the first forty-five minutes there was hardly a difference between a first division team, Villarreal, and one of the Segunda B, Polideportivo Ejido. It was the “inferior” team that was clearly dominating.”
Diego Cascón began in the world of football in Loyola (the school team where he studied in his hometown, León: los Jesuitas), up to the “freshmen” cadetes. While in the alevín team, Barcelona took interest in him.
But there were problems with him and another guy from Salamanca. Barcelona ended up sacking Serra Ferrer and hiring Van Gaal, who ruled out all signings that Serra Ferrer had proposed for the youth teams.
Subsequently, in the second year cadetes he played for Cultural. At the club, he ascended to the juvenils and then to the first team which was playing in the Segunda B in 2003. He stayed at the club till 2007, scoring 12 goals in his last season at Cultural.
He would go on to play at Badalona, Poli Ejido, Alcorcón, and Eibar for a season each. It was at these clubs that he gained the reputation of being an effective super sub – someone who could make an impact in the last minutes of the game. In fact, he scored five goals in 29 appearances at Ejido, despite playing just 714 minutes!
In 2011, he joined Jaén in 2011 – also in the Segunda B – where he played for three seasons and captained the team in the last two.
It was here where he showed that when managers really put their confidence in him and gave him regular minutes, he did make an impact. He scored 12 in his first season at Jaén.
But his poor stamina, combined with his incredible speed and strength, meant that teams would use him to make sure opposition defenses didn’t push too high towards the end of a game.
In his second season, he would lead Jaén to the Segunda, and even scored eight goals. But those goals came in the first half of the season. In April 2013, Cascón solicited the services of a sorcerer in April 2013 in an attempt to end a negative scoring drought, feeling he was a victim of the evil eye.
He never scored for Jaén again.
Even though he made his professional debut at last at the age of 29, after making just 11 substitute appearances, in January 2014 he was told by Jaén he was no longer needed. He waived the compensation due on his contract, rolled back tears at his farewell press conference, and moved to Kitchee in Hong Kong. After winning the Hong Kong first division and finishing as runner-up in the FA Cup, in July 2014 he received an offer from Cartagena.
Instead, he moved to Columbia, signing for “Red Devils” América Cali, where he played 14 games and scored zero goals.
He is now back in Spain. In 2015, he signed for Melilla, where he scored 9 goals in his first season, but just 285 minutes in his second season prompted him to move this January to Mérida.
At the age of 32, his chance to play professional football again is all but over.
The sad reality is that Diego Cascón’s story is only reported, however meagerly, because he started, and finished, that fateful game against Real Madrid, and replaced hat-trick hero Jorge Molina for fourteen minutes in the 5-0 demolition of Villarreal.
The sad reality is that stories similar to his will not matter.
Because they will never be heard.