A wee journey ….

For one reason or another, it has been a bit difficult to get to Ciudad matches recently. However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been to a couple of games over the last few months.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the World Cup qualifier game, between Northern Ireland and Norway. I’ve written a full and very comprehensive article about the whole trip which will be appearing in Issue 131 of True Faith, the Newcastle United Alternative Fanzine. I’m told there is going to be a very Northern Irish feel to that upcoming issue.
Anyway, before I went over to Belfast, I wrote an article for the Northern Ireland fanzine, everywhere we go (Issue3). The article is about footballers who have played for both Newcastle United and Northern Ireland over the years. The fanzine was on sale before the Norway game and will be on sale before the Norn Iron game versus New Zealand, in June. You can also buy the fanzine online here.

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My article appears below, I hope you like it …

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Ulster’s Geordie Connection

Whilst the Irish communities of Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and London are well renowned there is not so much known about the Irish that moved in great numbers to Newcastle upon Tyne and its environs. Whilst the afore mentioned cities had many people emigrate from the south of Ireland, usually via Dublin, Tyneside’s Irish generally came across the Straits of Moyle via Belfast or Larne. Their journey to the north east of England was usually via Glasgow and most of those folk came to work in the one of the many shipyards, along the banks of the once thriving River Tyne. Both Glasgow and Belfast are well famed for their shipyards too so there was always a natural link there.

There also seems to be a natural football link between the province of Ulster and Tyneside. Many Northern Ireland internationals have donned the famous black and white shirt and many are still thought of with respect and affection amongst the fanatical Geordie fans.

billmccrackenLet’s go back to the start of twentieth century when international Irish football was governed by one body, The Irish Football Association, based in Belfast. From that same city hailed Bill McCracken who made over 400 appearances for United, in a Magpie career spanning an amazing 19 years. McCracken was capped 16 times for Ireland scoring once and captained both his country and club. He arrived on Tyneside from Belfast side Distillery in 1904 and was well loved by the United faithful who saw him as the original loveable rogue. McCracken is famous for perfecting the off-side game so well that the football powers-that-be were compelled to change the rules in 1925. It’s said that McCracken was a bubbly character who had a mischievous sense of humour which often led to him being in dispute with the authorities on and off the field.

Alf McMichael was a Left-back who won the FA Cup with United in 1952 and is another member of the 400 plus appearances club at Newcastle. He played on Tyneside from 1949 to 1963 after starting his professional career at Linfield in 1945. McMichael made 40 appearances for Northern Ireland and was a member of the 1958 World Cup squad, along with two other United players, Tommy Casey and Dick Keith. In fact, with three players each Newcastle and Portsmouth were the most represented club sides in the squad. McMichael, with 29 caps, was the second highest capped player to represent Northern Ireland in Sweden, with only the great Danny Blanchflower having been capped (30) more times. McMichael went onto win another eleven caps for his country ending up with a total of 40.

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In the same 58 squad was Tommy Casey. Belfast born Casey started his playing career at Bangor and played for Leeds and Bournemouth before making his move to Newcastle in 1952. He was part of the 1955 FA Cup winning team and played as a left-half. He made 116 appearances for the Magpies, scoring 8 goals and won 12 caps for his country scoring twice. After managing Northern Ireland in the 1975 UEFA European Youth Championship, in Switzerland, he was considered for the position of senior national team manager, unfortunately for him he was overlooked for Dave Clements.

The third member of the 58 squad was Dick Keith, another former Linfield man who won 23 caps for Northern Ireland. He made 223 appearances for the Geordies and was said to be very popular amongst the fans on Tyneside. Tragically he died in an accident at a builder’s yard in 1967, aged only 33, in times when footballers had to work when their playing careers were over.

david-craig.jpgNext in line is David Craig who was magnificent right-back and fine United servant for 18 years. Craig is yet another Ulsterman who is a member of the 400 plus appearances club. He joined Newcastle in 1960 and finished his playing career there in 1978. I actually remember the tail end of his career and can visualise him playing for Newcastle reserves, when I was about nine years old and standing in the old Leezers End. He was also a member of the famous 1969 Fairs Cup winning team, the last major trophy the Magpies won. He was capped 25 times and often played alongside George Best and Pat Jennings. I have seen Craig a few times drinking in Newcastle and fans still recognise him and pose for photos with him.

SPT_20131118_FOO_062_29644201_I1Another member of the 1969 Fairs Cup winning team was goalkeeper Willie McFaul.
McFaul is a true honorary Geordie who has actually played for, coached and managed the club. He joined Newcastle from Linfield in 1966 and went on to make 290 appearances. The Coleraine man was a fine goalkeeper but only won 6 caps for his country. Of course this was in the times of the legendary Pat Jennings, who if he hadn’t had been around then McFaul would have surely won more caps.

s-l300Tommy Cassidy represented Newcastle 180 times, from 1970 to 1980. He picked up a losers’ medal in the 1974 FA Cup Final alongside Willie McFaul. Again, in the 1976 League Cup Final, he was on the losing side at Wembley. Known for his rocket like shot, he scored 22 times for the club, once memorably in a 3-1 defeat of local rivals Sunderland on New Year’s Day in 1980. He represented Northern Ireland 24 times and was a member of the 1982 World Cup squad, although he had left Newcastle by then, for Burnley in 1980.

Another Toon favourite was David McCreery, who was capped for Northern Ireland 67 times. The midfield terrier was a member of the 82 and 86 World Cup squads and is often first thought of as a Manchester United player. However, he only amassed 97 appearances for the Red Devils whilst playing for the black and white United 272 times, between 1982 and 1989. McCreery claims that he was the first professional player to wear Nike footwear in an international tournament, playing for Northern Ireland in the 1982 World Cup.

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Belfast born Ian Stewart joined Newcastle, from QPR, in 1985 but never really hit it off at Gallowgate. He played 43 times for the club but was eventually transferred to Portsmouth in 1987, where he only made one appearance. Capped 31 times for Northern Ireland he scored twice and was a member of the 1986 World Cup squad, along with his Newcastle team mate David McCreery.

DSC_2185In 1987 as an exciting 18-year-old prospect signed for the Magpies from Coleraine. That young lad was the current Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill. In his first season Michael made 22 appearances and notched 13 goals. In that season he played alongside fellow Ulstermen Tommy Wright and David McCreery. Unfortunately, O’Neill’s second season was dogged by injury and although he still made 21 appearances he scored only 5 goals. To make matters worse Newcastle were relegated that season also and the man from Portadown was sold to Dundee United. The greens current boss also made 31 appearances for his country and scored 4 goals.

Highly popular goalkeeper Tommy Wright played for Newcastle for two spells during his career. Firstly, he came from Linfield to St. James Park in 1988 and made 73 appearances for the club up until 1993. He lost his place to the iconic Pavel Srníček and was eventually sold to Nottingham Forest. However, Wright was to stand between the sticks again for Newcastle when he came back to the club in 1999. This time he was only to make 3 appearances on loan to the Mags from Man. City but the fans favourite received a hugely warm welcome back. Wright played 31 times for Northern Ireland over a ten-year period between 1989 and 1999.

imagesKeith Gillespie will always be remembered on Tyneside for two things. Firstly, as the player who was part of the deal that took Andy Cole to Manchester United. That deal had Kevin Keegan on the steps of St. James Park, explaining to the fans why he was selling one of their heroes. Nevertheless, Gillespie soon became a regular in the team dubbed “The Entertainers” and went on to enjoy 3 relatively successful seasons in the North East. The second thing he will always be remembered for, in his final full season at Newcastle, is arguably his best performance for the club when assisting 2 of Faustino Asprilla’s 3 goals in a 3-2 Champions League victory over F.C Barcelona. A night no Geordie of a certain age will ever forget. Gillespie played 113 times for Newcastle and was capped 86 times over a 14-year period.

I was there, the night in 1997, when Aaron Hughes made his debut for Newcastle United in the Camp Nou, Barcelona. Little did I know then what a popular figure he would become amongst my fellow Mags. The versatile player was (and still is) loved on Tyneside and many of my compatriots were gutted when Graeme Sourness sold him to Aston Villa in 2005, especially for a ridiculous price of £1 million. Hughes was always highly dependable, wherever he was asked to play and it is great to see him still enjoying his football, especially for Northern Ireland. A product of the United’s youth development, Hughes represented Newcastle on 205 occasions, the most appearances for any of the clubs that he subsequently played for. Capped 104 times, he is second only to Pat Jennings in the most capped Northern Ireland players.

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I interviewed Shane Ferguson once for the Newcastle fanzine the True Faith. He came over as a shy but likable young lad and big things were expected of him. Newcastle signed him from Derry City, in 2001, at the age of 16 but he never nailed down a first team place and was loaned out to Birmingham, after making only 23 first team appearances. He stayed on Newcastle’s books but was furthered loaned out to Rangers and MIllwall, eventually signing full time for the South London club in 2016. He has won 22 caps to date for his country.

There were other bit part players too, like John Cowen and Eric Ross who between them both played only10 times for United in total and received 1 cap each. Also a player called Jimmy Hill, not the Match of the Day one, but a lad from Carrickfergus who joined Newcastle from Linfield and played 11 times for the black & whites. Hill won 7 caps for Northern Ireland.

So there you have it the Geordie Ulster Connection, I think you will agree it’s quite impressive.

Tony Higgins (January 2017)

If you enjoyed that you are sure to enjoy the book Homage to Murcia – A Season of Football Anarchy, to buy click here

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BOOK: Homage to Murcia – A Season of Football Anarchy
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New writing for True Faith #129

tf129_featured_image-470x330I’ve written for the Newcastle United independent fanzine, True Faith, for more years than I’d like to recall.

Anyway, in the new issue (129) I have an article about a trip that myself and eleven others made to see Rayo Vs. Cadiz. We also did a tour of the Spanish Civil War battle site Jarrama. All can be read on pages Page 34 – 38. Link to TF #129

Another good Spanish related article, in issue 129, is a piece written by Fergus Dowd called Basque Brethren – Euzcadi, they hung out the flag of war. This great piece of writing can be found on Page 54 – 58. Link to TF #129

Whilst being a Newcastle fanzine the True Faith is a great read for all football fans and can be downloaded 100% FREE!! It can be read on all devices, smart phone, tablet, lap top etc. p4

Other eye catching articles in this issue are I am the Greatest, an article about Mohamed Ali and a great piece, by Brazil based Mag John Milton, about the sad story of AFC Chapecoense, called #Forçachape Page 92 – 96 Link to TF #129

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TRUE FAITH WEBSITE

Tony Higgins (January 2017)

City of Liverpool FC & Haze Fanzine

d32-q65jI am delighted to announce that I have an article, about CAP Ciudad de Murcia, appearing in the unofficial City of Liverpool FC fanzine.  The fanzine is called Haze and can be downloaded here for free HERE. However, the lads do ask that you make a donation to the mental health charity MIND. So please do so after reading. The article is on page 26 &27.

City of Liverpool FC are a new club made up of mainly disillusioned fans from the top three Merseyside clubs. The fans go by the nickname “The Partisans” and the team is known as the “Purps”, after the colour of their kit.

ci7rdpu3I am not going to regurgitate here all the information that you can read on the City of Liverpool FC website. All the information is here on why they formed and what they are all about. There is also information on how you can become part of the club and how to get involved.

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I will be following with interest what’s going on at City of Liverpool FC and I hope that one day I can share a pint of Warsteiner with The Partisans.

Tony Higgins (November 2016)

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A message from Almudena from Across Madrid

Dear All,
Thank you so very much for coming over to Spain to pay your respects to the memory of the antifascist volunteers who fought in Jarama in February 1937.  As we discussed during our Jarama Battlefield tour, it is particularly relevant today to remember that thousands of people stood up to Fascism and traveled all the way to a foreign country to serve the universal cause of Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite.  Thse amazing men and women were fighting for the rights of the working class, and their commitment to their ideas drove them to sign up for a difficult war on foreign soil.  It was particularly moving to hold that minute silence on Suicide Hill, and I hope you can return next February for AABI’s Memorial March, to be held February 18.
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If you would like some information on some of the aspects we discussed during the tour, please write to Tony (higgins_67@ymail.com) and he will forward you plenty of resources for you to explore at your leisure.
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You can keep up to date with the work being done by memorialistic associations in the UK like the IBMT here:
For the Irish International Brigades:
And of course, this is AABI’s website:
Thank you for joining me in the due commemoration of the International Brigaders in Jarama.  Remember that the struggle goes on, and that today their rallying cry No Pasaran would be heard across present-day Europe because of the worrying rise of Fascism.
Long live the International Brigades!!!!
Almudena Cros
Across Madrid tours
President of AABI
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Indie Fútbol Tours – Fraternity Through Football

mn52qfmb_400x400I’m writing this off the back of a great trip to Madrid, to see Rayo Vallacano play Cadiz (30 Sept. – 3 Oct. 2016). Our group also did a fascinating tour of the Jarama valley, around the sites of a famous battle that the International Brigades took part in during the Spanish Civil War.

Our group contained 12 people from all over the UK/Ireland and we all had a fantastic experience that most of us would like to repeat again.

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So with that experience fresh in the mind, Indie Fútbol Tours has been set up to assist likeminded people to meet up in Spain (and maybe other places). The objective is to get similar thinking people together that would like to take part in football, social history and music tours.

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Indie Fútbol Tours is exactly that … independent. All participants book their own travel and hotels, obviously some assistance can be given with this if needed. The whole point of IFT is fraternity not profits. The only things we will always organise are specialist historical tours and sometimes match tickets when we can. Facebook, twitter and our blog will be used to coordinate everyone thus ensuring that we are all staying in the same hotels etc. and that everyone is kept up to date with important information about the tour.

Anthony Higgins – October 2016

IFT Facebook Page

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Rayo Vrs Cadiz (Football, Spanish Civil War Tour, Music and more…..)

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I put this circular together to first see if people are interested in the following event. It has been published on Facebook as a private event but the details are here for those who don’t have Facebook. You can message me directly if you are interested in going. You can make your own arrangements for everything except the Spanish Civil War Tour, please let me know the numbers for that. I can help with accommodation and other things (like match tickets) if needed, just send me an email or message on Facebook or Twitter. I can help with as much or as little as you want. higgins_67@ymail.com

Last season Rayo Vallacano were unfortunately relegated to La Segunda, from La Liga, and Cadiz, after around 7 seasons in Segunda B, were promoted to La Segunda.

This means that this coming season Rayo will play Cadiz in a competitive fixture for the first time in a long while. Rayo’s home fixture is due to be played the first weekend of October 2016. Rayo play in a suburb of Madrid called Vallecas, very easy access from Madrid airport.

Both clubs are renowned in Spain for having a fanatical supporter’s groups called the Bukaneros (Rayo) and the Brigadas Amarillas (Cadiz). Both groups have a friendship dating back to around 1993. This fixture is sure to be a people’s football fiesta and a great experience for those who like to sample football sub-culture first hand.

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The following is proposed:

  1. Participants will book their own flights to Madrid and onward transport to Vallecas (the working class suburb where Rayo play). Assistance in getting to Vallecas can be provided if necessary but it is very close to the airport and shouldn’t be difficult. Flights to Madrid are available with budget airlines from Dublin, Manchester, Liverpool, London, Edinburgh etc. The sooner you book the cheaper the flights usually are.
  2. Economic accommodation will be sort (if needed) and provided locally in Vallecas for 1-3 nights. The number of nights stay is up to individuals but I would suggest that you come Friday to Monday (3 nights).
  3. Match tickets will be purchased on demand from Rayo and will most likely be in the home section behind the goal (standing) or paddocks.
  4. Some sort of musical concert could be provided, depending on the numbers attending. However, it is suspected that a lot of people from Cadiz will be making a weekend of it, so it is thought there will be plenty of venues providing entertainment in any case.
  5. A visit to the site The Battle of Jarama, where the International Brigades fought, will be part of the tour. The tour will be undertaken by an expertly qualified guide – see link https://spanishsites.org/charlie-donnelly-and-jarama/ (this tour or similar depending upon availability)

Please feel free to share this with any of your friends who might be interested in this experience.

Any questions please feel free to message me directly.

Anthony Higgins 16 July 2016

STAND fanzine issue #14

It’s always great to have a new fanzine drop through the letter box and I was delighted when the new Stand fanzine, issue #14, arrived in Spain the other day. Especially as it had one of my articles in it, a review of last season (2014-15) at CAP Ciudad de Murcia

STAND issue 14 cover
STAND issue 14 cover

As usual there are also some excellent written articles in issue #14 with my favourites so far, I haven’t read it all yet, being an article by fan owned Lewes FC Chairman, Stuart Fuller (@theballisround), it’s about non-league football, an article about Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne by Jony Brick (@jonybrick), discussing whether the Gateshead born genius was the catalyst of modern football and an article by Curtis Rothwell (@CurtSince92) about George Best and the new spirit in the sky chant about him. I am sure there will be more gems in there too once I get around to reading them.

CAP Ciudad de Murcia article Stand issue #14
CAP Ciudad de Murcia article Stand issue #14

I have written for Stand fanzine almost since its conception in 2012. My articles have appeared in both the printed magazine and on their website, usually about CAP Ciudad de Murcia or SD Eibar. Here is something that I wrote for STAND about the SD Eibar #defendeeleibar campaign back in the summer of 2014.  #defendeleibar article stand 

Stand poster Liverpool July 2013
Stand poster Liverpool July 2013

Back in July 2013 I actually shared a platform with FCUMs Chairman Andy Walsh, at the inaugural STAND conference held in Liverpool. I spoke about fan ownership at CAP Ciudad de Murcia but if I’m honest I was probably a little bit out of my depth back then. Although I am sure that I came over OK. It was a good event and was attended by fan groups like the Spirt of Shankly (Liverpool) and The Blue Union (Everton). There were some great inspirational discussions and talks given by Brian Reade (The Mirror), James McKenna (SoS) and a whole host of others. Later in the evening the music, organised by Boss Night, was provided by local bands like Mercury 13 with Bez of The Happy Mondays doing his famed DJ set, which is always a laugh!

Sharing the STAND platform in Liverpool with Andy Walsh of FCUM
Sharing the STAND platform in Liverpool with Andy Walsh of FCUM

Here is an interview that I did before the event in Liverpool

According to their website STAND fanzine is a fanzine that gives the opportunity for like-minded people to take a considered look at the state of the game. They attempt to introduce and investigate alternatives to negative aspects of modern football and to bring together disaffected fans.

STAND stickers
STAND stickers

Something that STAND stresses that it isn’t is the voice of the Against Modern Football movement. Individually, they identify with #AMF but whilst that encompasses so many different subjects, they say it’s impossible to have one single outlook. They also do not want the return of a game blighted by hooliganism, racism and death-trap stadiums. More information can be found HERE.

Overall Stand Fanzine is a great read and you can find their website HERE you can also take a subscription out HERE.

I’d also like to go on record and thank the lads for helping to promote the book! Which can be purchased HERE .

Tony Higgins – September 2015

BOOK: Homage to Murcia - A Season of Football Anarchy
BOOK: Homage to Murcia – A Season of Football Anarchy

CAP Ciudad de Murcia: Preview of the 2015-16 season – for those planning a trip to Murcia

For the FCUM Review I recently wrote a short preview for CAP Ciudad de Murcia’s forthcoming 2015-16 season. However, I have decided to elaborate on that and give some information regarding what I believe will be the best matches to attend. This is for anyone thinking of travelling over to Murcia this coming season.

FCUM Review cover
FCUM Review cover

As I mentioned in the Review piece Ciudad will play in the Tercera Group XIII, which is the highest level of regional football and the fourth tier in the Spanish football pyramid. Remember though that there are 18 groups of 20 teams at this level!

Eventually I have got my hands on a fixture list BUT please be aware that this is Spain and fixtures can be changed at the drop of hat and without much warning. That said most games are played on a Sunday afternoon, usually a 4 or 5 pm kick off time.

Unfortunately one of the best games of the season, away to Real Murcia B, has been scheduled for the first game of the season and has been scheduled for an 11am kick off on a Sunday morning. This is to avoid any clashes between fans and has even been moved outside the city boundaries.

So what other games would I recommended? Well any home game is a great occasion but the best ones should be the following. The weekend (04/10/15) sees Plus Ultra visit Murcia City and in the region on the same weekend is Cadiz FC, whose fans have a great relationship with Ciudad fans. There could be a chance to see both games.

In November on the weekend of (22/11/15) Caravaca visit Jose Barnes, there is always a bit of needle between the two clubs and games between the two clubs are generally good.

First home game of the New Year (03/01/16) sees Ciudad take on Aguilas, who are one of the best clubs at this level and have a rich football history.

A week after that (10/01/16) the bitter rivals of Ciudad, Real Murcia, visit and that is a fixture that will always produce fireworks, maybe literally!

In March (13/03/16) there is a good game scheduled against Lorca Deportivo. There is a good relationship between the two clubs and games are usually good. I expect Lorca to be in the mix up for the play-offs.

Away from home the highlights for me are as follows. Early doors on the weekend of (13/09/15) there is a trip to the coast to FC Pinatar Arena. This will be a difficult fixture as Pinatar have big backers. The beaches close by are some of the best in Murcia.

In October there is an interesting trip to a club based in a mining village called CD MInera. I am curious about this one and looking forward to it. (18/10/15).

At the beginning of November (01/11/15) Ciudad will take the to the field in one of the best stadiums in the region. The Francisco Artes Carrasco holds around 8000 people and is a great place to watch football. Lorca Deportivo play there and they have a rich football history too. You can read about them in the BOOK

Just before Christmas there is an interesting trip to Mula (20/12/15). The little club to the north of the Murcia have a great little ground and a support almost as fervent as Ciudad.

As spring kicks in (20/03/16) another trip to the coast is scheduled when Ciudad will travel to Mar Menor. This club is situated right on the coast and is very close to the regional airport at San Javier.

A trip to Caravaca, in the mountains, is planned for mid-April (17/04/16) and as I said earlier always a bit of needle for this one.

The last game of the season (15/05/16) is probably the best away trip for me. Aguilas is steeped in football and general history. You can read in the BOOK how the British brought football to the area along with mining and the railways. The little football museum in the town, right beside the stadium, is a must! Another great attraction is Aguilas is situated right on the beach, what a way to end the season. The home club will probably be going for promotion I reckon so it will be a big game to boot.

So there you have it a preview of what I see to be the highlights of what should be a very interesting campaign. If Ciudad can stay up they would have done very well.

Buy HOMAGE TO MURCIA – A SEASON OF ANARCHY for more hidden gems about football in Murcia and Spain.

Season preview in FCUM Review
Season preview in FCUM Review

Nice words form the lads at True Faith Fanzine (NUFC)

Nice to think my years of support and writing for TRUE FAITH fanzine has been appreciated.

Some very nice words from the editor HERE in relation to the release of the book.

True Faith has been going since 1999 and I have been reading it since the outset. I started contributing to the fanzine in around 2005 and you could say that I cut my writing teeth on the magazine.

Each issue I do an article called Real Spain. I also provide other copy too.

True Faith - Real Spain
True Faith – Real Spain

Subscriptions to True Faith can be taken out HERE …go on you wont regret it!

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