Out of the Wings

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¡Oé oé oé! (1994), Maxi Rodríguez

English title: Olé olé olé!
Notable variations on Spanish title: ¡Oé oé oé!: comedia gruesa para un país de sainete
Date written: 1994
First publication date: 1994
First production date: 1995
Keywords: family, identity > class/social standing, love > friendship
Genre and type: farce, tragicomedy, comedy

For Billy and Andy, football is not just a game, it is a way of life. Young Tony is not so convinced, but he nonetheless joins the trip to Seville to camp out for five whole days before the big match. Soon, the men learn that life has a lot to teach them about football, and that football has a lot to teach them about life.


Billy and Tony have travelled hundreds of miles to Seville, where they have set up camp outside the local stadium. It is five days before one of Spain’s crucial World Cup qualifiers. Why the early arrival? As an obsessive football fan, Billy wants to beat the crowds, to be the centre of any press attention. But while Billy is a hardened supporter of the national side, Tony has a lot to learn about football. Much younger than his companion, Tony is a timid soul who has made the long trip to please his girlfriend Cristina, who also happens to be Billy’s daughter. Tony faces the daunting task of telling Billy that his daughter is pregnant, but it might take the entire five days before he finds the right moment to do so.

At the start of the play, tragedy strikes. Billy’s star player is injured and is out of the forthcoming game. For Billy, this is a catastrophe, although he fails to convince Tony of the seriousness of the situation. In fact, Billy is already sick of Tony’s lack of interest in football. In Billy’s eyes, Tony is not a real man. He gets even more exasperated when Tony produces a huge leg of ham from his backpack. Tony explains that it was Cristina who packed the leg of ham, hoping that it would give the men something to talk about. And, unbeknownst to the audience at this point, Tony has something very important to say. But just as it appears that he is about to reveal the news of Cristina’s pregnancy, the young man’s courage fails him and he simply asks Billy to teach him everything he knows about the beautiful game. But Billy’s efforts to do so are in vain, as Tony has no enthusiasm for football. Billy tries another tactic. He starts to physically provoke Tony, in an effort to elicit some kind of base masculine response. But before the play-fighting gets out of hand, Billy hears a familiar voice. It is Andy, his old partner in football, finally arrived in Seville.

Andy has arrived unaccompanied by the usual group of supporters who normally attend matches together. In fact, his friends bet him a considerable amount of money that he would not make the long trip alone, and so he has done so to prove them wrong. Billy is disappointed at the lack of a good crowd, but soon he has more troubling things to worrying about, as Tony finally plucks up the courage to tell him that Cristina is pregnant. Billy is outraged at the prospect of his daughter having a child with an unemployed student. However, Tony is not the only one unemployed. In the heat of anger, Tony reveals that Billy lost his job some time ago and has been secretly pawning off his belongings to scrape together money to attend football matches. In fact, neither Billy nor Tony has brought any money with them, since they were hoping to call in debts owed by supporters who now, because of Andy’s bet, have not turned up. Billy wants to rush home to his daughter, only to learn that Andy cannot lend him money because he, too, has been sacked from his job. And so, at the end of act 1, the three men find themselves destitute.

By act 2 Andy is making a practical effort to earn some money. He sets up a stall to raffle off the huge leg of ham. Unfortunately, the crowds of football fans have yet to arrive. Billy has spoken to his daughter on the phone and has calmed down a little. In fact, when Andy suggests they rig the raffle so that they get to keep the money and the ham, Billy has regained his reason enough to feel uncomfortable about such a ruse. Billy argues that he is not there to cheat and steal, but only for the football. Andy’s approach is more cynical, as he reminds Billy of just how much money footballers make, and just how often they cheat.

While Billy and Andy discuss ethics, a now-drunk Tony is more concerned with his stomach. Some of the food they brought with them has mysteriously disappeared. Tony begins to suspect that Andy has stolen their supplies, and soon Billy is openly accusing his old friend of theft. Andy and Billy argue over the food, until they are distracted by Tony’s amusing drunken comments about their situation. His inebriated ravings dissipate the tension and the men sit down to enjoy the leg of ham together. Suddenly, they see the lights of a helicopter. It is a television crew, come to capture footage of Spain’s most fanatical fans. The three men jump and wave like madmen. Tony, calling out to his beloved Cristina, enjoys the moment through tears of sadness and joy.


The play is set outside Seville’s Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium, five days before Spain is set to play a World Cup qualifying match. This scenario is inspired by real events: in 1993 fans camped for four days outside the Sánchez Pizjuán stadium, queuing to get into the grounds to watch Spain play Denmark in a qualifying match for the 1994 World Cup. Spain won this match 1-0.

Billy and Andy are huge football fans. Their talk is peppered with references to football teams and players. Billy, for example, is particularly concerned with the fact that the midfielder José Luis Peréz Caminero will not be playing during the match. However, even though the play features characters obsessed with football, Maxi Rodríguez claims that he is not particularly interested in sport as a theme (Vallines 2007). Rather, he uses it as ‘a pretext through which to discuss other things’ (Vallines 2007).

Billy’s obsessive love of his national team, and the fact that he has brought drums with him to the stadium, are both a nod to Spain’s most famous football fan who goes by the name of Manolo ‘el del bombo’ (Manolo of the Drum). He attends all Spain’s international matches, sporting a beret and banging his huge drum. He wears the number 12 Spanish football shirt, just as Tony does in the play (although the young football novice looks ridiculous in it).

Maxi Rodríguez dedicates the play to a number of football teams and supporters, including Real Oviedo’s most fanatical and famous supporter, ‘La Pixarra’. This woman, whose real name was Emilia García Fernández, was a totemic symbol of the football club, and attended almost every match before her death in 2006.

Critical response

To many people’s surprise, the play was censored by the authorities in Oviedo because of its perceived level of bad language, and a production planned for the Teatro Campoamor was subsequently abandoned. In his 1995 review of the Madrid premiere, Enrique Bueres found the objections of the Oviedo authorities questionable, since the play in fact contains very little bad language (Bueres 1995).

Jorge Valdano, the ex-footballer and current manager of Real Madrid, wrote a prologue for the 1998 edition of the play. He praises it for being a piece of theatre that ‘shakes the cobwebs’ off the genre and steps out into the street, using football as the subject matter through which to explore society (Rodríguez 1998).

¡Oé oé oé! has been translated into a number of languages, including Portuguese, Italian, Galician and Greek. The play’s Portuguese premiere, which took place between October and November 2010, was extremely well-received by the public, who gave it a lengthy standing ovation.

  • Bueres, Enrique. 1995. ‘Maxi Rodríguez triunfa en Madrid en el estreno de ¡Oé oé oé!’, La Nueva España, 19 June (in Spanish)

  • Rodríguez, Maxi. 1998. ¡Oé oé oé! Gijón, Oris Teatro (in Spanish)

Further information

The precise football game that the men are waiting to see changes depending on the country in which the play has been performed. For example, the Portuguese production set the action during Euro 2004 – which took place in Portugal. In the final of this competition, Greece were triumphant over Portugal. The promotional poster for this production read ‘A Portuguese comedy that ends in Greek Tragedy’.

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Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 4 January 2011.

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