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  • Writer's pictureLa Liga Lowdown

The Underdog Stories Of LaLiga - For The Fans, By The Fans

Written by Alex Brotherton

LaLiga is regarded by many as the best league in the world, and it’s easy to see why. The superclubs, the intense rivalries, the tricks, the flicks, and of course the otherworldly exploits of Lionel Messi. And that’s great. But beyond the title challengers and European hopefuls, there are fascinating stories to be told.

We thought it was time we got to know more about the rest, the less successful but historic clubs whose followings are just as passionate and dedicated as anybody else's. So, we spoke to fans of Leganés, Granada, Eibar, Mallorca, Celta Vigo, Osasuna, Real Valladolid and Alavés, to find out what it’s like to support LaLiga’s underdogs.

To start our series, we had a chat with fans on the ground. Those who are at the stadiums and have seen their team at all levels of Spanish football. As is the case with many of these so-called “minnows”, their LaLiga history isn’t as glamorous or long-standing as their top-flight rivals.

Here, we’ve spoken to some of their most loyal fans, with great stories, to explain just why they love their clubs quite so much, through thick and thin.

CD Leganés - Alberto Madera (@crustinha)

1) Why do you support Leganés?

Leganés are the main local team so I think that’s why I must support them. I have many friends that work in the club and they try to open it up to people and make the club a big family.

2) What’s an interesting fact or story about the club?

In the 1930s when snow covered the club’s first pitch in Roma Square, they used donkeys with wooden planks to clear it so that games could go ahead.

3) Describe your favourite memory of following Leganés.

After the 1-0 win away at CD Mirandés that secured promotion to LaLiga on the last day of 2015/16, the party in Miranda de Ebro lasted all day. The stadium was very small but it was crowded with Leganés fans; it was awesome to see the celebrations when Pablo Insua scored!

4) Who is your favourite ever Leganés player and why?

Carlos Martínez. He was a special player who played for us from 2007-2010 and 2012-2014. He was very natural, funny and friendly. He wasn't fast, but he had a very talented left foot that provided perfect crosses and assists for his teammates. He was the captain in ‘the dark times’ and now he works for the first team as fitness coach.

5) Do you have a piece of prize memorabilia? What’s the story behind it?

I have many tickets, photos and T-shirts, but the best of them all was a hug. When Leganés got promoted to the Segunda División 2014, after the final whistle I jumped on to the pitch and I saw Carlos Álvarez, the best striker. We hugged and he said to me: "thank you for your trust". I will take those words to my grave.

6) How would you rate the club’s season so far out of 10? Why?

6/10. They invested a lot of money in players, but the coach left in October. They have been in the relegation zone all season and are currently 19th. But there is some hope of escape and the coach, Javier Aguirre, is very motivated with that objective in mind.

7) How would you sum up Leganés in three words?

Dreams come true.

Granada CF: Heath Chesters (@HeathGCF)

1) Why do you support Granada? Shortly after moving to the Granada region I saw an advert for a local Tercera División (fourth tier) fixture; Loja CD vs Granada CF. I went along on 26 February 2006 and saw a poor Granada side lose 3-1 on a sand-and-gravel pitch in front of a few hundred fans. I chatted with some elderly Granada fans who told me about the golden era during the 1970’s and how Granada were known as ‘matagigantes’ (giant-killers) who regularly beat Real Madrid and Barcelona. As a fan of football history, I was hooked.

Despite being a rare foreign fan the locals were very welcoming and made me feel part of a community, which encouraged me to attend more games. Over the years I’ve seen promotions, relegations and near bankruptcy, I’ve produced social media content for the club and now I’m a season-ticket holder. Following a modest club like this has been far more rewarding than following a bigger club. 2) What’s an interesting fact or story about the club? Real Madrid legend Amancio refused to play against Granada for two consecutive seasons, as back then Granada were renowned as a rough team that took no prisoners. In 1974 he eventually agreed to face them, only to receive a challenge that effectively ended his career. Other great players, including Johan Cruyff, were also rendered ineffective over the years. Similarly, Barcelona’s captains once asked Granada to go easy on Johan Cruyff. They didn’t. 3) Describe your favourite memory of following Granada. The 2010/2011 promotion play-offs stand out because of the significance. Granada had been outside the Spanish top flight for 35 years, so there was a huge amount of hope and expectation amongst fans when they scraped into the play-offs. Granada overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Celta Vigo in the semi-final by winning on penalties at Nuevo Los Carmenes. Goalkeeper Roberto Fernández scored from the spot before saving the crucial penalty. In the two-legged final, Granada drew 1-1 after a goalless draw in the first leg, so they won on away goals. Odion Ighalo’s magical goal will always be remembered by Granada fans.

4) Who is your favourite ever Granada player and why?

Manuel Lucena. Born and raised in the city, he’s dedicated most of his professional life to Granada CF, representing the club in the Tercera, Segunda B, Segunda and Primera. After retiring, he returned to Granada and has since been a constant member of the backroom staff, always reminding the next generation of young players that anything is possible with effort and desire.

5) Do you have a piece of prize memorabilia? What’s the story behind it?

I have a drawer full of copies of local IDEAL Granada newspapers. These are editions published when Granada won promotions or enjoyed victories against Barcelona and Real Madrid, along with a few other unforgettable moments over the years. I might end up getting the front pages framed at some point in the future.

6) How would you rate the club’s season so far out of 10? Why?

10/10 - especially after many predicted they would go straight back down, including La Liga Lowdown’s very own Paco Polit! Newly-promoted and with a small budget, reaching the Copa del Rey semi-finals and to be within touching distance of Europa League qualification is incredible. Diego Martínez has managed to instil a sense of unity and togetherness I’ve never seen before. Everyone around the club is inspired and pulling in the same direction. Now you see more kids in the streets wearing Granada shirts than ever before, and the locals are prouder than ever about what this club is trying to achieve.

7) How would you sum up Granada in three words?

Passion. Pride. Potential.

SD Eibar - Jon Arregi (@JonArregi)

1) Why do you support Eibar? I’m not from Eibar, but as a child I used to attend games there with my grandfather when the team played in the third tier. When, in 2014, Eibar started a huge crowdfunding campaign to raise its capital value by €1.7 million as required by the RFEF, my friends, family and I helped out by purchasing shares of €50 each. Shortly afterwards, the team was promoted to LaLiga for the first time in 75 years. I support Eibar because it’s a club that has made history, proving that being humble and doing things the right way can also get good results in the top tier. 2) What’s an interesting fact or story about the club? Eibar secured back-to-back promotions in 2013 and 2014, rising from Segunda B to LaLiga, having played almost 18 consecutive years in the second tier, the longest stretch of any Spanish club. 3) Describe your favourite memory of supporting / covering Eibar. Having worked almost five years at the club and having travelled with the team to almost every stadium in LaLiga, my favourite memories are of Eibar scoring first in games at the Bernabéu and at Camp Nou. The silence of thousands of Barcelona and Real Madrid fans, shocked that they had conceded to the smallest club in LaLiga, was amazing. 4) Who is your favourite ever Eibar player and why? Ander Capa, who currently plays for Athletic Club. He came from the Eibar academy and played in the team that won the historic promotion to LaLiga. A normal, humble and really friendly guy; while other players drove Mercedes and Ferraris, he had his old Volkswagen Golf that had seen much better days!

5) How would you rate the club's season so far out of 10? Why? 5/10. Eibar are a rollercoaster team; they’re used to unpredictable results but are usually able to reinvent themselves when facing difficulties. This season hasn’t been good. Eibar are 16th, but I’m sure that if the league restarts they will give their best to avoid relegation. 6) How would you sum up Eibar in three words? Ezina ekinez egina. It’s Basque for ‘impossible becomes possible with effort’.

RCD Mallorca: Alex Fitzpatrick (@Mallorcalex100)

1) Why do you support Mallorca?

I live and work in Mallorca, and I believe in supporting your local team. The island’s most famous club is Atlético Baleares, but my home is a short walk from Son Moix, so really RCD Mallorca was my only option! One of the first things I did after moving here was to purchase my membership. Now I’m privileged enough to report on the club for LaLiga TV.

2) What’s an interesting fact or story about the club ?

There exists an agreement that Son Moix will be inhabited by whichever team on the island is in the higher division. Since the move to Son Moix, Mallorca’s tenancy had never been in doubt, until the relegation to Segunda B in 2017 when they found themselves in the same division as island rivals Atlético Baleares. At the end of the season Mallorca were promoted, but that was the closest they’ve been to being evicted from their home.

3) Describe your favourite memory of supporting Mallorca.

For many it will be the 2003 Copa del Rey win, but for more recent fans like me, it’s the remontada from 2-0 down after the first leg to win 3-0 against Deportivo La Coruna in the 2019 Segunda play-off final. It was a totally unforgettable night for any Mallorca fan, after years of pain and struggle. The early Ante Budimir goal, the free-kick from Salva Sevilla, a stunning double save from Manolo Reina and then local boy Abdon Prats finishing off the tie with a golazo will live with me forever. Streaming onto the pitch with the thousands of fans and celebrating with the players will take some beating. 4) Who is your favourite ever Mallorca player and why?

Historically it has to be Samuel Eto'o. He scored so many goals for a great side that won the Copa del Rey and qualified for the Champions League. In his final season before he joined Barcelona, he scored the goal that kept Mallorca up. For players I’ve seen in the flesh, it’s ‘Mr. Reliable’ Dani Rodriguez. The man is a pocket rocket, a non-stop Duracell bunny. He runs and runs and doesn’t stop until the game is over. His quality on the ball is excellent and his adaptability to be able to play in any of the midfield positions and out of position is a real asset. It was fitting that Dani scored Mallorca’s first goal back in LaLiga in the win against Eibar, in front of the fans at Son Moix.

5) Do you have a piece of prize memorabilia? What’s the story behind it?

My first ever pitchside television press pass for the game against Real Madrid at Son Moix. To appear pitchside on live TV AND for Mallorca to beat Real Madrid was just incredible and an experience I will never forget. I will keep the press pass and team sheet from that game as long as I live.

6) How would you rate the club's season so far out of 10? Why?

7/10. Mallorca have the lowest wage budget in the division, and before the season began they were favourites for relegation. To have spent the majority of the season outside of the bottom three is incredible and is testament to the excellent work that Vicente Moreno continues to do at the club. Away form has been a concern although it has started to improve. If the season resumes, Mallorca have a fighting chance of survival.

7) How would you sum up Mallorca in three words?

Family, Proud, Real.

If you'd like to see more up-to-date Spanish football news, match information or just need somewhere to talk about- you can find us on Twitter @LaLigaLowdown

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