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  • Writer's pictureLa Liga Lowdown

The Underdog Stories Of LaLiga - For The Fans, By The Fans (Part 2)

Written by Alex Brotherton

Here at La Liga Lowdown, we thought it was time we shone a light on some of LaLiga’s less-talked-about clubs. They might not boast the same glitz, glamour and star players that their illustrious rivals do, but their stories are just as fascinating and their fans just as passionate. In this two-part series, we spoke to fans on the ground across Spain, to get the inside track on what it’s like to support LaLiga’s underdogs.

Last week, we spoke to fans of Eibar, Leganés, Mallorca and Granada. We heard stories of last-gasp wins, heartbreaking defeats, promotion parties and countless relegations. We learnt of friendships forged through hardship and celebration alike, and feelings of belonging and family that you don’t always get at bigger clubs.

This week, we’ve spoken to fans of Osasuna, Celta Vigo, Real Valladolid and Alavés, to find out what it is about their clubs that is just so special.

Osasuna - Ignasi Torné (@groundhopperbcn)

1) Why do you support Osasuna?

I am from Barcelona, but one day in 2012 I decided to visit El Sadar with a friend. Nowadays I live near Pamplona and I have a group of mates that I go to games with. I also met my girlfriend here! I feel very identified with people of Navarra, the city of Pamplona and their traditions. Osasuna represents values that are difficult to find in top-division European sides, as they have a commitment to the local community and the fans influence the running of the club.

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

The name ‘Osasuna’ means ‘health’ in Basque, an important concept in Basque tradition. Osasuna are the only La Liga team with a Basque name, yet debates over whether the Navarre region is part of the greater Basque Country rage on. The mindset amongst supporters is unusual. There is a famous saying, "if we are too confident, we are bad” (Si nos confiamos, somos muy malos). It means you must not be afraid to believe in the team, but never be confident. That's part of Osasuna's DNA.

3) Describe your favourite memory of following Osasuna.

Sabadell, away, in 2015. In my opinion, the most vital Osasuna game in recent history as if we’d lost that game the club would have probably disappeared. It was a last-minute equaliser by an academy player, Javier Flaño. That goal touched every 'Rojillo' soul in the world. That moment, that day, that game. People were crying at half-time, it looked impossible to survive, but Osasuna did it.

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

'Patxi' Puñal. No one could stop him. The great captain, our number ten. More Navarre than the chains in the coat of arms, he is one of us. He spent his whole career at Osasuna. You see him in town and he’s just an average guy, spending time with his family, enjoying some 'pintxos' standing at the bar, just like me. He knows he is a part of society, and people love that. He wasn’t a skillful player, but he was humble and all heart. People call him by his nickname 'Patxi', not Puñal, because he’s like a member of the family.

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

A 'Patxi' Puñal signed shirt I got for my 25th birthday. However, just being part of Pamplona, Navarra and Osasuna, being one of them, is more important than any memorabilia.

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

7/10. The injury to 'Chimy' Ávila was a turning point, we are an entirely different team without him. But we are celebrating our 100th anniversary and people have been very excited, so there is some reason to celebrate!

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

Gurea da bizitza basatia. In English, it means ‘our savage lifestyle’.

Celta Vigo - Ian Morris (@CeltaUSA)

1) Why do you support Celta Vigo?

I have supported Celta ever since moving to Vigo from the United States for work in 2016. I’d never really followed soccer until moving to Spain, but it was impossible not to fall in love with the club after experiencing the magical environment at Balaídos and the energy and passion that runs through the club and its supporters.

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

Despite being 11th in the all-time La Liga table and having played 54 seasons in the top flight, Celta doesn't have a major trophy to its name. We've lost two Copa del Rey finals, have never won the league and have failed to win a European competition despite appearing 8 times in the Europa League and in one memorable Champions League campaign. Celta has a long history of heartbreak and disappointment, which makes our supporters' passion and hope for the club even more impressive.

3) Describe your favourite memory of following Celta Vigo.

The historic run 2016-17 Europa League semi-finals was special, despite falling to Manchester United in heartbreaking fashion. I’ll never forget the excitement and hope that coursed through the veins and hearts of Vigo and the club. But more incredible was the comeback win against Villarreal in March 2019. 0-2 down after 20 minutes, Celta looked dead in the water and a sure bet for relegation. But a memorable comeback, inspired by club legend Iago Aspas’s two-goal performance on his return from a lengthy injury layoff, started a run of results that led to us staying in La Liga. The emotion I felt in the stands after Aspas scored the game-winning goal as we all yelled and cried, beginning to believe, was something that I haven't matched at any other game.

4) Who is your favourite ever Celta Vigo player and why?

Iago Aspas. He's a hometown boy who grew up in the small city of Moaña, just across the bay from Vigo. He lied about his age to join the club's academy as a child, played his entire youth career there, and has become the author of some of the club's most historic moments and is the club's all-time leading goalscorer with 147. He has done all of this while playing with the same passion and love for the club that any of its supporters have. He is a special figure, one we probably won’t see equalled in the future.

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

Probably one of the two scarves that I own. The first one was a gift from a friend who didn't let me go to the stadium without one for my first game at Balaídos, and the other was a beautiful gift from a friend that runs a Celta supporters group (America Celeste) in New York. I use them both at every match I attend.

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

3/10. There was a ton of expectation and hope surrounding this year's squad after players like Rafinha, Denis Suárez, and Santi Mina were brought in last summer. However, the team disappointed for the first four months of the season, leading to the sacking of Fran Escribá and another relegation battle. The appointment of Óscar García and the team's subsequent improvement, leaving the relegation zone, has led to some cautious optimism. But overall, the talents in the team have underperformed substantially.

7) How would you sum up Celta Vigo in three words?

Loyalty, passion, and fight.

Real Valladolid - Martin Devlin (@MartiRVCF)

1) Why do you support Real Valladolid?

I live in Inverness in the Scottish Highlands but I’ve been interested in Spain and Spanish football since the 90s. So, when Valladolid came over here for a pre-season friendly in 2010, I took the rare opportunity to watch a foreign team live. Before and after the game I chatted to some of the players, and online fans of the club made me feel welcome, so I became a fan. In the ten years since, I’ve met some wonderful people and shared in fantastic experiences; supporting Real Valladolid is one of the best things I’ve done.

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

Despite having won only one major trophy, the 1984 Copa de la Liga, Real Valladolid are the 13th-most successful club in the history of Spanish football, yet many people are unaware of who they are. One of my aims is to raise awareness of the club, the city of Valladolid itself, and the people who make it such a special place. Now, with Ronaldo Nazário as president, hopefully the club’s profile will increase.

3) Describe your favourite memory of following Real Valladolid.

I'll never forget my first visit to watch Real Valladolid at the Estadio José Zorrilla for the last match of the Segunda campaign in June 2018. We were hosting Osasuna and the prize for the winner was the final play-off place. The atmosphere in the packed stadium was incredible. Valladolid won 2-0 and in the play-offs dispatched Sporting Gijón and Numancia to gain promotion to La Liga. The whole month of June was magical; the kindness I received from other fans on my first visit was remarkable, as was the energy that surrounded the side.

4) Who is your favourite ever Real Valladolid player and why?

The likes of Carlos Valderrama, Rene Higuita and Fernando Hierro have all played in the blanquivioleta but my favourite is Sisinio, a diminutive winger who had two spells at the club. He was very good on the ball and created a lot of opportunities. He was very kind when I spoke to him in Inverness and he represented the club well. I was very proud when a fan sent me a photo of his name and mine on a banner in the crowd during a game at the José Zorrilla!

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

I was extremely lucky to be presented with a shirt signed by the entire squad when I visited the stadium for the first time. It was given to me by José Antonio Pérez Sanz, the president of the Federación de Peñas del Real Valladolid, and it’s a great memento. I was also able to go behind the scenes and take to the field before the match against Osasuna. It was an unforgettable experience.

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

5/10. The club operates on an extremely limited wage budget so credit must be given to manager Sergio González for the work he has done with players at his disposal. A lack of goals has meant a frustrating number of draws this season, but some were positive results such as a late equaliser at the Santiago Bernabéu and a home draw with Atlético. It’s been neither a great nor disastrous season, but in the middle (like a draw!).

7) How would you sum up Real Valladolid in three words?

Pride, passion, potential.

Deportivo Alavés - Rob Hextall

1) Why do you support Alavés?

I’m from Wolverhampton and support Wolves. Now I live in Vitoria-Gasteiz so I’m an Alavés fan. It’s that simple really.

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

Alavés is owned by a basketball club, a rarity in top-flight professional football. Basketball club Baskonia has a long history of success, while Deportivo Alavés has bounced between the divisions, entered into receivership, lost a UEFA Cup Final and a Copa del Rey final. The most striking change since Baskonia took over has been the reorganisation of the peñas into a single unit - Itaultza 1921 - and setting up a standing section. The once sleepy atmosphere of Mendizorrotza has been transformed by constant chanting and singing, as well as huge tifos like the one used in the campaign against the scheduling of late-night midweek games.

Credit: Rob Hextall

3) Describe your favourite memory of following Alavés.

The bittersweet, one-day, rollercoaster trip to Dortmund to watch the UEFA Cup final against Liverpool in 2001. Being 3-1 down at half time almost had me in tears thinking that the months of dreaming had all been a waste of time. Going loopy as Javi Moreno made it 3-3 and beyond loopy when Jordi Cruyff forced extra-time in the 88th minute. Liverpool scored to win but it was disallowed, we go down to nine men and then they get a free-kick. Delfi Geli heads an attempted clearance past his own keeper and Alavés have scored 5 goals in a UEFA Cup final, only the fifth was a golden own goal. We lost 4-5. It was the longest rollercoaster ride of my life with the steepest drop off at the end that left me emotionally drained for days. I still think we deserved to win it!

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

Pablo Gómez. He was born in Vitoria but had to play for four other clubs before finally making his mark on his hometown team. He’s one of the best playmakers in the club’s history but received unjust criticism from some that didn’t understand the role he played in getting the team to tick. He played with his heart on his sleeve and had a great understanding of the game. Alavés’ golden era was largely down to Pablo’s passing, vision and passion.

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

In a recent online charity auction in aid of OSI Araba (Álava Health Organisation), I won the scarf that Mané (former manager) wore that night in Dortmund in 2001. It was expensive, but worth it for the cause! I also have the pink/wine-coloured - UEFA Cup campaign shirt, the one with all the names of season-ticket holders printed on it. It was a fantastic tribute made by the club to its long suffering fanbase. I’m nestled between Saúl Hervías and Arantza Hidalgo; I don’t know them, but I’ll always remember their names.

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

7/10. Yet another head coach came in and Asier Garitano had a difficult act to follow after Abelardo. The season’s not been disappointing but not exciting either. After Christmas our strikers started finding the net regularly which calmed fears of relegation. Hopefully this season will act as a springboard for next season as the players adapt to a new way of doing things.

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

Roller coaster ride.

For more from Rob, you can check out his documentary about Brits that have moved to the Basque Country and why they’re still there so many years later here:

If you'd like to see more up-to-date Spanish football news, match information or have made a lifestyle choice to add more Isco dribbles to your diet - you can find us on Twitter @LaLigaLowdown

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