There’s one word that comes to mind when you meet the other three La Liga football clubs in Madrid – humble.
It’s not a word I would have used to describe the clubs had I met them prior to being exposed to Atlético and Real Madrid. But, just by the sheer size of the stadium, its easy to see why Leganés, Getafe and Rayo Vallecano don’t rate themselves in the same league as the two giants.
My trip to Madrid has been a nonstop rush to get to know three intricate, deeply historic clubs that have been somewhat overshadowed by the city centre rivals.
Rayo Vallecano – founded in 1924 – “Let’s dream again. A first-rate team for a first-rate community”
Vallecano is the team for the working class. Based in southeastern Madrid, the village of Vallecas (pronounced vah-yeah-kas) was annexed into the municipality of Madrid about 25 years after it was formed. Arriving at the team’s training facilities, one is struck by the simpleness of the structure and its functional form. But don’t be fooled. When the Rayito want you to know something, you will know. The club fans have a history of protesting – from wanting the club president to fight the scourge of homophobia and racism to recently protesting the club’s kickoff times. The club representatives speak with stubbornness and community at their heart.
“We won’t change the way we approach and play the game,” manager and former player Míchel says of the team’s outlook to football and its distinctive lack of globalisation.
It’s a pity that this team – from a former farming community, whose stadium has only three sides and is in a part of town where the shops are stocked according to needs rather than the aesthetic – sits second to last in La Liga. With only 12 games to go, Míchel will be hoping to rouse the fighting spirit in his players and stay in the top flight for a 19th season.
Leganés – founded in 1928 – “Sentimento Pepinero” that cucumber feeling
There’s a story that goes thus: The king of Spain once ate a cucumber and loved it so much that he wanted to know where it came from. The people told the king that it came from Leganés, a western region of Madrid. From that day forward, the king ate cucumbers only from Leganés.
True or not Lega, Los Pepineros (the cucumber growers) have been having a fantastic few years in only their third season in La Liga. Their success has been such that they managed to increase the capacity of their stadium – Estadio Municipal de Butarque – from about 8 000 to 12 450 over the past three years.
The Pepineros currently sit at the middle of the table and, unless they completely liquidise into cucumber juice, will be in the Spanish top flight for another year.
Fun fact about the Leganés: Samuel Eto’o played for the club when he first moved to Spain in 1997, on loan from Real Madrid.
Getafe – refounded 1983 – home of the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez
The area of Getafe just outside the main frontiers of Madrid in the south, but still part of the Madrid municipality, originally had a football club that was founded in 1924. However, various financial difficulties eventually forced the club to liquidate in the early 1980s before this version of the club was formed.
The club has now entered its golden era to sit on the cusp of a Champions League qualification for the first time in their storied history.
When asked about the preparations for Europe’s most prestigious league, the three-person communications team, led by veteran Luz Monzon – the first woman communications head of a La Liga team – said that it was going to be a headache, “a good headache, if we make it”.
The team lies within the top five and credit their success to its very active and innovative marketing campaigns that included pregnant zombies who birth only Getafe fans, Jesus Christ in jeans and a bodybuilding dwarf.
Getafe draws its inspiration from the fact that it is known as the Spanish home of aviation with a few aeronautical firsts, including the first autogyro flight, the predecessor to the helicopter.
For the high-flying district, the sky is the limit, unless they decide to take on space and aliens in their next marketing campaign