Wednesday 27th July 2016 8.00pm
Partido Amistoso (Friendly)
Elche CF 2 Atletico Saguntino 0 HT: 1-0 Att: c700 Entrance €3 no prog beer €1.50
from Las Fuentes (home of UD Aspe)
The English League system is unusual in that it doesn’t become regional until level 6. We even have one non-league league that spans the whole country. The Spanish League system becomes regional in the third tier. You have the Primera Division, Segunda Division and then Segunda Division B, which is split into four regions. Next is the Tercera Division which comprises 18 Groups or Grupos. At level 4 in Spain it becomes as regionalised as level 9 in England. Beneath this you have 23 regional divisions that go down to level 7.
Finding lower Spanish League friendlies takes some doing. The Soccerway website lists some of the bigger club’s games, but the nearest of those was still hundreds of miles from where we were staying in Pego. Then you have the added problem that the bigger teams always play their friendlies at local neutral venues, not always something they advertise well.
It was a case of finding twitter accounts by typing in towns around the Valencia region followed by FC. My first success was with Elche CF, who announced a Partido Amistoso at nearby Aspe UD (pronounced Aspay). Their Las Fuentes ground was playing host to Segunda Division Elche CF and Segunda B side (promoted last year from Tercera Grupo 6) Atletico Saguntino. It was a bit of a long drive, but fearing I wouldn’t find another on my two week holiday, I thought a bird in the hand…
I love driving in Spain. As Ian Rush would say, it’s like being in a foreign country. An hour and 15 on the AP7, a virtually empty toll road, skirted the top of Alicante, and then I popped out on a smaller road up to Aspe, just north of Elche itself, the star team of the evening.
Aspe looked a typical small Spanish town, that was only just resurfacing again after its siesta, as we arrived at about 7pm. For the size of the team (step five I believe, playing in a Valenciana regional league), their entrance was grand. Columned gateways, the first of which proudly displayed the name of the ground on letters raised in the air on stilts. You come in to the long side with a traditional Spanish blocky terrace, that served as an open seating area. On top of which were marquees for the press.
The mountainous skyline across the flat far side was magnificent, especially at sunset, where the jagged outline of the hills was line a charcoal sketch beneath a pastel orange.
Aside from the long terrace there were no other structures other than a few well placed full-grown trees, mainly behind the goal. The game went according to plan with higher division Elche looking the slightly classier and more likely to score. Elche took the lead before half time and then showed their superiority in the second half with another and a missed pen, and several more chances. Refreshments on offer were the usual beer or soft drinks. Why is a glass of beer so tempting in Spain (even the crap lager), when it isn’t at English football grounds?