Recreativo’s Day of Destiny

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Almost 127 years of history. A Copa del Rey final appearance. Five seasons in the Primera Liga, including a famous 3-0 victory over galactico era Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Spain’s oldest professional football club have had quite a few ups and downs in their history. Now, on Sunday, Recreativo Huelva face a fixture which will have massive ramifications for their future.

As I said in my first proper post on this site back in March, the 2015/16 campaign has not been kind to El Decano. Relegated to Segunda B at the end of last season, ongoing financial problems, a goal record which for the most part resembles binary code, it has been a struggle on and off the pitch.

Things looked to have hit rock bottom in the middle of March when the club announced that the fixture against Granada’s B team could potentially be their last, with the club struggling to find the funds required to even finish the season. With ticket prices slashed to €1, the Estadio Nuevo Colombino was packed out and Recre even managed to get a win, one that was drenched in symbolism as the winning goal came in the 89th minute (1889, of course, being the year of the club’s foundation).

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As can often happen in times of great off-field turmoil, the resolve of the players was strengthened and there was a resurgence in form. Three consecutive wins, a little wobble of a draw and a defeat, but then a superb result away to then-league leaders Real Murcia. Alas just as safety looked to be within their grasp, another stumble. A scarcely credible defeat by Melilla, who executed the perfect smash and grab by scoring early on and letting Recre miss chance after chance, was followed last weekend by a draw at San Roque de Lepe. Recre led going into the final minutes, a result which would have secured la permanencia with a week to spare, but an 89th minute penalty meant it all comes down to Sunday.

Sunday 15th May. 6pm local time. Estadio Nuevo Colombino. Recreativo v Deportivo Linares. It all comes down to this. Linares are the team currently occupying 15th spot and facing the relegation play-off. So Recre’s fate is in their own hands. Win and they stay up. Draw and they stay up. Lose… it’s anxiously depending on other results to go in their favour.

Dropping into the Tercera would be a disaster for Recre in footballing terms, and with the clubs future still in the balance, could have far-reaching consequences.

The Tensest Day

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The game itself would turn out to be an utterly forgettable affair, but watching it was one of the most painful experiences of my football watching life. One goal could have changed everything, but no goals came despite a number of near-misses. Recre clung on for dear life and just about made it.

At the end, there was a huge outpouring of relief. Supporters flooded onto the pitch to embrace the players and celebrate the escape from the spectre of relegation.

The first battle had been won. The greater battle, over the ownership of the club and its financial situation was still to come…

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