El Derbi Histórico

On the weekend that the Superclásico came to town, I went to a very different derby, one with its own unique place in Spanish football history.

The only show in town on the first weekend of December (Photo CD Leganés)

Leganés v Getafe is a rivalry that most people will have only become aware of recently, but it is one which goes right back to the early days of league football in Spain. Real Madrid and Atlético may have faced off in two Champions League Finals but can they boast that their rivalry has been played out at every level of football in Spain? Well, as Madrid are one of three clubs to have never been relegated from the top flight, that would be a bit difficult.

Yet even though the stakes are not the biggest prizes in Spanish and European football, this rivalry is no less fierce than that of the capital’s two biggest clubs.

As the promotion for the match declared – Maxima Rivalidad – Maximo Respeto. With the match taking place on a Friday evening which happened to be one of my days off work, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see it first hand.

A Very Local Rivalry

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Leganés and Getafe: Close rivals in more ways than one. (Photo from Groundhopper app)

Leganés and Getafe’s stadiums are separated by just three miles on the map, although of course to travel between them is much further. Despite being two separate cities in the south of Madrid, there are few other rivalries quite so close in Spanish football.

And in a part of the world where it’s all to easy to choose Real Madrid or Atlético, it adds a bit more of an edge to these rivalries. Giving one of the big boys the occasional bloody nose is all well and good, but they’re never going to look on Lega or Geta as their equals. Having a rival you can look in the eye matters and Leganés and Getafe go way back…

History

Professional football in Leganés and Getafe goes back to the 1920’s with both cities getting their professional teams during that decade. CD Leganés were founded in 1928 (making this their 90th Anniversary season) while Getafe were originally founded in 1923, but were re-founded twice, first as Getafe Deportivo in 1946 and again in 1983 under their current name of Getafe CF.

This is a rivalry forged in the lower reaches of Spanish football. The first recorded meeting came on Sunday 25th April 1948. Getafe Deportivo defeated Leganés 4-1 in the Segunda Regional Ordinaria, although it is said that there were numerous clashes in the years between Lega’s foundation in 1928 and the folding of the original Getafe FC in 1933.

The two sides met regularly in the Regional Leagues throughout the rest of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Getafe initially forged ahead, reaching the Segunda Division in the late80’s, remaining there for several seasons until liquidation in 1983 saw them re-founded again and left them having to start from the bottom again.

The two clubs met again in 1986/87 on their way to promotion from the Tercera Division and enjoyed a strong rivalry in Segunda B during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Leganés reached the Segunda for the first time in 1993/94, and a year later Getafe followed them, although they would spend several years yo-yoing between there and Segunda B.

2003/04 was the season where the clubs’ fortunes sharply diverged. Getafe achieved a remarkable promotion to La Liga while Leganés, after 11 seasons in Segunda, dropped back into Segunda B. Over the years that followed, Getafe enjoyed the greatest period of their history, competing in La Liga for 12 consecutive seasons, reaching two Copa del Rey Finals and a UEFA Cup quarter Final where they only lost to the mighty Bayern Munich on away goals after a 3-3 draw at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez. Meanwhile Leganés suffered the indignity of their local derby in Segunda B being against Getafe’s B team.

However, in 2016 the tables turned. Getafe, after a number of years of struggle, finally succumbed to relegation, but Leganés won the Segunda Division to reach La Liga for the first time in their history.

The following season saw Getafe bounce back up at the first attempt, meaning that this remarkable derby would finally be played out in the top flight. Getafe won the first ever La Liga derby 2-1 and the second ended 0-0 as both sides did enough over the season to ensure there would be another two instalments this season.

So this is where I come in…

Derby Day at Butarque

1) The build-up

Within minutes of arriving at Zarzaquemada Cercanias station, I was left in no doubt about how much this match meant to the fans of the clubs involved. Beginning the journey to the ground, I came across a group of Leganés Ultras singing, who were soon joined by another group who came bearing flares.

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Leganés Ultras arriving at Zarzaquemada

And then as I got closer to the ground, I came across the Getafe fans being escorted into the ground by the police. Plenty of singing about their rivals, shouting at the fans making their way into the ground and as it’s December, blue Santa hats.

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After having heard reports that the famous sandwiches had sold out by half time at the previous home game I was taking no chances and got one early. No queue or long wait for the sandwich to be prepared is definitely a bonus but I must admit I did miss the traditional bocata se come en el descanso later in the evening.

It would be remiss not to give an update on Super Pepino, who I spotted roaming around the ground with a companion, another mascot wearing a blue tracksuit top, who I simply assumed was something to do with Getafe. Nope, it was an Indonesian comic book character who ‘visited’ a number of La Liga grounds that weekend as part of La Liga’s global expansion strategy. Better that than playing games in the USA I suppose.

As kick off approached, the fans behind the goal prepared a rather impressive blue and white striped tifo to welcome the sides onto the pitch. And with that, it was time for the third ever South Madrid derby in the Primera Division to begin!

Constructing the Leganés fans’ tifo display before kick off

2) It’s all kicking off

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Safe to say that this fan disagreed with the referee’s decision

Once the game got underway, the fans in attendance were treated to the kind of opening you would expect from a local derby. Fast paced, players not holding back in challenges and it was loud. Very loud.

Every visiting player’s touch was jeered and whistled loudly. The grada started the chants and urged todo el Estadio to join in.

But it was the visitors who were singing loudest by the end of the first half. A clumsy challenge put near the touchline gave Getafe a free kick in a good attacking position. Damian Suarez swung it into the box and Leandro Cabrera got his head on the end of it. It was straight at Leganés goalkeeper Pichu Cuellar but his reaction was too slow and it somehow crept through his legs and into the net.

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Getafe players celebrate their opener in front of the rather unenthused home fans

A disaster for Leganés after they had had the better of the opening half but joy for the Getafe fans domiciled at the far end of the stadium. “¡Leganés és cuatro gatos!” they chanted – the Spanish version of saying “one man and his dog” – presumably in reference to Leganés fans derogatory remarks about their small support in the past.

There was a small incident in the home end where a couple of supporters were ejected from the stand behind the goal after Getafe scored. I wasn’t able to find out what had happened, my assumption was that a couple of Getafe fans had been unable to secure away end tickets so went undercover behind enemy lines but had been unable to contain their joy after the goal.

3) At half time in Leganés, someone’s dream came true

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So half time arrived with the visitors still in front and the home fans were undoubtedly nervous considering they had this far failed to convert their clear superiority into obvious chances and had been hit by a sucker punch from a set piece. However, one of them was probably more nervous than everyone else as he took to the pitch at half time for what I initially thought was some kind of crossbar challenge-style entertainment. But by the time I saw the man get down on one knee, I realised that he was in fact proposing.

Thankfully she said ‘‘ or the giant smile on Super Pepino’s face would have seemed horribly out of place.

Also, I’m not really sure why they chose to do it down at the end of the ground where the Getafe fans were. There were no untoward incidents thankfully, I just thought it was slightly odd that they did it there instead of an area with more Leganés fans.

4) Fine Margins

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Leganés go close to scoring.

The second half began with Leganés in the ascendancy and pushing even harder for an equaliser.

After piling on more and more pressure, they got the goal on 64 minutes, Allan Nyom firing home after Getafe had been unable to clear a deep corner. The noise level inside Butarque increased tenfold as the home fans were lifted by the goal and sought to use that momentum to cheer them on to a winner.

But Getafe are a tough nut to crack. They may not score many but they certainly don’t concede many either (at time of writing they have the second best defence in La Liga – only Atlético have conceded fewer) and they made it hard for Leganés to fashion good chances. David Soría did make one outstanding save to deny El Zhar but Leganés were beginning to show signs of frustration and this boiled over in injury time when Rubén Perez was sent off for a late and high challenge.

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So the game ended 1-1, a result which probably pleased Getafe and their fans more than Leganés, who were obviously hoping to record their first win over Getafe in the top flight. Indeed, their win over Rayo Vallecano the last time I visited Butarque is their only top flight victory over another Madrid side so far.

Closing Thoughts

It’s fantastic to see these two clubs and their small but passionate supports bring this historic rivalry to the top flight of Spanish football.

While it’s not going to win any awards for aesthetically pleasing football, the atmosphere at Butarque definitely lived up to expectations. It’s definitely one of the best matchday experiences I’ve had in La Liga – affordable tickets, close to the action, great sandwiches! – it’s definitely somewhere I want to go to more often in the second half of the season.

Likewise, although I’ve not written up my experience there yet, (it’s on the to-do list for 2019) there’s more to Getafe than meets to the eye. Traditionally mocked for their small fanbase and their rough and ready style of play, they’ve shown that their fans may be few in number, but they more than make up for it in passion and although they don’t put together 40-pass moves before scoring, they are an extremely effective side.

I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the fixtures for the weekend of 30/31 March in the hope of going to the return game at the Coliseum – so all being well there’ll be a sequel coming in 2019.

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