The Spanish Tercera Division isn’t often in the public eye, but last summer one previously unheralded club made headlines all around the globe.
No sooner than Mostoles Balompié had secured promotion in the summer, they did something extremely odd.
Owner Javier Poves announced that the club would be changing its name to Flat Earth FC.
As you do.
Poves made the proclamation at a Flat Earth conference in Barcelona during the summer, announcing that:
“This will also be the first football club associated with a cause and an idea, without having a specific location.
“Flat Earth FC is the first football club whose followers are united by the most important thing, which is an idea.”
Obviously not everyone was on board with this.
The co-owner of Mostoles Balompié, as well as the vast majority of the club’s members broke away to reform the club back in the lower reaches of the Madrid regional leagues. Maybe some day I’ll pay them a visit…
The Man Behind the Curtain
Flat Earth FC’s President is not your average football club owner. Mostly in the sense that the average football club owner doesn’t turn the club into a vehicle for a conspiracy theory but also in his background.
A former professional footballer himself, Poves played in the youth teams at Atlético Madrid and Rayo Vallecano before getting his big break by signing for Sporting Gijón in 2008.
He mostly played in the B team there and went on to make his La Liga debut at the end of the 2010/11 season. However, he already stood out as a somewhat unorthodox personality in the world of football. He asked for his wages not to be paid through bank transfer, he returned the club car that all Sporting players .were entitled to and then in August 2011, he announced his retirement declaring that ‘professional football is only about money and corruption. It is capitalism and capitalism is death’.
After spending some time travelling around the world Poves returned to Madrid and in 2016, he invested in Mostoles Balompié along with Dani Marquez, who had been in the Atlético youth teams with him. It was while helping guide them up through the Madrid regional leagues that Poves first started to think that the Earth was flat.
Through discussing theories online, he became convinced and became an enthusiastic ambassador for the theory, culminating in the decision to launch Flat Earth FC earlier this year. He has even offered to publicly debate the Spanish government’s science minister (a former astronaut) about it. The offer hasn’t been accepted.
(Credit for a lot of the background information goes to this Bleacher Report article by Richard Fitzpatrick)
During the game I attended, it was impossible to miss Poves. He sat on top of the clubhouse, kicking every ball, experiencing it as if he were still playing. He could well still be as he’s only 33 – an age when players in his old position, centre back, are still mostly in their prime.
Who supports Flat Earth? It’s a very good question.
Part of the initial launch was the idea that the club would not be limited by drawing support from one particular location, but could attract anyone who believed in the cause.
These people would form the supporters group Flat Hearts.
Aside from *ahem* borrowing the logo of Edinburgh’s finest (sorry Hibs fans) the group provide enthusiastic vocal backing for the team, singing from an interesting song sheet of classic football chants, adapted to spread the word of Flat Earth theory.
Of course Flat Earth FC have an unusual mascot. In this case, it’s a guy in a tight-fitting silver astronaut costume called Don Pedri.
He mostly does keepy-ups and other freestyle football skills on the pitch before games and at half time.
He’s no Super Pepino or Barry the Chicken though.
The ground where Flat Earth currently play their games isn’t actually their own, but is in fact the home of CD Lucero-Linces who play a little further down the football pyramid in Madrid.
As lower league grounds in the city go, it’s fairly typical, small club house with a hole in the wall bar, uncovered terracing in one side and alas, five-a-side markings on both halves of the artificial pitch, which can make it a little bit hard to watch the match on occasions.
The view from the terraced area is unfortunately limited by a net, obviously aimed at protecting spectators from stray balls, but if you don’t mind taking the risk, head down to one of the corners where you get a clear, unrestricted view. It’s nice to watch a match from pitchside occasionally, it reminds me of smaller grounds back home.
If you are planning on going to visit, I’d strongly recommend taking an umbrella. There is no cover anywhere and I imagine it would be very unpleasant to be standing there on a wet day without something to shelter you,
The ground itself is a short walk from Lucero Metro station on Line 6. The quickest way from the city centre is probably to head for Principe Pio (connected to Opera, near Sol and the Palacio Real by its own special metro line) and travel the rest of the way from there.
Ticket prices for games there are €10, which does seem to be the standard price for Tercera in Madrid, though of course, some teams actually allow free entrance.
For a newly promoted side, Flat Earth are doing reasonably well in a tough Madrid Tercera Division.
That said, on the day I visited they were well beaten by struggling CD San Fernando. Too often their tactics depended on getting the ball forward quickly for their really tall centre forward to win in the air and the visitors dealt with this extremely effectively and hit Flat Earth on the break, going two goals ahead early on before soaking up pressure and killing the game with a third right at the end.
It also must be mentioned that Flat Earth were unique in another fashion – being the first club in one of Spain’s major leagues to employ a female head coach.
Laura Del Rio scored 40 goals in 39 appearances for the Spanish national team and played for a number of clubs in Spain, England, Germany and the USA during an extremely successful playing career. Unfortunately her time in charge was cut short at the beginning of November with the club announcing that Javier de Lucas, who had led Mostoles Balompié to promotion, would be taking over with Del Rio moving to oversee the preparations for the launch of the Flat Earth women’s team next season.
What Happened Next?
When the Covid-19 pandemic brought Flat Earth’s debut season to an early end they were sitting tenth in the 20 team Tercera group 7 – respectable enough for a newly promoted team, but nothing earth-shattering.
Throughout Spain’s national lockdown last spring and into the summer, the club’s Twitter account, perhaps unsurprisingly, promoted a lot of pandemic-sceptic views, rather than anything updating followers on the footballing side of the club – other than finally launching a B team and and esports section. When football eventually resumed in the autumn, they also relocated, leaving Castroserna behind to play at the Escuela de Fútbol in Carabanchel, where they would play behind closed doors.
This proved to only be a temporary relocation as by the start of 2021, they had moved again, this time to the redeveloped Estadio Asociación de los Vecinos de Orcasitas.
But the biggest change at the start of the new year was in the ownership of the club. Poves, who had used the club Twitter account to announce he was quitting in December, before recanting a couple of days later, eventually did sell the club, with the buyers being a consortium with connections to Mexico. The new president, Juan Pablo Reyes, is only 23, making him by some distance the youngest club president in Spanish football.
The club’s location in Madrid and the fact it was a relatively uncomplicated purchase, attracted the new owners, who immediately announced big plans to invest in order to push the team into contention for promotion to the new fourth tier, the Segunda RFEF.
Alas this didn’t work out. After missing out on qualification for the promotion group by five points, they still had a second chance of making the play-offs by finishing in the top two of their second phase group. But draws against Trival Valderas and Carabanchel and a 3-0 defeat by Parla meant that even this back door was closed to them.
At the start of May 2021, I made it down to Orcasitas to see what had become of the club since the takeover. There were no laminated Flat Earth memes greeting you as you walked in the gate, no supporters band (indeed the vast majority of people present were either supporting visitors Parla, or just waiting for their own game to start once this one had finished) and most disappointing of all, no astronaut juggling the ball for our entertainment before kick off. The only things telling you this was a Flat Earth game were the tickets and the shirts on the pitch.
Indeed this may have been one of the last games the club ever played under its current identity as when interviewed by Radio Marca after the takeover, Reyes indicated that he wanted the club to focus on its identity as part of Madrid instead.
“We want the name change to focus on the word ‘Madrid'” he said.
“We don’t want to continue with the line that the Earth is flat, or anything like that.
“In June we want to release our new ideas for the name.”
Flat Earth FC will just become another name in the history books. And only time will tell if they can achieve long-term success and stability under their new identity, whatever it may be.