Back when we still had football, back when we were still allowed to leave our homes, I took a trip to the picturesque Communidad de Madrid town of Navalcarnero for what would prove to be my last football match for the foreseeable future.
COVID-19 was yet to cast its considerable shadow over our lives and as I walked around Navalcarnero on that Sunday afternoon everything seemed normal. Oh what a difference a few days would make…
I’m glad I was able to fit in this one last game for the season – perhaps when life and football return to normal, whenever that may be, you might consider taking a trip here too!
I dare say that most people wouldn’t have a clue where Navalcarnero is and in all honesty, until I moved to Madrid and became more immersed in the world of the local lower leagues, I had never really heard of it either.
Historically the town was part of the territory of the city of Segovia, hence the main square being the Plaza de Segovia rather than the Plaza Mayor that you find in many other smaller Spanish cities and towns.
Arguably the most significant event in the city’s history was the royal wedding it hosted in 1649 between Spanish king Felipe IV and Mariana of Austria.
Mariana had originally been engaged to Felipe’s son, but his early death left both her without a fiancé and Felipe without an heir. By modern standards, the marriage would never have happened since Mariana was actually Felipe’s niece – but the Hapsburg family were pretty ambivalent to the effects of this kind of thing, seeing the benefits of keeping their lands and titles in the family as outweighing the disadvantages.
The fact the Spanish Habsburgs effectively died out after their sole surviving son Carlos II, a man known as el hechizado (the bewitched or cursed) because of his numerous physical and mental defects, would suggest they were not.
Anyway, that’s probably enough history for now… Onto the real reason I visited, football!
In a world of Reals, Atléticos and Club Deportivos, it’s hard not to love the fact that the local team bears the wonderful moniker of Artístico – surely the only one in world football?
Founded in 1961, they gradually worked their way up through the lower leagues to debut in the Tercera in 1987. They played in Segunda B for a couple of one-season spells in 2004/05 and 2008/09, before a three season run between 2016 and 2019 – ending with their relegation at the end of last season.
This year they had been looking good for an immediate return, leading the way in the league since early on, but 2020 has not been kind to them so far.
Don’t be fooled by the map below, it might look far from Madrid, but the journey to Navalcarnero isn’t as much of an ordeal as it might initially seem.
There are a number of buses which depart from Madrid’s Principe Pio station for the town, a journey which takes between half an hour and 40 minutes depending on which stop you get off at.
I took the 528, which helpfully enough departs on the hour, every hour at weekends, making it easy to remember.
If you are just going for the game, it’s best to go to the stop closest to the stadium – Avenida Doña Mariana de Austria – which is about five minutes walk away (and is only served by the 528) but if you do fancy making a day of it and seeing the town – get off earlier.
Exploring the Town
Navalcarnero is quite a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. While not exactly a tourist hotspot like other places a short journey from Madrid, like Alcalá de Henares or Aranjuez, there’s definitely a certain charm to exploring it.
Plaza de Segovia is your best bet if you’re looking for something to eat and drink. There are plenty of bars there which will offer the usual mix of tapas and raciones as well as the legendary Spanish menu del día, a three course meal and a drink for somewhere between €10 and €15.
One interesting thing – a lot of the streets in the vicinity of the stadium are named after places in Asturias. There’s a Calle Oviedo and a Calle Gijon and perhaps most notably a church dedicated to the Virgin of Covadonga, scene of the battle in c. 720 AD where the Muslim advance through Spain was halted and is considered by many to be the start of the reconquista.
The match I saw wasn’t a great one for the hosts, who saw their poor form in 2020 continue.
It contained no fewer than 11 yellow cards, two of which were shown to Pozuelo skipper Jorge González before half time.
Naval dominated the rest of the match, but without ever actually putting the Pozuelo goal under any serious threat. In contrast it was the visitors who looked more likely to score with one of their frequent counter-attacks, hitting the bar with one and then, aided by a catastrophic lapse in concentration from the Navalcarnero goalkeeper, scoring the only goal of the game.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that this has jumped right to near the top of my list of favourite grounds in the Madrid Tercera.
There’s just something unique about the stadium with its red brick exterior and the two towers rising out of the stand.
Unlike a lot of Tercera grounds with artificial pitches, it is not spoiled by the half-pitch markings with small-sides game goals partially blocking the view from the sidelines. It’s a pure football ground and one which I imagine would be very noisy when full.
There wasn’t much of an atmosphere there when I visited, though a small group of fans with a drum in the far end of the stand did their best to get some singing going.
And the chorizo bocata I had at half time was more Champions League than Tercera Division!
In truth, I’d love to be able to visit the town for a Saturday game, so as to experience a bit more of the local character – Sunday afternoons are generally not the best time to visit small Spanish town as the vast majority of places will be closed. Aside from the bars in Plaza de Segovia, the rest of the town was pretty much deserted, especially the area around the ground.
Whenever Spanish football returns, I’ll be looking forward to visiting again.