One of the nicest spots for watching football in the Spanish capital is actually its most historic. Long before the Bernabéu or the Calderón came into being, La Mina in the neighbourhood of Carabanchel was playing host to fútbol modesto!
If You Know Your History…
At first, the Spanish capital was relatively slow in embracing football. While Recreativo de Huelva, Spain’s first football club, was founded in 1889, it took until 1902 for the first club to be set up in Madrid. That was Madrid CF, who would eventually become Real Madrid. A year later, their great rivals Atlético were set up, initially as a branch of Athletic Club, by Basque students in the capital.
The capital city’s third oldest club is not a name you’ll be familiar with for they have never played in La Liga, or even in the Segunda. Instead, Real Club Deportivo Carabanchel are a true barrio club and have played out their existence in the lower levels of Spanish football.
Founded in 1916 as Club Deportivo Carabanchel, they have mostly featured in the Tercera Division (where they currently play – as of the end of the 2019/20 season, they sit 87th in the overall historic ranking of the Tercera nationwide) with a brief foray up into Segunda B between 1996 and 1998.
In 1997, the then-King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, in recognition of the club’s service to football in Madrid, awarded it the title ‘Real’ putting them among an elite group of clubs in the country who have been awarded royal patronage.
The 2000’s were a particularly difficult decade for the club, starting with relegation from the Tercera in 2000 and they spent most of the decade in the Preferente, two promotions saw them come straight back down again the following season, before in 2008 they slipped into the sixth tier, the Primera Aficionado, for the first time in their history.
There they languished for two seasons until an unlikely hero led them to promotion. That man was Germán ‘Mono’ Burgos, the famously intimidating Argentina goalkeeper these days most famous as Diego Simeone’s one-time right hand man. But before he joined up with El Cholo at Catania in 2011, he got his ‘big’ break in coaching by leading Carabanchel back into the Preferente before being sacked early on the following season. Despite his departure, they eventually went on to win promotion that season, staying in the Tercera again for three seasons before another relegation, but they returned in 2018 after winning their section of the Preferente.
The Oldest Ground in Madrid
La Mina was inaugurated in 1916, the same year that Carabanchel were founded meaning that it is the oldest ground still in use today in the city of Madrid – even though the modern day ground has undergone numerous renovations and improvements in the intervening years.
The most sweeping of those came in 2009/10 when the old dirt pitch made way for a brand new artificial grass one. The ground was officially inaugurated in January 2010 with a friendly between a Carabanchel Legends XI and a La Liga Legends XI, which included such luminaries as Alfonso Pérez, Kiko and Pedrag Mijatovic, all decked out in the red kit which Spain would go on to wear in their successful World Cup this summer.
There is only one stand, with enough seats for just over 700 spectators and the roof should ensure that you are protected from the worst that the Madrid weather can throw at you – unless you’re unlucky enough to be seated in one of the first two rows of course!
In more normal times, plenty of people would choose to watch from the side of the pitch – the available standing areas apparently raise the capacity to around 2,000, although it’ll probably be quite some time before that many people are allowed into La Mina again.
On the far side of the ground, the quaint old-school aesthetic is further enhanced by the row of houses which back onto the ground and have no doubt had their fare share of run-ins with stray balls down through the years.
The easiest way to get to La Mina from the city centre is Metro Line 5, which you can catch at either Callao or Ópera, both of which are a short walk away from Puerta del Sol. You’ll need to go as far as the station Eugenio de Montijo and from there it’s a short walk to the ground, firstly taking a right out of the station onto Calle de Nuestra Señora de la Luz, before another right onto the downhill Calle de Fernando Delgado. Once you reach the bottom, follow the road around to your left and you’ll be on Calle de Monseñor Oscar Romero and you will find the sports complex and stadium on the right hand side of the street.
Should you be coming from the Atocha area, then it might be faster for you to take Cercanias Line C5 (heading towards Móstoles-El Soto) from the train station as far as Aluche and then switch to the Metro to get to Eugenio de Montijo, which is just one stop away.
If buses are more your thing, then bus line 35 has a stop at the point Monseñor Oscar Delgado crosses Avenida de Nuestra Señora de Fatima. You can get on the bus at Plaza Mayor and it generally follows the same route as the Metro does, except overground and will take you through La Latina and the Madrid Rio area, past what used to be the Estadio Vicente Calderón, on your way to Carabanchel.
Matchday at La Mina
Due to the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, like every ground that has re-opened, La Mina is operating at a reduced capacity. In this case only 225 spectators are allowed.
This seems like a very small number, but you do have a good chance of being able to see the game. Carabanchel have put a system in place to manage crowds on matchday, but it will involve you getting there fairly early ahead of the usual 11:30am kick off!
Gates open for season ticket holders from 10:30 and then at 10:50, non-season ticket holders can put their names on a list for entrance. And then it’s just a matter of waiting for your name to be called. For me, that didn’t take too long – I’d estimate I was waiting for around 10-15 minutes before they started to call names – and even though I was halfway down the second page of the list, I was ushered through to the ticket office (located in what used to be the club shop) and through the de rigeur temperature checks and into the ground proper.
The bar at La Mina is separate from the stadium, meaning a lot of local people who aren’t going to the game will probably call-in beforehand for their morning coffee/almuerzo or be there afterwards for the traditionally long Spanish Sunday lunch.
There are also a number of bars on the opposite side of the street from the ground, some of which have walls adorned with lots of old photos from seasons gone by. In the past, there was a relatively relaxed policy about leaving the ground to visit one of the bars and coming back for the second half, but I’m not sure if this continues in the world of Covid-19 protocol.
There is also a club shop on site, where in 2019 I was able to add to my huge scarf collection.
They do have lots of other merchandise available, including replicas of both home and away shirts, copies of the club’s centenary book from 2016 and, because it’s almost obligatory in the world we now live in, club branded face masks.
Even without the option of standing, there aren’t many places that get you closer to the action than sitting in the stand at La Mina.
From a seat near the halfway line, you’ll have a pretty much perfect view of the entire pitch and both goals. Sure the far corners might be a stretch, but all the important stuff is clear to see.
That’s not to say it’s perfect, sitting in the lower rows of the stand at certain places presents the problem of the half-pitch nets which are a common feature of Tercera grounds which double as municipal sports facilities. These will definitely impede your view and if you’re stuck in one seat for the entire game, that can be very frustrating.
If you want the atmosphere, then head down to the far end of the stand where the more vocal supporters reside. The Carabanchel Ultras have a strong reputation of anti-racism and anti-fascism and for providing noise and colour (well, black and white at least) at away games all around the Communidad de Madrid.
I had a perfect view of an excellent game when I headed down to La Mina on the last Saturday before Christmas in 2020.
Carabanchel were hosting Alcorcón B in what was an important match for both sides in terms of the Tercera promotion places. With only three teams advancing to the promotion group in the second phase of the season, both teams were keen for a win, Alcorcón were looking to further cement their place in the top three, whereas the home side were looking to move closer to it.
The game started at a fast pace and with frequent chances at both ends, it was a surprise that the first goal didn’t arrive until the second half, Alcorcón beating the offside trap to open the scoring. Their lead didn’t last long though, José Luis Cortés applying the finishing touch to a great team move to equalise.
That visit definitely reminded me of what a great ground La Mina is and I’ll most likely be heading back more often in 2021. If you want to support one of Madrid’s most historic clubs, season tickets are available from as little as €20 for a simpatizante ticket, which entitles you to attend five games, with full memberships going from €25 for people aged 18-35 up to the full adult price of €60.