MALAGA FOOTBALL CLUB…by bike!

What’s a girl from Widnes doing writing about the Malaga Football Club?  Well, coming from a town between Liverpool and Manchester, one would think that I would be into football. However, it has only been since living in Spain that I really got into it.  From 2005-2007, I lived in Barcelona. During those two years, Barça won just about everything there was to win. Naturally, I got swept along with all the excitement and victory parades and parties. I was hooked!  

On moving back to Malaga, I went to a couple of Malaga FC matches. Then I started to learn all about the local club. By no means a football expert, I hope you will enjoy these stories and anecdotes I’m sharing with you. As well as my suggestions on how to visit some Malaga Football Club landmarks- by bike, of course!

Malaga Football Club- a short history

Malaga Football Club’s origins

Málaga Football Club was founded in 1904. Despite its long history, many other Spanish clubs precede it. Modern football was introduced to Spain by British migrant workers in the mines of RioTinto in Huelva in the 19th Century.  The first Malaga Football Club team used to play against foreign sailors that docked in the port of Malaga.

Malaga FC today

Currently, Malaga Football Club plays in the second division of the Spanish Football League: ‘La Liga’. Malaga F.C. is the one football club in ALL of Spanish football history that has gone down to the second and third divisions and back up to the first division the most times- approximately TWENTY times! In fact, its nickname is  ‘el equípo ascensor’- the elevator team. So, as you can imagine, every time they have gone up to the first division, the celebrations are almost bigger than when Spain won the world cup.

Over the years, Malaga Football Club has had various names:

Malaga FC (1904), Malaga CF (1907), Malagueno FC (1912), Malaga FC (1915), FC Malagueno (1920), Malaga FC (1921), Real Malaga FC (1927), Malaga Sport Club (1930) and CD Malacitano (1933-1983).CD Malaga (1941) …to name a few!

Malaga FC’s first football ground

Interestingly, the first “official football ground” of Malaga Football Club was at Baños del Carmen. It was opened in 1918. Apparently, back in the day, the club only had one football when they played at Baños del Carmen. Therefore, every time the ball got kicked into the sea, they had to stop play. Patiently, the crowd and teams waited while the ball boy rowed out to sea to rescue the ball.

Old photo Malaga football club
Football match at Baños del Carmen in the early 20th century

Baños del Carmen

Baños del Carmen is an old ‘balneario’ (bathing station) that was, and still is, one of the most popular social gathering places in the city. It is a charming old building next to the sea at the end of the promenade in Malaga. It is just 4 kms from the MALAGA BIKE shop. Enjoy a nice cycle along the seafront to Malaga Football club’s first football ground following our east coast bike route.

Banos del Carmen
Banos del Carmen

MALAGA FOOTBALL CLUB’S STADIUM

Since 1941, La Rosaleda- which literally means Rose Garden- has been the home of Malaga F.C. With a capacity of just over 30,000, it is the 18th largest stadium in Spain and the 4th largest in Andalusia. Easy to get to by bike, you can cycle there and take the Malaga FC stadium and museum tour.

Football stadium with logo Malaga FC
Inside LA ROSALEDA- the Malaga Football Club stadium

The stadium staff are very bike-friendly. They will let you park the bikes inside the stadium while you take the tour. (Don’t try that at Old Trafford!) Then after your visit to the stadium, why not continue a couple of more kilometres and visit the Botanical Gardens and the Limonero dam?  Of course, you will be rewarded with amazing views over the city and the mountains.

LA ROSALEDA HOSTS THE WORLD CUP

Back in 1982, Spain played host to the World Cup. Malaga F.C. was overjoyed when their stadium was chosen to host some of the matches. Mainly, this was because they knew that they would make improvements to the stadium. Also local businesses were rubbing their hands together anticipating great financial benefits.

However, once the draw was made their joy became somewhat deflated. They had been hoping for Kuwait so that the rich Arabs would come and spend all their Kuwaiti Dinars. They didn’t get Kuwait- they got New Zealand, Russia and Scotland. Now, remember we are talking 1982 and soccer hooliganism was rife in Britain.

Naturally, the locals were very apprehensive about these Scots coming and destroying their city. Anyhow, the final of the round ended up with Russia vs. Scotland, which the Spanish press dubbed as Vodka vs. Whiskey. Scotland beat Russia and to the great surprise of the locals it was reported in the press the next day that: the Scots just got drunk, sang songs and jumped in fountains.

MALAGA FOOTBALL CLUB recent history

In 2010, Qatar sheik Al Thani bought the club. That year, the most season tickets in ALL of Malaga Football Club’s history were sold. Even the mayor bought one!

The sheik contracted Manuel Pellegrini as coach. (Pellegrini had been given the boot from Real Madrid before coming to Malaga. Mourinho replaced him as coach in Madrid). The sheik, (or ‘el jeque’ in Spanish,) signed some big name players for the 2010-11 season. For example: Martín Demichelis, Julio Baptista, Salomón Rondón and Eliseu.   That season Malaga Football Club finished 11th in the Spanish League.

Al Thani continued to sign more big names for the 2011-12 season. Nacho Monreal, Jeremy Toulalan, Joaquín, Santi Cazorla and the Dutch ex-Madrid and Manchester United player Ruud Van Nistelrooy.  (As a matter of fact, years later,  we at MALAGA BIKE had the pleasure of having Van Nistelrooy on our City Bike Tour!)

Ruud van Nistelrooy with the MALAGA BIKE team in front of the MALAGA BIKE shop
Ruud van Nistelrooy with the MALAGA BIKE team in front of the MALAGA BIKE shop

Malaga Football Club finished in 4th place in La Liga that season. Therefore, for the first time in the club’s history, they qualified to play in the Champion’s League.

During that season, Real Madrid was due to come to play against Malaga at the Rosaleda.  At a press conference the day before the match, their infamous coach, Mourinho, set about undermining Pellegrini- probably wanting to unnerve him before the match.  He told reporters that if Real Madrid kicked him out he would NEVER go to Malaga, he would go to some great club in either England or Italy, but Malaga? NEVER!

Well, the Malagueños went crazy. The press were out on the street asking everyone what they thought of Maurinho’s comments. Hilariously, the president of the Tourist Board of the Costa del Sol was quoted as saying: We don’t WANT Maurinho in Malaga- not even as a TOURIST!

MALAGA FOOTBALL CLUB in the CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

I myself lived the experience of that ”Champions” year in Malaga. I can honestly say that it was one of THE most exciting years of my life in Malaga. Everyone became a fan of Malaga Football Club! The excitement was palpable.

Incredibly, the club made it to the quarter-finals. They were winning 2-1 against Dortmund and at the last minute, due to some suspect referee decisions, Dortmund scored two goals and that was the end of Malaga in the Champions League.

However, the homecoming was one massive street party and the welcome the team received was worthy of Champion League winners.

Bus surrounded by fans Rosaleda
Elated fans welcome back Malaga FC after their Champions League defeat against Dortmund

Over the next few years, the club had many financial problems. Al Thani didn’t pay the players and UEFA banned the club from playing in the 2013-14 European cup.

The club has remained in the second division since then.  Even though EL JEQUE the sheik Al Thani was responsible for the accumulated debts and the banning of the team in European competitions, it is hard to find voices of dissent towards him in Malaga. Why? Because he gave us the most exciting year of football EVER when Malaga was in the Champions League. It will be remembered with pride and emotion forever.  

Some grafitti near the Malaga Football stadium showing support for EL JEQUE- the owner of the club
Some grafitti near the Malaga Football stadium showing support for EL JEQUE- the owner of the club

MALAGA FOOTBALL CLUB- THE KIT

In the rest of Spain, the Malaga Football team is known as ‘los Blanciazules’- the white and blues.  So, yes- you have guessed it- their official first kit is blue and white stripes. Supposedly the blue is for our almost constantly blue sky and the white for the foam of the sea. You can buy Malaga FC paraphernalia at various offical Malaga FC shops located around the city, and, of course, at the stadium.

MALAGA FOOTBALL CLUB- the fans

Before we talk about the fans, we have to talk about food. Well, I should say fish. And one fish in particular.  One of the most typical dishes you can try in Malaga is ‘boquerones’- fresh fried anchovies or anchovies marinated in vinegar. In fact, the nickname of Malagueños outside of Malaga is BOQUERONES. I used to think it was because they ate a lot of boquerones here but it is actually because the waters around here are full of …yes!…boquerones.

Anyhow, let’s get back to the topic at hand- the fans.  One of the biggest Malaga F.C. supporter clubs is called “Frente Boqueron” which means the Anchovy Front! Unfortunately, such a non-threatening name does not do justice to the ’ideals’ of the group.

Very right wing,  it is famous- or infamous- for making Hitler salutes at matches, destroying stadium seats and basically being aggressive and violent. Not the kind of behaviour a fresh anchovy conjures up!

The Frente Boqueron is a ‘peña`. Peña means rock but it can also mean a social club with a particular common interest. The idea being that the group is so united it is as solid as a rock.

Malaga F.C. has approximately 38 peñas. The extreme opposite to the Frente Boqueron is the Malaga Hinchas. Hincha basically means football fan and this group is the biggest of all the peñas. It is famous for never stopping cheering on their team- no matter how badly they are playing. It is great fun to be in their midst as it seems that half the time what is going on in the crowd has nothing to do with what is going on on the pitch.  

The Guiri Army

One very unique peña is the GUIRI ARMY. Guiri is the name that the Spanish give to us foreigners. The Guiri Army is a bunch of ex-pats from England- living along the coast who come in coach loads from Benalmadena to cheer on their team. They roll out an enormous English flag during every match.

The Guiri Army- a Malaga Football Club supporters club- made up of mainly English ex-pats.
The Guiri Army- a Malaga Football Club supporters club- made up of mainly English ex-pats.

One day, at a match when Malaga was losing badly and the fans were in despair, one of the Guiri Army ripped off his top, grabbed a nearby flag and ran the whole length of the stadium. He stopped at the other end and waved the flag for a few minutes and then ran back the full length of the stadium.

From there on in it became a tradition at every match with all of the Spanish Hinchas chanting the theme-tune of Rocky and then shouting: Esa guiri esa guiri hey!hey!hey!

When Malaga was in the Champions League, the flag-waving guiri tradition was stopped. In spite of that, the Malaga FC fans won the 12th man award for their support during away games in the Champions League.

There are approximately 3000 foreign Málaga F.C. fans at every home match.

Dutch Malaga Football Club fan at a match in the Rosaleda stadium
Dutch Malaga Football Club fan at a match in the Rosaleda stadium

If you plan to take in a match on your visit to Malaga and want to feel part of the crowd, why not learn the words to the anthem of Malaga Football club? Just listening to “Malaga- la Bombonera” will get you in the spirit, for sure!

ANTONIO BANDERAS & MALAGA F.C.

Did you know that Antonio Banderas, the world famous Hollywood actor, was born in Malaga? It’s not possible to talk about Malaga without mentioning his name, as he is the best ambassador for the city we could possibly ask for.  

What you probably didn’t know was that Antonio’s childhood dream was to become a professional footballer. However, at the age of 14, he broke his foot which brought that dream to an end. Apparently, he goes to any Malaga match that happens to be on when he is in town.

MALAGA FOOTBALL CLUB & RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS

Decades ago there were even more churches in Malaga than there are now. As well, there were many convents. One of the many football pitches over the years of Malaga FC  was in a street called ‘Christ of the Epidemic’ (Calle Cristo de la Epidemia).

It was situated next to one of the largest convents in the city. Whenever a shot missed the goal, the ball would land in the patio of the convent. As the players only had one ball, they would have to plead with the nuns for its return. However,  the nuns wouldn’t give the ball back until the players made a small donation to the convent. (Some players suspected the nuns of praying for them to miss the goal post).

Spanish Football Club Traditions

Spain being a Catholic country, it is a tradition that football clubs go and make a floral offering to their favourite virgin in thanks for any victory achieved. The Virgin of  Malaga F.C. is the Virgen de la Victoria, The virgin of the Victory- the patron saint of Malaga, housed in a church of the same name- la iglesia de la Victoria.

Unfortunately, Malaga FC has never had the occasion to ‘thank’ the virgin for a victory as they have never really won anything. However, they do go there at the start of the season in order to pray for a victory.  Then, just in case that isn’t enough, they go to another church to make an offering to the Divina Pastor, the Divine Shepherd, the patron saint of Sport.

Why not cycle to the Iglesia de la Victoria and visit its impressive crypt?

Skeletal decor at the Buena Vista Crypt, Malaga
Skeletal decor at the Buena Vista Crypt, Malaga

It’s one of our 5 unusual must-see Malaga things – by bike.

Hopefully, Malaga Football Club’s fortunes will change in the coming years. I would recommend any football fan to go along to one of the matches. It is highly entertaining- and almost always warm! You can buy tickets on-line, at the stadium or in one of the official Malaga FC shops.

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