Welcome to volume one of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume two of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard

London

September 2015

Sunday, February 11, 2018

CE Europa (Spain)

Club Esportiu Europa is a football club from the district of  Gràcia in the Spanish city of Barcelona that was formed on June 5th 1907 as Club Deportivo Europa following a merger between Madrid de Barcelona and Provençal.


Europa’s first proper ground was on Carrer de la Indústria; where the team played until 1909. For the following three years home games were played on fields in front of Sagrada Família before moving a few hundred metres south to a ground on Carrer de la Marina in 1912.

The first honours arrived at the club arrived in the 1918-19 season as Europa won the Division B title of Campionat de Catalunya, and then promotion following a play-off against Athletic Sabadell.


In 1920 Europa were on the move again; this time to a ground on the corner of Carrer de Sardenya and Carrer de la Indústria. The early part of the decade saw Europa become the second biggest club in Catalonia.

The club finished as Campionat de Catalunya runners-up in 1920-21 and 1921-22 before winning the title in 1922-23 under English coach Ralph Kirby after defeating FC Barcelona 1-0 in the play-off.


The club moved home ground once again following this success as Europa found themselves at a new venue on the corner of Carrer de Sardenya and Carrer de Taxdirt; a few hundred metres north.

Europa moved on to represent Catalonia in the Copa Del Rey the following season, where they beat Sevilla FC and Sporting Gijón on their way to the final; where they were defeated 1-0 by Athletic Club at Les Corts, before Kirby headed across the city to manage Barca.


Further second place finishes followed in the Campionat de Catalunya in 1923-24, 1926-27, 1927-28 and 1928-29. Europa’s impressive record saw them become founder members of the national Primera División, as La Liga was formerly known.

The 1930-31 season ended in relegation to Segunda División, at which time the club merged with Gràcia FC to become Catalunya FC. The merger was not a success, with the club failing to fulfill their fixtures and being relegated to the Tercera División.


1931 saw yet another change of home ground, moving to Paseo Mariscal Jofre and then another venue in Providència before the Spanish Civil War disrupted all football. A new ground; Sardenya on Carrer de les Camèlies was created.

The club reverted to being called CD Europa where they continued in the third tier, before dropping down to the Primera Catalana at the end of the 1940-41 season, before being relegated again twelve months later to the Segunda Catalana.


In 1942-43 ‘Escapulados’ progressed back to the Primera by way of a title win; where the team would remain until 1950-51 when they were crowned as Catalan champions and won promotion to the Tercera División.

Europa enjoyed several top five finishes before winning the Grupo VII title in 1961-62 before losing in the play-off to UP Langreo. The team retained their title the following season. This time they made no mistake by defeating Maó and then Caudal Deportivo to win promotion to Segunda División.


The Copa del Generalísimo; later the Copa Del Rey, of 1965-66 saw Europa defeat CD Badajoz before going out in the Round of 32. Wins against Club Ferrol and Real Zaragoza CD saw the team go a round further before bowing out to Córdoba CF.

Europa were relegated back to the Tercera in 1967-68; where they remained until the end of the 1973-74 season, as the club returned to the Catalan top flight Regional Preferente. A title win in 1976-77 saw a return to the Tercera División; which had now become the fourth tier of the national game.


In the summer of 1985 the club changed their title to Club Esportiu Europa. The team were relegated a year later, to the top level of regional football, after several lower third finishes. A place in the Tercera was regained with promotion in 1988-89.


Five seasons were spent at that level, before Europa were promoted via the play-offs in 1993-94 to Segunda División B. The club was relegated from Grupo III after just one season at the higher level. A new remodelled Nou Sardenya was opened in 1995.


Europa returned to the Tercera División, from where they lifted the Copa Catalunya in 1996-97 before retaining the trophy. Both victories came against FC Barcelona. On the first occasion their opponent’s side included Hristo Stoichkov and was coached by Bobby Robson.

In the 1997-98 final, Barca fielded Sergi, Iván de la Peña and Michael Reiziger in their side. The teams drew 1-1 at Mini Estadi before Europa won the penalty shoot out 4-3.


Europa qualified for the Tercera División play-offs in 1998-99 and 2000-01 without being promoted. The team was relegated to Primera Catalana in 2003-04 before returning to the fourth tier at the first time of asking.

The team continued competing in the Tercera, with goalkeeper Rafael Leva picking up the plaudits as the star custodian in Grupo V in the 2012-13 season as the team finished third before going out to Arandina CF in the play-offs.


2013-14 saw another third place finish before defeat in the play-offs to UD Socuéllamos, after a victory over UD Mutilvera; as Javi Sánchez banged in the goals. Europa completed their third Copa Catalunya triumph in 2014-15 as they defeated Girona FC 2-1 in the final.

In the league a third consecutive third place was achieved. On this occasion Europa would be defeated by Jerez CF in the play-offs. The team finished in the same position in 2015-16 before bowing out in the play-offs to San Fernando CD.


Joan Esteva’s side came up with a twelfth place finish in 2016-17, with the coach being replaced by Pedro Dólera for the 2017-18 campaign.


My visit


CE Europa 2 CF Gavà 2 (Sunday 21st January 2018) Tercera División Grupo V (att: 500)


When I booked my long weekend to Barcelona, I was really hoping for a Europa home game. I’d been close to Nou Sardenya several years earlier without realising, when visiting Parc Guell. It looked my type of small stadium, so I was delighted when my wishes were granted.


It was a lovely Sunday lunchtime when I alighted on the Metro at Alfons X. I’d already visited the ground of UA Horta and then the first fifty five minutes of the Segunda Catalana clash between CF Besos Baron de Viver and CD Masnou in Trinitat.


It took just a couple of minutes along the busy Ronda del Guinardó before I came to the ticket office outside the top corner of the ground. I paid €10 and wandered behind the stand; where I gained admission, walking through to the large aisle in the stand; picking up a free club newspaper as I went.

The teams came out as I headed to the bar and café, from where I purchased a bacon and cheese bocadillo and a beer. I decided to sit on the deep steps behind the goal as I enjoyed my feast to take in the superb venue, which was built in to the side of a hill.


The Main Stand was the stand out feature, with its raised covered deck. The rest of the ground had a few deep steps of open terrace; with seating down the far side. A wide path went round behind so you could perambulate while seeing the action on the artificial pitch. Each corner had a raised standing area. The stands were high above the surrounding streets.

Europa was quite evidently a proud historic club; being founder members of what has become La Liga. There was a decent mix of spectators, with an atmosphere being created behind the goal by vocal thirty somethings.


The visitors from up the coast were towards the wrong end of the fourth tier table for Catalan clubs, and lost two or three players during the winter break, before recruiting a couple from the youth system of UE Sant Andreu; while the hosts were pushing for a play off place.

Europa came close to opening the scoring in the first minute, when Gavà keeper Pol Busquets kept out a shot by David Jiménez, with Javi Navarro spurning the rebound. The visitors defended well and with a bit of luck, but also looked dangerous on the break.


They took the lead on twenty six minutes. Arnau saved a header from Sani, but Ao followed up to cross for Alk to volley home at the back post. The hosts fought straight back and came close to equalising, as Javi Navarro received a David Jiménez cross, but fired his effort against the body of Pol Busquets.


Five minutes before the break Alberto somehow managed to miss an easy chance, which had the Nou Sardenya regulars holding their heads in disbelief. At the interval I swapped ends with the other Europa fans.


The mood of the home fans darkened further just a couple of minutes after the restart as Ao slotted past Arnau, making the score 0-2. The Gavà players and bench celebrated wildly. Europa huffed and puffed, while Gavà made sure they consumed time in many inventive ways.

The home team was offered a lifeline with fourteen minutes remaining, when referee Juan Garcia pointed to the spot, having decided harshly in my opinion, that a Gavà defender handled the ball. Raillo saw his penalty easily saved; which can be seen here from my own video.


Europa carried on pouring forward and grabbed a goal on eighty three minutes, when substitute Prat set up Javi Navarro who fired the ball home via the crossbar. I decided to take an elevated view up in the stand for the final few minutes.

Prat was really making a difference. Just two minutes later he played a fine pass to skipper Cano, who fired into the corner, when my initial reaction was that Pol Busquets could have done a lot better. The pressure continued until full time but there was to be no further goals.


At the end I filed out before going across the road to the Sardenya – Camèlies bus stop on Carrer de Sardenya, to catch the first of two buses towards UE Sant Andreu to take a look at their fine stadium. I’d loved the Nou Sardenya experience. Europa would have a good chance of been my team if I lived in Barcelona.









CF Barceloneta (Spain)



Club de Futbol Barceloneta is a football club from the Barceloneta district of the Catalan city of Barcelona, who were formed in 1930. The club went into hibernation during the Spanish Civil War before it was reformed as Penya Barcelonista Barceloneta in 1947.


The club competed regularly against local rivals Sant Carlos and Atlàntic Marítim, before merging in 1972 to become Club de Futbol Barceloneta. This led to the team rising to the first regional league and then the Preferente as the Primera Catalana was called at the time.

The club played at several venues close to the sea, while their youth sides continued to develop. In 1979-80 the youth team progressed and picked up national honours, playing Real Zaragoza at Estadi Romadera.


Barceloneta benefited from the legacy of Barcelona’s staging of the 1992 Olympic Games as the local authorities built the new Parc de la Catalana; which was inaugurated on October 5th, 1994 by the Honorable Mayor of Barcelona, Mr. Pascual Maragall.


The opening of the new ground coincided with a fine spell on the pitch as the team continued playing in Primera Catalana; the highest level of regional football. The run came to an end with relegation at the conclusion of the 1998-99 campaign.

The club continued to compete in the higher reaches of Catalan regional football for the following decade or more, before records emerge of the club playing in Tercera Catalana Grupo 11 in the 2014-15 season.


Barceloneta finished in the relegation places in 2015-16 but were reprieved from demotion. However, the side went down to Quarta Catalana after ending second bottom of the table of Grupo 10 in 2016-17. Nino Jiménez Martín looked to plan a return as coach in the 2017-18 campaign.


CF Barceloneta will play in Quarta Catalana Frupo 16 in the 2017-18 season.


My visit

Monday 22nd January 2018

I’d enjoyed some fine sightseeing on the final full day of my long weekend in Barcelona, as well as taking football venues from opposite ends of the spectrum in the Camp Nou and UD Gramanet’s venue as tenants in Besòs.


Following a look at Sagrida Familia and the old bullring at Plaça de Braus de la Monumental, I took a bus down to the waterfront at Port Olímpic. A very pleasant walk on the Passeig Marítim promenade brought me to Parc de la Barceloneta.

The area had been beautifully landscaped where the old gasworks once stood, with Torre de les Aigües; a remnant of the old works in the background. A public path gave me an intial view inside the Club de Futbol La Catalana ground.


The main entrance on Passeig de Salvat Papasseit was open to allow me excellent photo opportunities of the ground dominated by a raised open spectator section on the far side. Both ends had a small area of open flat standing, with the road side out of bounds to fans.

Once complete I reflected on a job well done, and had a wander around the narrow street community, with occasional open squares before setting down in The Fastnet pub to enjoy a nice cold beer with a view of the yachts in OneOcean marina across the road.






Tuesday, February 6, 2018

AE Prat (Spain)


Associació Esportiva Prat is a semi-professional football club, formed on February 7th 1945, who are based in El Prat de Llobregat; which is located to the south of Barcelona in Spain and nearby to the airport.

Before the War, two local clubs; Club Deportiu Prat, formed in 1934 and CD Internacional, formed in 1935, merged in 1939 to produce Unió Deportiva Prat. The new club were crowned as Campeonato de Cataluña Amateur in its first year, before being disbanded.


Associació Esportiva Prat took over as the senior local club under President; Josep Aleu Torres. The team played in Segunda Regional football from their formation, until winning promotion to Primera Regional in 1950-51.

Relegation followed two years later, with the team regaining their Primera status for the 1956-57 season. However, the spell lasted just twelve months. Two further promotions and three relegations saw the team playing in Primera Regional for the 1964-65 campaign.


A change in the set up of Catalan regional football occurred at the end of the 1960’s; with the Regional Preferente becoming the top tier. Prat played at that level in 1969-70 before dropping back down to the Primera Regional after just one season.

Prat also enjoyed a further season; 1975-76, at the top regional level, before the club dropped even further down the pecking order to Segunda Regional after a disappointing 1978-79 campaign.


Successive promotions saw the club from Estadi Municipal Sagnier reach the fourth national Tercera División for the first time for 1984-85. Prat lasted three seasons before being relegated in 1986-87.

Prat remained at the top level of regional football until Primera Catalana was formed in 1991. The club stayed in Regional Preferente; which became the second tier until winning promotion in 1994-95.


Prat dropped down to Regional Preferente for the 1997-98 season before regaining their Primera Catalana place a year later. Prat progressed to the Tercera División for 2002-03, before suffering demotion after just one campaign.

The clubs Tercera División status was restored at the completion of the 2004-05. Two seasons later Prat were relegated, before returning to the fourth tier at the first attempt. In 2011-12, Prat finished as Grupo V champions.


In the play offs Atlético Sanluqueño were defeated to secure third tier football for the first time as AE Prat became members of Segunda División B; where they were placed in Grupo 3. The team also qualified for the Copa Del Rey for the first time.

A win at home to Gimnàstic, was followed up by victory on penalties at Estadio Carlos Tartiere over Real Oviedo. The run ended with a 3-2 home defeat to UE Llagostera. Prat were relegated back to the Tercera División in 2013-14.


Another Tercera divisional title arrived in 2015-16. Osasuna B were defeated 3-2 on aggregate as Prat returned to Segunda División B. Their spell lasted just one season, as the team was relegated.

AE Prat will play in Tercera División Grupo V in the 2017-18 season.


My visit

Tuesday 23rd January 2018

My long weekend in Barcelona was very close to completion. I'd left just one football club to visit on the way to the airport. I took the Metro from Liceu to Zona Universitària; from where I changed to the deep L9S to Parc Nou.


From there it was a ten minute walk past some social housing onto Av. Onze de Setembre, where I found Estadi Moisés Llopart. I got a glimpse through a gap on Carrer de Frederica Montseny of the ground.

Further investigation allowed further glimpses through more gaps on Carrer del Roure and Carrer del Pi, but that was as good as it was going to get. There was no way I was going to get inside for some proper photos.


What I could see was a couple of open seated stands down one side, hard standing behind the goals with a raised seated stand down the main side; which had a roof over the centre section. There was a training pitch at the north end.


It was a bit of a damp squib to finish my adventures, but I reflected on a fantastic few days as I took the Metro to the Airport ready for my flight back to Luton. I would just have to return in the future to see a bit more!









Santfeliuenc FC (Spain)


Santfeliuenc Futbol Club is a semi-professional football club that was formed on December 3rd 1905, who come from the town of Sant Feliu de Llobregat, located around ten miles south west of Barcelona.

The club popularly known as ‘Santfe’ came about after Josep Plana Deu was inspired by the development of football in Barcelona and decided to set up a local club. Land was rented by the Unión Coral for home matches to be played.


The 1920’s saw the club progress with Joan Rigol making his reputation as one of the clubs greatest ever players. In 1925 the new Campo de la Pineda was inaugurated with the team progressing to Segunda Regional football a decade later.

The Spanish Civil War between 1935 and 1939 hit the club hard. Santfe dropped down a few grades once football recommenced. In the 1950’s the club was placed in the top level of Catalan football.


In 1959-60 Santfeliuenc competed in the play-offs for a place in the Tercera División against Iberia, which was lost over three games. The club saw the defeat as an injustice, with fans been mobilised like never before.

The Catalan Football Federation implied that the club did not have adequate facilities to compete at what was then the third level of Spanish football had they progressed. A new ground was sought.


Campo de la Rambla was opened with a 1-0 win against Horta on April 19th 1964, with Chamorro scoring the goal. The majority of the following decade was spent in Segona Catalana with an occasional foray in the Primera Regional.

Following a reorganisation of Catalan football, the Primera became the second tier of regional football. In 1977-78 the team reached that stage and then consolidated before coming close to promotion to the Preferente Regional in 1981-82.


The team did go up in 1984-85 under coach Francesc Estrada after winning Grupo 3 A 2-0 win over Hospitalet Atlètic triggered off mass celebrations at Campo de la Rambla. Santfe lasted five seasons in the Preferente before the divisions became the second regional level in 1988-89.

Santfe remained in the sixth tier Preferente until they were demoted further to Primera Regional for the 1999-00 season. In 2001 the club became involved in the creation of the CFA Escuela de Fútbol Sant Feliu.


The club tried in vain to reclaim their top level regional status; the 2003-04 season ended in disappointment when the vital promotion game ended in a 2-1 defeat to Sant Cugat. Santfeliuenc would have to wait until 2005-06 for promotion to arrive.

Coach Vique led the side, who clinched their return to the Preferente with victory against El Catllar with the Santfe fans returning once again to back their local club. Santfeliuenc moved from the city centre to a new home; Parc Esportiu de Les Grases in January 2007.


New young coach, Andrés González led the club to promotion in 2008-09 to Primera Catalana; the top level of Catalan regional football and the fifth level in the Spanish pyramid. Further progress was made over the following three seasons before another promotion arrived in 2012-13.

Santfe reached the Tercera División after defeating CD Masnou 4-3 on aggregate. The club consolidated in their new surroundings and finishing in the bottom third; with the goals of David Toro being the highlight in the 2015-16 campaign.


Santfeliuenc FC will play in the Tercera División Grupo V in the 2017-18 season.


My visit

Santfeliuenc FC 2 UA Horta 0 (Saturday 20th January 2018) Tercera División Grupo V (att: 300)

My first full day of my Barcelona long weekend was going tremendously well; with visits to four excellent venues with junior football taking place, as well as the matches at Espanyol in La Liga and Unifacvacion Bellvitge in the top flight of junior football.


The match at the latter kicked off at 4pm, which meant I could only watch the first half before heading away to get to the evening game, which had a 6pm start. I took the Metro from Hospital de Bellvitge to Rambla Just Oliveras.

A short walk across the road led me to L'Hospitalet de Llobregat station with enough time to grab a bottle of water before the train arrived to take me the twelve minutes north east to St. Feliu de Llobregat; going past the training ground of FC Barcelona on the way.


There was a bit of drama before I even left the station, as 100 metres or so beyond the end of the platform was a level crossing. One lady crossed the track and jogged along the side of the track with her train heading towards her, and the driver hooting his horn.

After taking the more conventional route to cross the lines I walked uphill and then took a turning, going a bit of a long way around. The small town did seem to have quite a lot of small bars, but also a lot of housing and small towers of flats, so trade must have been there?


Eventually I arrived at the car park on Ctra. Sansón, weaving through the cars in search of an entrance to Camp de Futbol Municipal Les Grases. I eventually came to it by passing Pavelló Andrei Xepkin Sports Complex on Carrer Mataró.

After climbing some steps and going past the active indoor hall, I came to the pay desk, paying €10 to the young lady and entering an open area, with a couple of club huts across the way. One dispensed me a beer, as well as selling snacks.


A long slope took me to the back of the main spectator facilities; which consisted of a raised seated block, with a roof covering the far two thirds. There was room for standing at the rear and the whole area offered a good view from above the changing rooms.

A flight of stairs led down to a thin area open behind one goal; which was backed by a high boundary wall. The opposite end was enclosed by the sports complex and the raised open club area.


I was unsure whether spectators were welcome on the far side; which backed onto the road and had the subs benches either side of the half way line. Skatepark Sant Feliu De Llobregat over the road was in constant use by the local youths.

I’d taken a seat towards the town end, when just before kick off a pair of home fans plonked themselves down a few rows in front and across with a dreaded drum! The duo sang songs more or less alone, while one banged their instrument. I had a grudging respect for them.


The match was a bit of a local derby, so Horta had a decent following among the crowd; which seemed to attract a good cross section of the local community. Several elder gents smoked big cigars at the rear of the seats.

Horta began the game on the front foot, with Marc Rio having an opportunity to open the scoring after being set up by Gerard Nolla on nine minutes. They were left to rue the miss five minutes later when young forward Adri Recort fired Santfe ahead from outside the box after good work from Carlos Olmo.


The visitors went back on the offensive, but were thwarted by the home defence, before Santfe went forward once again, with Josele testing out Horta keeper Andrés. I declined the opportunity of a drink at the break, but I’d taken up a standing position as the temperatures dropped to around 8°.

The teams exchanged attacks at the start of the second period. Josele went close for Santfe, testing out Andrés once again. Visiting coach Raúl Matito; who formerly held the position at Santfe, rang the changes to look for an equaliser.


It would be Santfe who doubled their score, when a fine move saw Romo set up Nacho Ruiz. His effort was converted by Adri Recort to put Andres González's team in a position of comfort. I made my move a few minutes later, even though it was a decent enough game.


I had an opportunity to watch a junior game across Barcelona at CE Júpiter, which I didn’t want to waste. I walked back to the station along Carrer de la Constitució to catch a train to Catalunya, before a couple of Metro rides to Sant Martí for my final football of the day.