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


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.

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