Favorite Soccer Club Story?

rguilmar

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Jul 16, 2005
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Watching the Atalanta-Napoli game today on demand, it got me thinking about how much I love the connection between soccer clubs and their fans. It's truly unique, and lots of times the passion of fans for their local club is strengthen because of adversity. Napoli had glory years for sure in the Maradona era. I think a lot of people forget that they went bankrupt back in 2004 and essentially had to be recreated. They played in Serie C, returning to Serie A only in 2007, eventually playing second fiddle for many seasons to the Juventus juggernaut. They're the only true soccer power in southern Italy and have a rabid fanbase. You can't go more than 5 yards in Naples without seeing the Azzurri of Napoli. It's basically a one club city, so the bond is strong. Atalanta have been a yo-yo club for years until 2016 when they brought in Gian Piero Gasperini as their manager. Since then, they have been one of the best run clubs in the world and played what can best be described as swashbuckling soccer (or is it "video game soccer", or maybe "recklessly adventurous"). In 2020, as their home city of Bergamo was ground zero for the early Covid outbreak in Europe, Atalanta went on a deep run in the UCL after being left for dead in the group stages, even pushing PSG to the brink. Bergamo also is a one club city, and the fanbase is known for their passion as well.

Those aren't the only two clubs with nice club stories. Part of me is drawn to the small cities with outsized clubs. Real Sociedad is from San Sebastian in the Basque region, a city basically the size of Worcester. They have won La Liga in the past and remain stubbornly relevant today. Villareal is even smaller, about the size of my hometown of Salem, yet they have reached the semifinals of the Champions League and just last year beat Manchester United in the Europa League final. Aside from maybe the Packers, we don't have these kinds of success stories here in the US. Then there are the teams with notoriously passionate fans, like Real Betis in Seville. Athletic Club in Bilbao have their Basque-only policy for players which creates it's own special bond with the entire region (and if you know any Basques, you know what that means).

I do feel like in the era of mega-clubs that the focus is on these massively wealthy teams at the expense of what made them special. Speaking as a Barcelona fan, there are some obvious ideals that connect the club to their fans, but these ideals get overlooked or lost when so much money is at play. I know most of the hard core fans identify with the club and it's Catalan-ness, but I imagine the bulk of the people who buy blaugrana jerseys don't know what Catalunya even is. Even though the 140,000 or so club members own the club, which is cool, it feels like these massive clubs lack the soul that makes soccer so special. In Spain and many other places, the club you support isn't just a team you root for. It can identify your politics, your feelings about the Franco, your side in the Spanish Civil War, how you feel about regional independence. Honestly, since the attempt at creating the Super League, my support for Barca has dwindled quite a bit and I actively root for the other clubs involved to lose every game. Seriously, f*ck them all.

But I don't want to dwell on that too much. I'd rather talk about my favorite heartwarming soccer club story- Real Oviedo. You all might know Oviedo as the town that Vicky and Christina went to after Barcelona in that Woody Allen flick. They have a soccer club too. In the early 2000s Real Oviedo were on the brink of financial collapse. They were once given a double relegation down to the fourth tier- one for earning it on the field and another for not paying their players. This was back in 2004 when Napoli were also in the third tier of Italian soccer. The city government at that point attempted to create a second team in Oviedo, leaving Real Oviedo for dead. In 2012, to save itself, the club decided to sell shares to the public. Initially it was intended for local supporters to buy the shares, but news of the efforts to save the club spread and a bunch of notable players including Santi Carzola and Juan Mata bought shares (both started their careers at Real Oviedo). Long story short, the club was saved and they began to climb the ranks of Spanish soccer. They haven't gotten back to La Liga yet, but are well entrenched in La Segunda. Importantly, they do get to face hated rivals Sporting Gijon twice a year.

Obviously I watch mostly La Liga and a little bit of Serie A, so my knowledge is limited, but I know there are other great club stories out there. Union Berlin? St. Pauli? Venezia? Leicester?

'Tis the season for a heartwarming story. What club stories do you love?
 

SoxFanInCali

has the rich, deep voice of a god
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Jun 3, 2005
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California. Duh.
Wimbledon fans losing their team in 2003 to Milton Keynes (a city that didn't even exist until the 1970's, I think), creating a new club, starting at the bottom of the pyramid, and playing their way up into League One, where they compete against...Milton Keynes. They recently began playing in a new stadium on Plough Lane, just down the street from the site of their old one (that the owners had sold to housing developers).
 

GreenMonster49

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Jul 18, 2005
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Right now, Derby County has all of 1 point in the English Championship division, 20 points from safety after 21 of 46 matches. But they would have 22 points (and be 6 points ahead of relegation) if not for the financial shenanigans of their soon-to-be-ex-owner. Somehow, without the ability to sign any players of real consequence, manager Wayne Rooney has the team believing that they just might stay out of League One.
 

steeplechase3k

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I'm a shareholder. I'll post story/thoughts later this week.
I have a few shares too.

As a long time Timbers supporter I also think it's interesting that the Timbers were owned by the Pacific Coast (baseball) League for about a year. How many teams were owned by a league of a different sport? The USL Timbers and AAA Beavers were jointly owned, as the ownership group was forced out by the City of Portland for not paying rent in the (publicly owned) stadium, the Pacific Coast League took over to own the teams. They sold to someone from southern California, who sold to our current owner, Merritt Paulson.
 

GreenMonster49

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Jul 18, 2005
496
Right now, Derby County has all of 1 point in the English Championship division, 20 points from safety after 21 of 46 matches. But they would have 22 points (and be 6 points ahead of relegation) if not for the financial shenanigans of their soon-to-be-ex-owner. Somehow, without the ability to sign any players of real consequence, manager Wayne Rooney has the team believing that they just might stay out of League One.
And they are now (after somehow beating West Brom today) only 14 points from safety. But now that the most public suitor for the team has walked away, looming are both the January transfer window and the January expiration of several player contracts.
 

rguilmar

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Jul 16, 2005
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And they are now (after somehow beating West Brom today) only 14 points from safety. But now that the most public suitor for the team has walked away, looming are both the January transfer window and the January expiration of several player contracts.
What’s worse- the fact that Derby County have been given a transfer ban or that it’s rumored Mike Ashley is hoping to swoop in and buy the club?
 

Warning Track Speed

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Jul 20, 2005
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astride the divide
A brief aside about Wimbledon-- They're one of the few clubs known of by my daughter, due to the host of a (non-soccer) podcast she likes being a fan. I looked into getting her some merch a couple years ago and as a result landed on the club's mailing list.

This offer showed up today. I'm not sure the marketing folks know how this works:

It’s a bargain three matches for the price of four offer, which entitles you to a ticket for the following home games: