Spanish football fan? Matthew Hirtes is Spain Buddy’s resident fútbol expert. His latest guide is all about Castilla-La Mancha’s Albacete Balompié.
Albacete Balompié….in 90 seconds
Spain doesn’t really do pubs. But its bars/cafes provide a similar function with a good deal of conversation dominated by the world’s most popular sport. And so just like Girona, Albacete Balompíe are a product of that environment with three football-crazy enthusiasts eager to restore the beautiful game to their hometown following the ravages of the Spanish Civil War, forming the club in the appropriately-named Calle Concepcíon’s Café Colón in 1940. Albacete initially used the Campo del Parque as their home ground before moving to the Estadio Municipal Carlos Belmonte in 1960.
The golden years of the club affectionately nicknamed the Clockwork Cheese were the early 1990s when the likes of Costa Rica international goalkeeper Luis Gabelo Conejo played for AB. The Lucky Rabbit had excelled for his country at the 1990 World Cup and had offers to play for bigger names in European football such as Espanyol and Torino. However, he ended up at Albacete as an agent told him they were in the Primera Liga rather than La Segunda.
A teammate of the Rabbit was El Oso. Bear’s real name is José Luis Zalazar Rodríguez. The Uruguyan international midfielder, a free-kick specialist, has made more appearances in the top flight than any other Albacete player and notched up 72 goals in 218 games during his first spell with the club and none in 12 during his slight return.
Others to wear the brilliant white of Albacete with distinction include Sebastián Denia Sebas. Sebas played for Balompie in the 1960s and would later return to manage them. Following his death in 2012, the club arranged a triangular tournament in his honour.
Albacete Balompié Form Guide
Albacete have won a total of 11 trophies in their time. Broken down, that’s one second-division title, two second-division B triumphs, and eight third-division top-place finishes. With Bear and Rabbit, they were promoted to the Primera Liga for the first time in their history before ending up in seventh place (still their highest-ever finish).
Club Shop Essential Purchase
Although the website seems to suggest otherwise, Albacete don’t have an online club shop. Their physical one is based at their Belmonte ground. Here you can pick up replica kits and training outfits.
Unique Coffee & Drink, a four-minute westerly walk from the stadium on Calle Imperial, is as much a place to go for a cubata (rum and coke) as it is for an espresso and there’s a full bocadillo (filled roll) and tapas menu too. There’s rather more selection on the bar front south side, however. Who’s Tommy?, on Avenida del Arte, is celebrated for its cocktails and live music, Avenida del España’s La Première prides itself on its toffee and sugar candy croissant pudding, and La Abuela Pepa on the same street pulls in the crowds including plenty of students from the nearby university.
These days the Belmonte’s an 17,524 all-seater. The club have a number of local peñas (supporters’ associations), including Orgullo Manchego and a new one in Manchester with a twenty-strong membership who follow the club from afar.
Damage to Your Wallet
There are five seating areas at the Estadio Belmonte. The cheapest is the Goles with adult non-members having to pay €10 and children €6. At the other end of the scale, it’s €40, however young or old you are, at the Palco.