Matthew Hirtes is the mister running the Spain Buddy Spanish football series. He’s working his way through the Primera Liga clubs, reaching Deportivo de La Coruña with this latest article.
Deportivo de La Coruña…in 90 seconds
Deportivo, formally known as Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña, have played their home games at the Estadio de Riazor more or less since their inception in 1906; close to the beach of the same name. Although the current stadium which the club moved to in 1944 is an upgrade on the orginal which bore the Riazor epithet but was deemed too small as Deportivo struggled to supply space to meet the demand of their supporters. Arrive at the Estadio de Riazor from the Galician city’s main square, Praza de María Pita in under half an hour on foot or catch the 3A or 7 buses for a more leisurely journey from the centre of town.
When asked how young footballers could improve themselves, legendary England and West Ham midfielder Trevor Brooking said they should try and picture what they were going to do with the ball before they received it. Left-sided midfielder and one-club man Fran(cisco Javier González Pérez) certainly had such vision, using it to score 58 goals in 550 appearances between 1988 and 2005. This period coincided with Deportivo’s golden years.
Fran’s teammates included fellow legends such as Morocco international centre back Nourredine Naybet, very much a leader of the team, and the Cameroon cat Jaques Songo’o who displayed feline agility between the sticks. The terrific trio reunited with their old mucker, Brazilian midfield maverick Djalminha, in 2008 when they returned to play for Depor’s fútbol sala (indoor football) side. Djalminha could certainly talk the talk, claiming at a party attended by a host of Primera Liga players of the time including Rául, (the original) Ronaldo, David Beckham, Raúl, and Zinedine Zidane that only he and Zidane were the genuine cracks in attendance; dismissing Ronaldo as a mere goalscorer, Beckham as a pretty boy, and Raúl as owing his fame to playing for Real Madrid.
The Brazilian could also walk the walk however. As could his eventual replacement in the team, classy Canarian Juan Carlos Valerón. Up front, few players have led the line with more grace under pressure than Brazil’s Bebeto who notched a scarcely credible 118 goals in 131 games over four seasons in the 1990s.
Deportivo de La Coruña Form Guide
Until the 1999-2000 season, Deportivo fans could be forgiven they were fated to be the eternal bridesmaids on the La Liga front. They’d finished runner-ups on five occasions but broke their duck in 2000 by finishing five points clear of nearest challengers Barcelona and Valencia. The manager was Javier Irureta who also inspired his charges to famous European victories against giants Manchester United (3-2 away in 2001), Bayern Munich (another 3-2 away win in 2002), and AC Milan (4-0 at home in 2004).
Irureta had promised that he would walk the Camino de Santiago if his side knocked out the Italian favourites. And he was true to his word, walking 70km of the Way of St James to arrive in Galician capital Santiago de Compostela. Irureta was also the man with the plan to spoil Real Madrid’s cententary celebrations with a 2-1 upset in the 2001-2002 Copa del Rey final; doubling the tally of cup wins following Arsenio Iglesias’ triumph in 2004-2005.
Depor have won three Supercopa de España finals as well (in 1995, 2000, and 2002). The Galicians have hardly covered themselves in glory since with relegations to La Segunda in 2011 and 2013. They were saved from a return there on the penultimate game of the 2015-16 season. Currently, they sit not exactly comfortably six points above the drop zone.
Club Shop Essential Purchase
Because of the British-style weather in Galicia, you’ll probably only be able to combine sunning yourself on Riazor beach and watching a game at Riazor stadium at the very beginning or ultimate weeks of the season. If you’re there during these times, this beach towel will be no impulse purchase.
The aptly-named Cafeteria Rompeolas (Breakwater Cafe) enjoys a privileged position next to beach and in front of the stadium. Weekend openings see breakfast served from 9:00am on Saturday and 10:00am on Sunday. You can drink until 2:30am on Saturday night and 1:00am on Sunday evening.
The Riazor holds 34,600. Taunted as “turcos” by nearest and far from dearest Celta Vigo because of the relocation of various locals to Andalucia (viewed as more Muslim than Spanish) in the north of the country because of a growth in unemployment, Deportivo supporters fly Turkish flags in defiance. The club’s most famous fan over the course of their history’s arguably one of the most infamous in Spain’s history, Manuel Fraga who was one of the key figures serving Franco during his dictatorship and who went on to form the country’s right-wing Partido Popular, Spain’s current ruling party.
Damage to Your Wallet
Buy tickets in advance to save money. For example the cheapest ticket for April’s home game against Real Madrid costs €60 in February but increases to €70 from March 1st. Find more details here.
Matthew Hirtes, our resident broadsheet journalist, moved to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria back in 2004. He’s travelled extensively through Spain, covering it for such publications as Telegraph Travel, Metro, and The Independent. The author of Going Local in Gran Canaria: How To Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home, Matthew truly is a resident expert.