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Off-the-radar: UE Llagostera – The tale of a small-town club from Catalonia

In a new off-the-radar series covering other teams in Spanish football, Sarthak Kumar takes us to Llagostera, a small club on the Mediterranean coastline with bigger ambitions.

David Ramos/Getty Images

In the large province of Girona lies a neighborhood called Llagostera. Just 8000 residents reside in this community. This cozy town is so small that it is officially a municipality and is best known for making cork. So while the rest of Spain drinks wine it throws away the one thing - the only thing - this neighborhood is famous for.

Some football teams celebrate for years when they get promoted. Rarely do teams get promoted twice in successive years.

Llagostera did that. TWICE.

In 2004, when Manchester United flexed their financial muscle and brought in Wayne Rooney, when José Mourinho won the Champions League with Porto, UE Llagostera were lost eighth-division souls.

Then two people - a husband and wife - changed all that.

The husband - Oriol Alsina - coached the side and his wife Isabel Tarragó became the club president.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The club don't have much money - their stadium capacity was 200 a few seasons ago, their goalposts were portable and the pitch itself was hired out. They pocketed €20,000 in TV revenue in 2013. And that, by the way, is an annual figure.

The club don't have many club officials - in fact they have none. The club completely runs on volunteers. And neither does the club have assets - even their stadium is not their own.

But, having upset more than their fair share of teams while operating on a shoestring budget, they are the true epitome of success with belief.

Their stadium may not possess the size or prestige of cauldrons like San Mamés or Anoeta, but the fans have created an intimidating atmosphere in that tiny little stadium from day one.

They cheer not because promotions are the goal. They cheer for themselves, because the eleven players who step out onto the not-so-grassy pitch are their people - brothers, sisters, daughters, relatives. The pride they possess is not just for their team, it is for good football and to see their own play.

In football and in life, they have always been the underdogs. But today, as they sit in the second division, having beaten the likes of Barcelona B, they stand proudly against more fancied opposition.

Last season was their first in the second tier, in which they finished a highly respectable ninth - just four points off a promotion play-off spot. And that after they had started the season under the threat of administrative relegation - forced to move from their own stadium to coastal city Palamós in Costa Brava - 27 kilometers away - because their own stadium didn't meet LFP criteria. This season they again faced the threat of administrative relegation to Segunda B - Spain's regionalised, 80-team third tier - for having too little capital, despite having no debt. Thankfully, a new TV deal has helped them prevent that as they pocketed some more cash.

A lot more actually - they have pulled off the astute signings of Mosquito, the star of the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup and Giva, one of three players Barcelona had first rights on. For free, no less.

This season sees them in the relegation zone, a similar story to last season. Then, many had condemned them to a quick return to the third tier, not really caring much. And why should they? They are such a small club, even Eibar, the smallest team to ever reach the Primera, were described as "giants compared to us" by president Isabel Tarragó.

But they should care - Llagostera could very well be playing against Athletic Bilbao instead of Bilbao Athletic next season. In a competitive La Segunda, just 12 points separate the first and last teams at the moment. Automatic promotion might be beyond the club this season, for their competition is fierce. However, rarely for a Segunda club they have the strength in depth to grind out a grueling 42 match league schedule.

And that is what might give UE Llagostera - the minnows from Catalonia - the edge over their competitors in the pursuit of yet another promotion. Their seventh in twelve years.

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