Club name: CD Galdakao
Level: División de Honor
Stadium: El Campo de Santa Barbara
Maximum Capacity: 1,100 (950 seated)
Ticket Prices: 10€
How to arrive: Train Zuhatsu Galdakao station followed by a short walk to the stadium or bus to Galdakao followed by a longer walk.
This weekend was my busiest yet as I managed to cram in two excellent matches. For the first one, I went to CD Galdakao. Although my stated intention was to watch a game of every Basque club from La Liga to Tercera when Galdakao resident, supporter and fellow Brit Huseyin Bikim got in contact with me through LinkedIn and invited me to watch his club take on joint División de Honor league leaders Ugeraga, this coupled with my fiancée being the daughter of an ex-club president, and niece of a legendary former manager of the club, meant I just couldn’t resist and I’m glad I didn’t.
Galdakao is a small town with a population of about 30,000 that is situated on the outskirts of Bilbao, approximately 11km away from the said northern Basque metropolis. The satellite town is perhaps most well known for its explosives factories; it is from this that its clubs takes its nickname, Los Dinamiteros (The Dynamiters). The town’s football team Club Deportivo Galdakao was founded in 1914 as Elexalde Cub and played under this moniker until after the Civil War when it was given its current name. From the forties onwards the club has spent the majority of its time yo-yoing up and down Spain’s lower leagues without reaching higher than the Tercera División.
Since the club began its existence back in 1914 it has played its home games at El Campo del Fútbol Santa Barbara. The original pitch allocated with the express purpose of given the workers at the local dynamite factory a place to play the sport. The ground has undergone many changes since then -including a fire which destroyed the mainstand’s roof in 1985/86- but somehow still remains to this day. The stadium today is fully modernised with a fantastic grandstand and state-of-the-art artificial turf, but it stills retains an indefinable and unmistakable charm -the type of which can only be found in grounds of this vintage.
Down to Logistics
To get to Galdakao you’ll have to get either the train or the bus. I decided to take the train as it goes to a stop that is only a two minute walk from the stadium. Any train that goes from Bilbao to Bermeo will pass through the stop you need which is called Zuhatsu Galdakao. I took the metro down to Casco Viejo, went through the San Nicolas exit and headed to the Euskotren where I caught the aforementioned train. The journey itself only took 15 minutes and once at Galdako I left the station, crossed the road and headed down the leafy pedestrianised Hermano Victor Kalea, the ground is at the bottom of this road.
As the game was to be played in the league below the Tercera I wasn’t expecting much of a spectacle. However, I was thankfully mistaken. The match was played with much quality and real intensity, both teams seemed quite confident and were obviously looking for a victory in order to put some space between themselves and the other at the top of the league.
Within just three minutes a lovely passing move by Galdakao down the right saw Ugeraga panicking, and though the move came to nothing it was a sign of things to come. The first real chance of the game came in the 17th minute when Ugeraga keeper lost possession passing the ball straight to the feet of Galdakao’s right winger, he carried the ball into box but finished poorly hitting his shot straight at the keeper. Much of the rest of the half saw a lot endeavour from both sides and moments of decent football with each team looking to string together passes and keep possession but there was little end product for all the work. The next big chance came in the fortieth minute when a ball down the right from Ugeraga saw their number 9 compete in a foot race with Galdakao’s 6. The Ugeraga forward won the contest and played a lovely cut back into the box for an oncoming midfielder but the chance was atrociously scuffed, a wasted opportunity to go 1-0 up for Ugeraga.
The second half took five minutes to reboot but once both teams were back in the game they played at a frightening pace. In the 52nd minute Galdakao had an opportunity but their striker made a real hash of the effort sending it wide. This was followed by a Ugeraga chance in the 57th minute when their number 9 met a cross and had the keeper beaten but was only able to connect with the crossbar. Barely a minute later a flowing move down the left wing saw Galdakao surge into the box but a powerful close-range shot was turned away by the extremely composed Ugeraga keeper. From this moment Galdakao looked to take control of the fixture, their defensive line pushed up and they started pressing hard. Their tactics, however, almost saw them come undone in the 70th minute when a Ugeraga player managed to catch out the high defensive line but once again a lack of composure in front of goal prevented them from going on top. The next 15 minutes saw both teams pushing and pushing for a goal but as is seen a lot at this level success in the final third isn’t always forthcoming. But the moment of reckoning did finally come in the 88th minute, Ugeraga conceded a free-kick on the right-hand edge of their box, the inswinging cross was met by a header at the far post which in turn was met by an accurate header at the near post, which sailed into the back of the net. Two minutes later, the fourth official signalled for 4 minutes of stoppage time. An extremely nervous four minutes for the Galdakanes fans who urged their players to the corners every time they found themselves in possession, for the most part the players obliged the home support and were able to see the game out, thus giving the side a healthy two point advantage over their nearest rivals at the top of the table.
Another highlight of the game for me was seeing the man who lived in the cottage behind the perimeter fence taking advantage of the free football from his balcony -if only we were all so blessed!
All in all it was a fantastic experience. Santa Barbara had a passionate and friendly atmosphere the type of which I seem to be encountering more and more every weekend. As for the football, it was one of the best quality games I have seen all season. Both teams looked to play with the ball at their feet and without a doubt this made the entire experience all the more worthwhile. The signs look encouraging for Galdakao and though of course it is still early doors, it would not surprise me to see them in higher league next season; giving they can keep this good run of form going, that is. Big thanks to Huseyin –as much as I love living here and I love the people, it did make a pleasant change to talk football in my native language with a fellow Brit- and everybody at Galdakao who I met for being so inviting, hope to see you next season in the Tercera!