Club name: CD Santurtzi
Stadium: Estadio San Jorge
Maximum Capacity: 2,000
Level: Tercera División
How to arrive: Metro to Kabiezes station then a 10 minute walk.
This past Sunday, my Basque lower-league football double decker began with an extremely wet and windy top of the league fixture as CD Santurtzi took on Cultural Durango. The match was filled with more twists,turns and excitement than a tornado; the notorious Basque weather playing a rather prominent role.
The town of Santurtzi lies to the north-east of Bilbao below the iconic and beloved Monte Serantes. For centuries, the economy of the town has revolved around its close proximity to the mining districts such as Gallarta and Ortuella and it’s location on the mouth of the River Nervión. Although most of the mines have now become defunct the town retains its important and busy port, although in recent times it is perhaps more of a passenger port as opposed to an industrial one, with ferries and cruises often found in the docks.
Founded in 1952, CD Santurtzi has spent most of its years competing in the Spanish lower leagues, particularly the Tercera División as well as a four year period in the Segunda División B between 1989-1993. The club is perhaps most well known in local circles for its distinctive purple kit and you’ll have hear the fans chanting ‘Venga Morados!’ (Come on the purples!). Currently, the club’s home is El Estadio San Jorge. The ground lies at the top of a small hill and, as well as boasting some fine views of Santurtzi, Serantes and the Basque mountains beyond, it has quite an eye catching purple décor. The ground has one main stand and a concrete terrace behind one of the grounds. Like with most Basque stadiums the atmosphere is friendly and inviting but also animated. It doesn’t hurt also that the club are in a strong position in the league and play a hard-working and admirable style of football; one that reminded me quite a lot of Leicester during their Premier league winning season.
Down to Logistics
Take the metro on line 2 to its conclusion at Kabiezes; leave the metro through the Lauxeta exit; after coming out of the metro on to the street turn around and begin to walk up Pajares Kalea, it’s quite a steep little climb up but well worth it once you get there, San Jorge is on the right you can’t miss it.
As I previously mentioned the weather was paramount to the game, it was a typically Basque day in terms of weather. In the space of one ninety minute game we had soft rain, torrential rain, sideways rain… to quote Bubba Gump, with the only break in downpour and slither of sunshine unfortunately coming during the half-time break.
As is typical with most games in the Tercera División it took a while for the game to settle, especially as both sides had quite opposing tactics. Santurtzi looked to be tight and compact whilst utlizing their strong and mobile target man Galder when breaking on the counter attack. Cultural Durango, however, had more of a traditionally Spanish possession based game, they played out of the back and most of their play went through the very assured Molina in the midfield pivot position. Sometimes, clash of styles like this can lead to dull games where each team cancels the other. Fortunately for me, this wasn’t the case with this match, it was a high quality and absorbing game.
The game began to open up in the 25th minute and Durango showed their prowess as number 11 made a jinky run down the right before passing into the box, this pass was met by another player who then put the opposite winger through on goal however his shot was too tame and did not have enough power to cause the Santurtzi keeper any problems. After this, both teams found some rhythm and looked to open the other teams up but the defending at both ends was stout and neither side could find a way through; Santurtzi’s 4 in particular proving to be a strong presence at the back for the purples. The best chance of the half for Santurtzi came around the 35 minute mark, when a cross from the right found Galder in some space in the box but he wasn’t able to direct his header goalwards, but he made his danger known. He often found himself in good positions and throughout the whole game he did a great job of holding up play, occupying defenders and linking with his midfield. In the 40th minute, Durango had an opportunity to put themselves into an advantageous position going into the the break when striker 9 controlled a cross with his chest before striking a half volley narrowly over the bar.
The game truly started to heat up in the second half -not just because the sun came out for a minute- but a bit of needle began to grow between the players. The referee was kept quite busy and gave out four free kicks in three minutes between the 52nd to 55th minute. The first major opportunity in the second half came for Santurtzi when a cross from the left was brought down by 8 before being bicycle kicked to the keeper by Galder. 3 minutes later, Santurtzi looked to be in on goal when a counter attack saw them through but the Durango keeper acted quickly and decisively rushing off his goal and out of his area to sweep up the through ball and clear it for a throw-in. In the 65th minute, Santurtzi’s man of the moment and top goal scorer Endika Sainz was brought off the bench and had an almost immediate impact as his side were awared a penalty for what seemed to be an elbow in the box. Up stepped Endika who duly slotted away sending the ball straight down the middle past the feet of the outstretched keeper. Santurtzi were unlucky not to kill the game in the 74th minute when a shot at goal by 11 was deflected by Durango’s keeper and hit the bar before going out for a corner. Whilst Cultural kept looking to make inroads and equalise the game was looking increasingly out of their reach that was at least until some freak weather came along and they took full advantage. Around the 83rd minute, strong winds and rains began to impact the game, the winds were so powerful that Santurtzi goal kicks often started heading back towards the 18 yard box. In the 84th minute, Cultural were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area, it was defended well and cleared as far as Cultural’s left back Txapu Infante who from 30 yards out hit an absolute screamer that -aided by the wind- hit of the crossbar and the goalkeeper’s back into the net. With the wind and now momentum behind them Cultural were not yet finished, only a minute later they won a corner. The Santurtzi players were unable to deal with the corner -the earlier substitution of tall striker Galder who had done some great defensive work at set pieces earlier in the game might have cost them here- the wind seemed to aid the ball as it was in the air for an eternity before being headed into the back of the net by Cultural’s Etxebarria. After this, the winds died down and Cultural were able to see out the rest of the game, Santurtzi’s players were understandably shell-shocked, a freak turn of weather and an absolutely worldie denying them a home victory.
San Jorge is a fantastic unique stadium with some superb views and a fantastic atmosphere. The football played is organised and effective (although maybe not on this occasion) but certainly not boring and it’s easy to see why, in spite of the loss, they are sat quite rosily at the top of the table. All round a very favourable experience and a ground I can’t wait to revisit in the future.