How typical for Levante that when they broke into the top flight for the first time in 40 years, they were outshone by their neighbours. In 2004 Levante won the Segundo
Division title, but Valencia CF won the Primera. That time, Levante's top-flight fun only lasted a season; they came back in 2006 and stayed up for two seasons, their rock-bottom finish in 2008 coinciding nicely with Valencia winning the Champions League.
Despite it all, fans of the Granote (localese for 'frog')
enjoy watching the world's best players turn out in their modest
stadium on the outskirts of town, a mile from Valencia's Mestalla
stadium. And another promotion in 2010 gave them another chance to do just that.
Back in the early 1960s, during their only previous Primera jaunt,
Levante were famous for having the biggest away following in the league – nothing to get too boastful about, given Spain's notoriously poor away
support. Until those recent top-flight spells they've had little to cheer since – except 1980-81,
when Johan Cruyff came to play. Still, they've kept a loyal support
with singers behind each goal despite their neighbours' dominance of
Levante have spent most of their time hopping between Spain's third and fourth tiers, any win is greeted with fireworks, but they became the stuff of legend in the 2006/07 season when they won 4-2 against arch-rivals Valencia, who have enjoyed bragging rights in
the city since the Civil War, with goals from Mustapha Riga (later of Bolton Wanderers), Salva Ballesta (formerly of Bolton Wanderers) and Laurent Courtois (no known Bolton Wanderers connections).
Levante have played in the 24,350-capacity 'Ciutat de Valencia'
since 1969. A compact all-seater over the river from the city centre, it can be reached on the
11, 12, 16 and 36 buses, or by getting the metro to Machado station on
Club address P de la Alameda, 34-70 B, 46023, Valencia
Telephone (0034) 963 379 530
CITY GUIDE: VALENCIA
One of Spain's most progressive cities, Valencia has more to be proud of than a fine side. Located in the Levante region, Valencia is famous for orange and lemon growing, which gave the city a provincial feel. Recent redevelopment and investment – Valencia has a new high-tech metro, for example – means the city could one day rival Barcelona as the nation's most cosmopolitan city.
The dialect Valenciano competes with Castilian as the primary language in the region. One nationalist group even denies the dialect's Castilian roots, not that anybody takes them seriously.
Manises Airport is 9km out of Valencia and is well-served by a shuttle bus (number 105) that whisks you into the city centre every 15 minutes.If you prefer to rent a car, aside from the usual multinational companies, try Cunauto at c/Burriana 51 – (0034) 963 748 561.
Public transport is cheap and effective, although most tourist sights are easily accessible on foot. The city centre also supplies plenty of links to the outskirts and the beach.
World-famous tomato-slinging war La Tomatina, held in the last week of August in the nearby village of Bunol. It's surprisingly ordered: battle commences at midday sharp as 40,000 lunatics work themselves into a frenzy, screaming 'To-ma-te! To-ma-te!'. At precisely 1pm an explosion signals the end of the furore, hurling ceases immediately, and it's back home for a quick shower and change.
SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
Pop down to the busy Sunday markets handily located right next to the Mestalla on Avenida De Suecia. Having gone all that way, you might as well take in a game...
March 12-19 Fallas de San Jose. Spain's biggest bonfire festival, costing 1.2 million euros. The final evening – the Nit de Foc – is an arsonist's playground where even the processional floats are burnt to a cinder; and if that's not enough destruction for you, there's always the bullfighting.
For regular updates on the crazy world of Spanish football, see our blog La Liga Loca
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