The youngest team in Spain's top flight, which they first reached in 1999, Malaga CF didn't even exist until 1992. Well, that's the official story. Racked by debt, Club Deportivo Malaga folded in the summer of 1992, making the only league team left in the city the tiny, irrelevant Third Division Atletico Malagueño – who ended up providing the official basis of the 'new' club (which was pretty much the old one).
Atletico Malagueño were essentially CD Malaga's youth team but, luckily, were registered as a separate entity, which enabled the city's team – now under the name Malaga Club de Futbol – to re-found, taking Deportivo Malagueño's place in the regional Third Division, and continuing in their own Rosaleda (Rose Garden) stadium with their own fans, but without being liable for CD Malaga's debts. Welcome to Spain.
Malaga had to wait until 1997-98 to gain promotion to Division 2A and, the following season, to the First Division. But for a two-season absence, they've been there ever since, on a careful budget. It remains to be seen whether Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani, who bought the club in summer 2010, will pump in the millions available to him as a member of the Qatari royal family.
To many Brits, Malaga might be just the airport that serves the Costa del Sol, but it's a proud, working-class city with a hard edge – a long way, culturally, from the Costa – and its fans are noisy, passionate and loyal.
Especially against Real Madrid: like so many clubs, Malaga see them as insufferable aristocrats, a feeling made all the more acute by the locals who come to see Madrid, not Malaga, and the Brits inevitably drawn to the galacticos (although there is a sizeable ex-pat portion of the Malaga support). Wear a Madrid shirt around the hardcore Frente Bokeron fans (named after the local sardines) at your peril.
Stand by stand, La Rosaleda has been undergoing constant renovation in recent years. It holds 25,000 in a perfect, neat, open bowl (a bitter goalkeeper blamed the sun reflecting on the whitewashed seats for one calamitous error). Easily reached by following the dried-up River Guadalmedina away from town, the Rosaleda rarely fills and prices get bumped up when the big boys visit: even the cheapest seats can near 100 Euros.
Club address Paseo de Martiricos, S/N 29011, Malaga
Telephone (0034) 952 614 210
CITY GUIDE: MALAGA
Malaga is a large city with a population of just over half a million. Even before the recent desperate financial times, around a quarter of the workforce were unemployed and on arrival at the station, Malaga can look unwelcoming and rundown.
Persevere a little and you'll find it has much more to offer than is initially obvious. The centre has a wide range of attractions and has been recently renovated. There are a decent number of churches and museums to explore and the nightlife is bristling, especially in summer, which gives Malaga a youthful feel.
From the airport there is an electric train that takes you into town. The trip costs 1 euro and departs every 30 minutes. Stay on the electric train to the Centro-Alameda stop (about 12 minutes). Expect to pay around 10 euros if you opt for a cab.
WHERE TO EAT
Though hardly famed for its cuisine, there's no lack of places to eat. Malaga's fried fish ranks among the best in Spain, and the city has plenty of good tapas bars, particularly Gorki (c/Strachan). While in the region you should also try Malaga's sweet wine at Antigua Casa Guardia (c/Pastora).
Malaga's Picasso museum is special as the city was his birthplace. Having left in his youth, he returned just once and vowed never to return again while Franco was in power. Sadly the dictator outlived him by two years.
SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
A trip to Gibraltar to take in a dolphin-spotting boat trip is highly recommended. At €20 per person it ain't cheap, but most companies offer discounts for children and the outlay is definitely worth it.
DRIVING YOU INSANE
Usually hire a car on holiday? It might be best not to bother. There's a serious parking shortage in Malaga, and rampant theft from cars; hire cars should be stripped of all valuables and even the hire company's logo overnight. Then there's the driving: the Costa del Sol's main highway, the N340, is essentially one elongated city street and claims, on average, two fatalities per week.
February (in the week before Lent) sees a week of mass celebration across the Andalucian region. The carnivals include street parades, fancy dress and plenty of drink. Cadiz, just along the coast, goes particularly pleasantly bonkers.
For regular updates on the crazy world of Spanish football, see our blog La Liga Loca
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