2010 was an odd year for Espanyol: they won something. More typically, it wasn't for the team, but for their new ground: the Estadi Cornella-El Prat was named Venue of the Year in the Stadium Business Awards, a year after it opened.
It was also a year after their rather more illustrious neighbours in Barcelona won every competition they entered, an unprecedented sextuplet including the league, Champions League, Spanish Cup, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup. But then, Espanyol have always existed as FC Barcelona's counterpart – the straight man, the stooge, the Atletico Madrid to their Real.
And many of the fans wouldn't want it any other way. The very name establishes their differentness to the Camp Nou club: Espanyol was formed in 1902, two years after FCB, exclusively by and for Spanish players as a reaction to Barcelona's perceived internationalism.
Although Espanyol may
never have come close to emulating Barça's frequent success, they can at
least celebrate having spent only four years out of the top flight
since the national league began in 1927. And unlike the frequently fair-weather Camp Nou crowd, their fans are among the most passionate in the league.
Especially notable are the
Brigadas Blanquiazules. Espanyol's hardcore are energetic
chanters and flag-wavers throughout the match, whatever the score. The trouble is, they're among the most infamous fans in Spain,
racist neo-Nazis who delight in throwing flares and seats and making monkey noises at black players.
Not all Espanyol fans are tarred with the same brush. Many are
migrants who arrived in the Franco era to work in Barcelona; some
are from the Sarria area where Espanyol used to play before they sold
'La Bombonera', their famous old ground; still others are Catalans who haven't
bought into Barça's overarching "More than a club" credo.
Since only three percent of the city's population profess a
support for the team, it's easier, if more expensive, to get a ticket
than to a Barça match, and the sparkly new stadium makes it worth a visit.
Espanyol stadium is outside the centre of Barcelona, but easily
accessible by the blue line on Barcelona's excellent Metro system. The Metro journey takes about 25
minutes, then it's a 15-minute walk to the stadium. Its 40,000 capacity
means tickets are usually available on the day, even for Barça and
Madrid matches. Just don't wear a Barça shirt.
Club address Baix Llobregat Avenue, 08940 Cornellà de Llobregat
Telephone (0034) 932 927 700
For regular updates on the crazy world of Spanish football, see our blog La Liga Loca
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