Finding Villarreal on a map of Spain is far from easy; even the most
detailed often leave it off. A tiny city of just 38,000 inhabitants, it
is little more than a suburb of neighbouring Castellon.
However, the money
of president Fernando Roig has turned a two-bit provincial club into
one of Spain's top sides, currently enjoying their golden age. They haven't finished outside the top eight since 2003, and have frequently done well in Europe, reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2004 and the Champions League in 2006.
The team play in yellow, and the club makes a lot of their
association with the colour. The fans sing Yellow Submarine, which has
led to the team's nickname los submarinos amarillos or, in latter years
as their performances improved, los submarinos atomicos. Their on-pitch
mascot has a yellow submarine head, the roof of the stadium is painted
yellow and crowds of yellow-shirted, flag-bearing fans bring to mind a
host of golden daffodils. Or something like that.
Traditional rivals Castellon languish in the lower leagues,
however, and though games against Valencia are eagerly awaited –
especially as it was los Ches who beat them in that 2004 UEFA Cup semi-final –
there's little real edge between the sides.
Don't expect much explosion of passion at El Madrigal, let alone fireworks, but don't expect a poor game of football, either.
El Madrigal is a compact (25,000-capacity) English-style ground – rectangular, packed
tightly between nondescript flats with '70s-style floodlights and stands that get you close to the
action. You can usually get a ticket on
match day and the ground is walking distance from Villarreal's city
centre. That isn't saying much, though. In Villarreal, everything is
within walking distance and there are only two hotels. You'll probably
be staying in Castellon.
Club address Avd. Blasco Ibanez, Villarreal, Castellon
Telephone (0034) 964 500 167
THE TOWN: CASTELLON
If you're going to watch Villarreal, much better to stay in Castellon,
10km away and get a taxi to the ground for around 10 euros. A pretty
enough resort 100km north of Valencia, Castellon is probably not worth
an extended visit, but the beaches are pleasant, especially to the
north, and there are a number of interesting galleries. Among the best
is the Museo de Bellas Artes, c/Caballeros 25, which houses local works
Castellon has a decent nightlife, but things don't really get going
until the early hours and you'll need to take a taxi to reach the
late-night hotspots. At 3am head for either Poligono "Los Cipreses" or
to c/Cuadra de Borriolenc where you can hang with fresh-faced
On the third Sunday in Lent, the whole town celebrates the Fiesta de la
Magdalena which signifies the end of Moorish rule. The main event sees
hoards of huge processional floats paraded through the streets.
For regular updates on the crazy world of Spanish football, see our blog La Liga Loca
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