Everybody remembers SD Eibar last year in La Liga. The small club who couldn’t possibly compete according to some soccer “experts” reaching Spain’s highest level who then received an eleventh hour reprieve from relegation following Elche’s administrative relegation to Liga Adelante. But there’s another club from an even smaller town in Spain that has a quicker, greater rise through Spain’s pyramid & shows the rare but possible progression a club can make in an open promotion/relegation system.
As much as wannabe, modern sports financiers and promotion/relegation opponents claims that Eibar couldn’t possibly compete, Eibar has been in at least Spain’s third highest level since 1986; some thirty years. In fact, Eibar has been in at least the second highest division in Spain for twenty-three of the last twenty-eight years. So, they have shown they can compete in the higher levels of Spain despite their small stadium capacity. In the case of Unió Esportiva Llagostera, or UE Llagostera, their rise through the Spanish pyramid is nothing short of remarkable.
Llagostera is a town with a population of all of 7,915 (2010) people. Llagostera was promoted to Liga Adelante for the first time last year becoming the smallest town to have ever had a club reach one of Spain’s highest two levels. I’m from Louisiana originally. This population would rank it about seventy-eighth in population of the state. In fact, Llagostera is so small that their home stadium, Estadi Municipal de Llagostera, with a capacity of 1,500 people, couldn’t be used by the club following their promotion to Liga Adelante because it didn’t meet minimum stadium requirements for the division. They were forced to play their home matches over thirty kilometers away in a town called Palamós. See, over there figure out solutions to problems instead of stamping their foot, throwing a tantrum screaming, “what shall we ever do because our stadium is too small and isn’t all-seater?!”
Llagostera’s rise is all the more remarkable because in 1997/1998 they were in Tercera Territorial or Spain’s ninth division. Yes, you read that right, the ninth division. That’s tantamount to you & your friends’ recreational team’s level. They won that league that year and were promoted to the Segunda Territorial of Catalonia where they spent seven years before being promoted to Primera Territorial in 2005 where they immediately were champions and were promoted to the Preferente Territorial of Catalonia or Spain’s sixth level. Llagostera spent two years at this level before being promoted as runners-up to the Primera Catalonia in 2008.
The Primera Catalonia is the highest provincial division where it would be similar to being county or district champions in a state in the US. Geographically speaking since obviously the United States doesn’t have state leagues involved in an open pyramid system. Here Llagostera spent only a year before being promoted to Spain’s fourth level, the Tercera Division.
In Spain’s Tercera Division, Llagostera met their demise & quickly went into extinction. Actually, that’s not what happened at all. They spent two years at this level before spending three years in Segunda División B following promotion in 2011. Now at Spain’s third highest level, Llagostera still soldiered on as the tiny club who “couldn’t compete” receiving promotion after winning their group in 2014. Last year in Spain’s second highest level, Llagostera, now sporting a massive 330,675 person stadium (not really), finished an impressive ninth.
So far in this current season Llagostera sits at the bottom of the table & looks to have a full on relegation battle on their hands this season. However, after rising seven levels in eighteen years it shows the possibility of how a club from a tiny town can reach heights undreamed of if given a chance. An honest, fair chance in an open system. Does it mean they will ever win a La Liga or Liga Adelante title? No. Does it mean all tiny clubs will reach these heights one day? Of course not. What it does show is the possibility of a remarkable story that would likely happen to some town or village here in the United States eventually if an open system was instituted. Not being able to compete forever with large clubs doesn’t mean you didn’t compete for a time. Why would anyone really be against a system like this?
– Llagostera has won four titles during their rise: 1998 Tercera Territorial group (9th level), 2006 Primera Territorial group (7th level), 2009 Primera Catalonia group (5th level) & 2014 Segunda División B Group III (3rd level)
– Llagostera has seven promotions since 1998: 1998 to Segunda Territorial group from Tercera Territorial group, 2005 to Primera Territorial group from Segunda Territorial group, 2006 to Preferente Territorial group from Primera Territorial group, 2008 to Primera Catalonia group from Preferente Territorial group, 2009 to Tercera División group from Primera Catalonia group, 2011 to Segunda División B group from Tercera División group, 2014 to Segunda División/Liga Adelante from Segunda División B group
– Llagostera currently has a player who goes by the Brazilian nom de guerre, Mosquito, who has been capped at several youth levels for Brazil