Can They Do It on a Cold Sunday Night in Eibar?

One of the best things about living in Durango, minus the cheap beer and excellent pintxos, is it’s proximity to so much local football. In addition to the local football team SCD Durango – who I recently got a season ticket for – you can quite easily climb a little higher up the footballing pyramid with Athletic Bilbao, SD Eibar and Real Sociedad just a short journey away.

Cut me and I bleed blue and white.

After an ever-welcome payday and with my newly adopted local team playing away last weekend, I rather impulsively woke up on Sunday and bought a ticket for Eibar’s game with Espanyol that night.

I’ve always known that English football was overpriced, but after a very reasonably-priced Fiorentina game earlier in the year and now being faced with a stadium plan where tickets for a top division clash ranged from €25 to €35, the point really was hammered home.

Following some deliberation I opted for the €30 (about £25) ticket, which got me a seat in the Principal stand along the side of the pitch. After a fruitless search around Durango for an open printing shop later (it is Sunday, after all…) I jumped on the train for the short 30 minute journey to Eibar which, thanks to a relentless screaming child, felt at least twice as long. Any plans to make progress on the book I brought along for the ride were well and truly scuppered.

There’s always next time.

Quite why I decided that on a snowy, cold December evening the best thing to do was to go and sit outside for a couple of hours is beyond me, but that’s the thing about being a football fan; we’re gluttons for punishment! With my recent record of goalless draws and scrappy 1-0 snooze-a-thons it could be argued that I’m crazier than most, but God does love a trier!

Eibar

Despite being from a town of only 27,000 Eibar have surprised many people by holding their own in La Liga for a few years now. It’s probably this fact that appeals to me more than the much bigger and more well-supported other clubs in the area. The fact that their stadium, Estadio Ipurua, is even smaller than my beloved Rochdale’s Spotland yet they find themselves in the same division as giants of the game like Barcelona and Real Madrid is quite frankly unbelievable!

Yes, that is snow in the background.

Despite every single piece of information on the internet suggesting that it’s better to get off the train at Ardantza, I decided to ignore these and get off at Eibar to ensure I didn’t miss anything about the town. As it happened, they were correct and I was wrong. Who’d have thought it?

Once I got closer to the aforementioned Ardantza things started to liven up as expected. First of all, I saw a geezer outside a betting shop setting fire to his coupon and throwing it to the floor. Having been an Everton win away from €300 the week before, I know exactly what he’s going through.

Shortly after this I reached Untzaga Plaza which, according to the excellent Football Tripper, is one of the main areas of town and it’s safe to say it didn’t disappoint. In the middle of the square was a huge marquee with live music inside. I’ve no idea what the cause for celebration was, but I’ll let the video do the talking.

The match

After a quick beer and a pintxo I made the short walk up the hill from the city centre to Ipurua and found myself at the stadium within about 10 minutes. Despite being told by several locals that Eibar is a bit of a dump the walk up to the stadium with the snowy mountains was most pleasant and far from the Basque Rochdale I’d been expecting!

Tucked away in the hills!

The stadium was indeed as small as expected and it’s hard to believe that it hosts La Liga football, truth be told I’ve seen much bigger League Two grounds which I guess makes their position all the more impressive! After a few quick snaps of the outside I took my seat in the almost empty stadium around half an hour before kick off.

As appears to be the case here the locals left it until the very last minute to enter the ground but it soon filled up around me. No doubt a few home fans missed their boys go 1-0 up with a tap-in within the first 10 minutes but I doubt many will have missed the second goal, a beautiful strike from Ivan Alejo which gave Eibar a deserved 2-0 lead going into half time. I was particularly impressed with their Japanese winger Takashi Inui who, rather fittingly on the weekend of the J-League finale, put in a fine performance.

Spot the first-timer!

A penalty to the home team and an own goal followed in the second half and Eibar took a well-earned three points with a 3-1 victory, much to the delight of the tannoy man who was possibly the most excitable man in the Basque Country. It’s almost like he was trying to live up to every stereotype going with his screams of “GOOOOOOOALLLL!” every time the ball hit the back of the net. Fantastic stuff.

‘Cosy’ is perhaps the word I’d use.

With numb feet, hands and just about every other body part frozen to the core it was time for the short walk to Ardantza before taking the train back to Durango. With my reputation as a 0-0 magnet as strong as ever, I’m hoping this was the game that lifts my curse.

I guess we’ll see about that at the next Durango game!

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