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Spirit of the South – Granada CF and Los Cármenes
- Updated: 10 May, 2012
After a gap of 35 years, Granada CF returned to La Primera at the start of this season and this weekend, they face a make or break fixture that will determine the shape of their future, both on and off the pitch. However, before we get too heavy, let’s have a look at the club’s background.
Formed in 1931, as Club Recreativo, the club spent its first three seasons playing at Campo de La Tablas, a basic, barely enclosed ground. Granada gained promotion to La Segunda in 1933 and immediately started work on a new ground on a plot of land in the north of the city just over the road from the Plaza de Toros. “Los Cármenes” would cost 110,000 pesetas and was officially inaugurated on 23 December 1934, with a league match against Malactiano (CD Malaga).
The new ground was a basic square stadium, uncovered in all four sides. A small seated area for the club officials was on the southern side, which also housed the changing rooms and offices. Following the Civil War, Granada CF as they were now known, finished runners-up in La Segunda, just missing out on the promotion play-offs. They did not have long to wait however, as promotion was gained the following year. Over the next 25 years, the club had 3 spells in the Primera, none of which lasted longer than 4 seasons. However they did reach their one and only final of the Copa del Generalisimo in 1959, losing 4-1 to Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Granada CF’s most successful period in the Primera commenced with promotion at the end of the 1967-68 season. Los Cármenes underwent its only significant facelift with the building of a new two tiered stand on the southern side of the ground, which was inaugurated in 24 November 1968 with a 2-0 victory over Malaga. In keeping with the rest of the ground, the stand was white and very basic, with the roof supported by thin pillars set three rows from the back. Somewhat startling was the fact that despite running the length of the pitch, it only had two narrow exits on the upper tier.
The national team has staged two full internationals at the stadium. Cyprus was the first visitor in 1971, and they were sent packing with a 7-0 defeat. Next up were Mexico, who lost 2-0 in 1978. With the exception of the building of the new stand in the late 1960’s, Los Cármenes remained relatively unaltered and unadorned throughout its 60 years as a football ground. By the mid 90’s Granada CF was a permanent fixture in Segunda B and the decision was made to leave Los Cármenes for a new stadium in the south of the city. A new stadium means new revenue and extra impetus, the plan couldn’t fail…
The last game at the stadium was a 1-1 draw with Sevilla B on 21 May 1995. It had the indignity of being used as a car park for a few years before being demolished in the late 90’s. The site is now a covered in apartments, but at least the ground is remembered on Calle del Granada Club de Futbol, which runs along the northern perimeter of the old ground.
In 1995, Granada CF left Los Cármenes and headed 3 miles south to the outskirts of the city and the imaginatively named Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes. The new stadium was built at a cost of 2,200 million pesetas in a joint venture between the local municipality and the Junta de Andalucía. The first match took place on 6 June 1995 when Real Madrid played Bayer Leverkusen in a friendly.
Now a lot of stuff and nonsense is written about the beauty of old stadiums and how bland some new stadiums appear, but you won’t catch me talking negatively about Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes. It is, in my opinion, one of the top three stadiums that have been built in Spain in the past 20 years. With an original capacity of 16,200, it consists of four stands, each with three beautifully proportioned tiers. Each corner has a wide access point at ground level and the stands are linked to each other with suspended concourses at each level. Not only does this aid pitch ventilation, it links all four sides in one symmetrical flow. Add to that the slim floodlight masts that lean into the stadium with their unusual oval lamp configuration, and you have a truly graceful piece of architecture.
The Spanish National Team like it as well. La Selección played Cyprus in September 1995 winning 6-0, beat Russia 1-0 in 1998 and then Bulgaria by the same score in 2002. They kept up their perfect record in Granada with a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in March 2011.
It’s taken 35 years, countless players, staff, a new stadium and a whole lot of angst, but Granada are back in the big time and intend to stay. Temporary stands have been erected in gaps between the stands which is a shame aesthetically, but the fans have shown in the lower leagues that they will attend and filling a 20,000 stadium is feasible. So much so, that if Granada can prolong their stay in the top flight, there is talk of a new stadium 40,000 capacity stadium. This seems like a flight of fancy and Granada would do well to look at others who have struggled to finance such a build, and be aware that good things come in small packages.Follow @icentrocampista