El Centrocampista

La Curva! – When the heart and soul of Espanyol ruled Barcelona

When it comes to their rivalry with FC Barcelona, Espanyol supporters have never had much to brag about. Barça have always been the bigger club, have always had a better stadium, have more members and a far more successful history in terms of winning trophies.

However up until the 1990’s there was one thing los pericos could claim the upper hand in – the atmosphere inside their legendary (now sadly demolished) stadium at Sarria. Most agreed it was far better than the atmosphere found on match-days in their bitter rivals’ iconic stadium, indeed many first time visitors to the Camp Nou are often let-down by the cold atmosphere in the stadium, despite it’s grandeur.

The atmosphere in the old Sarria was admired and envied in equal measure by supporters of others clubs the length and breadth of Spain. The main protagonists behind the wonderful atmosphere that was regularly being created, were two organised fan groups, the apolitical Penya Juvenil and the right-wing Brigadas Blanquiazules.

These two groups, despite their political differences (for example the Penya would display Catalan flags, whilst the Brigadas were ultra-Spanish nationalists) would come together as one under the banner of the ‘Los Irreductibles’.

The atmosphere both groups created had to be seen to be believed, especially on big European nights at Sarria. With the move away from Sarria (for financial reasons) to the unpopular Estadi Olimpic in Montjuic, all of this changed and the club went from having the best atmosphere in Spain to perhaps having the worst.

Why did this happen? There are a few mitigating factors here, but mainly it was due to the size of the stadium (far too big for Espanyol’s average crowds of 20,000), the running track around the stadium which meant the fans were too far away from the pitch and finally the breakdown in relations between the pro-Catalan Penya Juvenil and the right-wing Brigadas.

Whereas in Sarria these two fan-groups were situated side by side, in Montjuic they were now occupying different ends of the stadium. This situation went on for a good few seasons, with the atmosphere further deteriorating with each passing year and with the Brigadas struggling to attract even 100 supporters to their zone within the stadium.

The truth is most Espanyol socis were wary of these fan groups, especially the neo-nazi Brigadas, as they felt their abhorrent political ideology and violence carried out in it’s name brought shame on the club. Unfortunately despite being apolitical the Penya Juvenil were often tarred with the same brush. The club knew something had to done to address the situation as, without these fan-groups working together, the stadium was devoid of atmosphere on match-days.

In the season 2001-2002 another fan-group Eternos Español  had the grand idea of creating another unified fan-group in order to improve the atmosphere within the stadium. The group would be apolitical, would oppose violence and aim to unite all the different fan-groups operating at the time in Montjuic under the one umbrella.

The idea was well received and at the end of the season, all  groups decided to go ahead with the idea and move themselves to  one area of the stadium, so they could work together in creating a better atmosphere. And so La Curva RCDE 1900 was born, but not without teething problems.

As expected the right-wing and violent Brigadas found it difficult to work within this new structure and soon broke-off relations with the other groups. For many this was a good thing and would facilitate the continued growth of this organised apolitical group, which was managing to unite nearly all of the different organised supporter-groups.

The Curva has grown in popularity and strength since it’s inception and  following the clubs move to the new compact stadium at Cornella, RCD Espanyol can once more claim to have one of the most vocal atmospheres in La Liga.

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