Basque Groundhopping 2: Sestao River Club Vs Bermeo F.T

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Club name: Sestao River Club

Level: Tercera División (Euskadi)

Stadium: El Campo Municipal de Las Llanas

Maximum Capacity: 8,900

Ticket Price: 10€ Standing/15€ Seating

How to arrive: Metro Line 2 to Sestao for less than 2€ then small walk from there

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The second week of my groundhopping project offered me the opportunity to witness my first game from the Tercera División so I headed out to Sestao to watch Sestao River Club take on Bermeo FT. The Tercera División is the lowest league level in my project and in a similar vein to the Segunda División B it is split up into several regionalised leagues. All the games I shall be watching will involve teams from Group 4, conveniently named Euskadi (Spanish Basque Country).

I had planned to go see Santurtzi but I checked my schedule on Saturday evening and realised that I had somehow managed to forget about Sestao River Club. This together with the 19:00 kick-off time and the late-night I was going to have in order to watch the Mayweather Vs McGregor boxing match helped me change my mind. Santurtzi will have to wait for another weekend.

Sestao River Club was founded in 1916 and they play in a stadium named Campo Muncipal de Las Llanas, where the side has been based since 1923. Originally, the club was named Sestao Sport Club and although it never managed to gain promotion to La Liga, it was always a mainstay of the second and third categories. It existed as Sestao Sport Club until 1996 when financial difficulties saw the club collapse, before it was revived and rebranded as Sestao River Club. The team had to start again from the very bottom tier and managed to claw their way back up to the Segunda División B but last year the club were relegated and now find themselves back in the Tercera División for the first time since 2010.

Sestao itself is one of more working class towns from within Bilbao metropolitan area. For most of its existence the town’s main economic driver has been its close proximity to the river; and the dockyards and shipbuilding factories that lay there. But much like the club, these industries took a tumble in the 80’s and 90’s and without a doubt this has left an impact on the community. Whilst being part of the Greater Bilbao area the town has its own distinctive personality, and Sestao River Club contributes to this.

Down to logistics:

Bilbao’s metro has two easy to navigate lines. Line 1 makes it’s way down the right side of the river towards Plentzia, whilst Line 2 goes down the left towards Kabiezes. To get to Sestao you have to get on Line 2. With a Barik Card the journey will around 2€ for a return, perhaps even less. Once at Sestao station leave through the exit marked Kasko, this leads out on to Kasko Plaza. From here it is a short walk to the Campo Municipal de Las Llanas: go across the Plaza until you see the street sign for Alameda de Las Llanes, turn right here and keep walking, the large green perimeter walls of the stadium should become visible quite quickly, follow them round to the ticket office and stadium entrance.

The Stadium was typical of what one might expect from a team at this level. It was bit rundown and perhaps in need of some upgrades, but with the help of the noisy home support it provided a fantastic atmosphere. The stadium has one main stand (tribuna) that lies adjacent to the pitch and then in the surrounding parts there are concrete rows where you can either sit or stand (preferencia).Those are the two options that are offered at the Ticket Office: Tribuna is 15€ and Preferencia is 10€.

Upon arriving in Sestao and heading to the stadium the importance of the club to the area became obvious to me; I saw many fans, both young and old, dressed in the club’s iconic green and black striped kit. Given that the kick-off coincided with the derby game being played between Sestao’s larger neighbours Athletic Club and SD Eibar I didn’t expect to be joined by many fans inside Las Llanas. But I was pleasantly mistaken. The club’s motto is ‘Algo mas que el orgullo de un pueblo’ (Something more than the pride of a town) and it is fitting. Despite the Athletic-Eibar game, the citizens of Sestao turned out in plentiful force as 1,000 people came to see their local club play its first game of the season and filled the entire grandstand except for a small cordoned-off area. It is said that the stadium has a maximum attendance of 8,900 but to me the stadium didn’t feel like it was lacking in numbers or empty at all, maybe this was simply due to the amount of noise the home fans made.

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The Match Report:

The match lacked something in quality but the physicality, directness and frenetic pace of the game as well as the intensity of the Sestao River supporters ensured that it was an entertaining event nonetheless. In the first half neither side managed to completely dominate the game as the match was riddled with poor passes, badly-timed challenges and some suspect finishing- everything I love about lower league football. After the 30 minute mark, however, Sestao River settled down and started to take control of the ball and started putting together some decent attacking moves with slick passing; but in spite of all their attacking intent, they couldn’t find a way past an organised defence and furthermore, they remained susceptible at the back. Bermeo looked to capitalise on this by sitting deep and breaking quickly whenever Sestao conceded possession, which was fairly often. These tactics almost paid off for the away side when their number seven Azkuenaga was put through on goal only to be thwarted by a brilliant save from Sestao’s keeper Ruben Lavin in the 36th minute.

The second half was much of the same. Both sides looked to get the ball forward as quickly as possible but both lacked the quality to convert their chances when they found themselves in decent positions. Further highlights from the second-half included Sestao’s Jon Etxaburu being stretchered-off after overrunning the pitch and tripping over the encompassing concrete borders; and in the 69th minute Sestao were lucky not to have a man sent-off as one of their central-defenders was done for pace on a Bermeo counter-attack and took out the opposition player, thus preventing a goalscoring opportunity. Perhaps, the referee was somewhat intimidated by the raucous Sestao crowd when he decided to keep the red in his pocket, giving a yellow instead. The final standout chance of the game came in the 76th minute as Sestao Right-Back Ander Gago had a long distance effort turned behind by Bermeo keeper Aitor. The game eventually finished a goalless draw, but the 0-0 scoreline belied the true nature of the game that had been played. It was a riveting affair full of blood, sweat, tears and studs.

I would advise anyone who is in Bizkaia and is looking for an authentic lower-league footballing experience to pay a visit to Sestao and El Campo Municipal de Las Llanas. If what I saw this weekend is a regular occurrence then a Sestao River Club game is definitely worth your time and money.

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