Club name: SD Gernika Club
Level: Segunda División B
Stadium: Estadio Urbieta
Maximum Capacity: 2,500
Ticket Prices: 15€
How to arrive: Euskotren to Institutoa Gernika and then a short, scenic walk to Urbieta.
For the second part of my double-game weekend I went over to Gernika to see its local side take on visitors Caudal Deportivo de Mieres from Asturias in a Segunda División B mid-table clash. It was a wonderful evening -apart from typically dreary Basque weather- with glorious football fit to match the breathtaking views on offer at SD Gernika’s Estadio Urbieta.
Gernika lies just south of the Urdaibai estuary and is surrounded by the enchanting and captivating hills and forests which make up one of the most important and most beautiful national parks on the Iberian peninsula. Due to it’s geographical position right in the heart of the province of Bizkaia, Gernika has played a storied role in Bizkaian and Basque history. Traditionally, lords, dukes and other important folk in the region would meet in Gernika’s ‘La Casa de Juntas’ (The Meeting House) to would discuss and debate matters of the land, either in The Meeting House or underneath the famous Tree of Gernika, an oak tree, that stands in the garden of the building. Whilst the tree and the The Meeting House are no longer used in an administrative manner they remain a symbol of Basque rights and autonomy, and are a must-see for any tourists visiting the area. In more modern history, Gernika is most well known for being one of the sites where Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe, by the request of General Franco, first trialled its ‘Blitzkrieg’ aerial bombing technique during the Spanish Civil War. Although figures differ it is predicted that upwards of 1,000 people from the town lost their lives during the raid. As well as this, the town itself was almost completely destroyed but somehow the Meeting House and Tree of Gernika remained intact. The bombing caused great outcry in the world and artist Pablo Picasso even created a piece inspired by the incident, ‘Guernica’. Which can now be seen in the Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía, in Madrid. Nowadays, Gernika is a vibrant and bustling town with a population of around 16,000 people. Locally, the town is known for its Monday Markets, it’s huge Cesta Punta court, the extraordinary Church of Santa María and the usage of the Basque Language, amongst of things.
The town’s local football football club officially named Sociedad Deportiva Gernika Club, often shortened to Gernika Club, was formed in 1922 and currently competes in Spain’s third tier competition, the Segunda División B. Like most clubs at this level Gernika Club has spent all of its history flickering between the Tercera División and the Segunda División B. Since 1955, The club has played it’s home games at the Estadio Urbieta which is part of a larger complex that also contains a rugby pitch, several smaller football training pitches and a lively bar -where you can get a pintxo and a beer for a cool €3.50. Apart from this, the most striking feature of Estadio Urbieta is its surroundings. The views from inside the stadium are breathtaking, with the Basque Country’s rolling green hills covered in deep green forests providing some pleasant eye candy in addition to the football -this is a feature of my journey through the Basque Country’s stadiums that is fast becoming commonplace. On a more practical level, the ground has one main stand -filled to the brim when I went- made up of multi-coloured seats and the games are played on a high quality artificial turf which, unlike some games I have seen, didn’t prevent the players from playing an aggressive passing style focused on keeping the ball on the floor.
Down to Logistics
There are two main ways of getting to Gernika using public transport, buses or trains. As the Estadio Urbieta is just a little bit outside of the town centre I felt it would be easier to get a train to the station nearest the stadium. I took an Euskotren, for a nomial price, from Bilbao’s Casco Viejo station, which took approximately one hour to arrive to my destination, Insitutoa Gernika. From here I left the station turned right and walked up the street, at the end of the road there is a wooden bridge that crosses the train tracks, on the other side of the bridge I found myself in the Urbieta sports complex. I walked through the complex and around the training pitches until I saw the main ground, here opposite the bar I found the ticket office and paid 15€ for my ticket.
If I hadn’t already known the game was a mid-table clash I would have assumed that it was in fact of a top of the table team playing a bottom of the table team as Gernika outplayed their opponents in every single aspect of the game. I don’t know if it was the home crowd’s ferocius support or a bad day on the part of Caudal Deportivo but Gernika absolutely dominated.
Within two minutes Gernika’s skillful left winger Madrazo announced himself to Caudal’s right full back, given him a taste of the terror that would haunt him for the rest of the game. He collected the ball inside the opposition half and proceeded to turn the poor full back inside out before delivering a cross to nobody. One minute later Gernika’s opposite winger and equally marvellous Barron collected a long pass from keeper Diego before turning his full back and delivering a wonderful cross that found its man but was sent over the bar. The next ten minutes saw Gernika establish their dominance as they put together a period of possession full of slick and short passes. In the 18th minute Gernika capitalised on their superiority with the aid of some fortuitous defending. A long ball was sprayed up field from the defence intended for Madrazo on the edge of the 18 yard box led to some awful defending as two Caudal defenders miscommunicated and neither committed to challenging for the ball allowing Madrazo to collect possession. Consequently he poked a short pass to Gernika’s number 10 Abaroa who played one touch to move it out of his feet, set himself and then hit an absolute screamer into the top right corner. Two minutes later Gernika threatened again as Madrazo struck a volley over the bar and five minutes later another precise pass from left footed centre back Carracedo once again met marauding winger Barron who put a point perfect cross into the box that was met by the head of goalscorer Abaroa who duly put away for his and Gernika’s second of the game. The pace of the game slowed down somewhat after the second goal but there was still some simmering tension and Caudal might have had a goal had it not been for the impressive Gernika keeper who managed to keep out a header from a dangerous free kick on the right of the box. Of course, in a game that was full of action the first half was quite done with the nerves of the crowd and the game came to the boil again in the 42nd minute when Caudal defender Calahorro was given his marching orders by the referee for striking the face of a Gernika player inside the box when his team had a free kick. A poor lack of judgement from the defender which probably lost his side any chance of picking up point from the game.
After a five minute warming up period at the beginning of the second half the game kicked into life, but this time it was the ten-men Caudal who took the initiative as they looked to salvage a result from the game. Their dominance didn’t last for too long though as once again Madrazo found himself in a decent position inside the box, but for some reason decided to pass instead of shoot leading to a corner. Just two minutes later Madrazo delighted the crowd again with his dazzling dribbling abilites, picking up the ball on the left before cutting in, taking on 3 or 4 players and letting rip with a shot that went wide by whisker’s width. Poor Cristian Ferrero just couldn’t cope with Madrazo; he ended up looking like a cat chasing a laser as the winger turned him inside and out and back in again nearly every time he received the ball. The next big moment of the game came in the 66th minute as Gernika’s busy and physical striker missed a howling sitter, somehow managing to strike the crossbar from 4 yards out after the ball took an extra unpredicted bobble. For the rest of the game Gernika took almost complete control, Caudal had a chance to drag a goal back in the 78th minute but it was horribly scuffed and thus the home side saw the game out with ease.
A dazzling display of forward thinking attacking football coupled with stunning views, a lively crowd and a cheap bar, what’s not to like? As of yet I am still to have an unpleasant experience at a game in the Basque Country. Gernika without a doubt have played my favourite brand of football so far, and I would pay the 15€ entrance fee every time to watch Madrazo and Barron doing their thing each week, pure entertainment. If you are looking for a great atmosphere, great football and stunning scenery, then head to Gernika Club!