In Andalucia’s far eastern corner, set in a desert-like landscape where movies such as ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘El Cid’ were filmed, Almeria was one of the most remote settings for top-flight football in 2014-15. Perhaps even more unusually, local club UD Almería were formed as recently as 1989.
The Rojiblancos climbed up the Spanish league pyramid until gaining promotion to the Primera in 2007. Relegated in 2011, Almería spent two seasons in the Segunda before an extra-time win over Las Palmas, and easy passage past Girona, in the promotion play-offs gained them another sojourn in the top flight in 2013. Relegation followed in 2015.
Their stadium is equally modern, the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos built for the Games of the same name of 2005.
This is not to say that there was no soccer in Almeria before 1989 – the spaghetti-western landscape is littered with the ruins of failed football clubs. Soon after the game took off in Seville and Granada, there were modest teams such as Almería Foot-Ball Club, Almería Sporting Club and Almería Athletic Club. The first proper pitch, though, the Campo de Regocijos, wasn’t opened until 1923.
Sporting played an exhibition match there in 1927 against a team from Oran, hiring legendary goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora for the occasion – but within a year the club were no more.
Various teams blipped in and out of existence until the formation of Unión Deportiva Almería in 1947.
The original UD Almería duly won promotion from the third to the second division before changing their name to Atlético de Almería in 1953. In the lower flights, they would play fiery derby games against Trafalgar de Adra, along the coast.
Only Adra survived into the 1960s, when Hispania de Almería appeared, only to disappear. It wasn’t until 1971, and the arrival of AD Almería, that the city had a credible football club.
Playing in red-and-white stripes, AD were worthy predecessors of today’s UD Almería, leapfrogging from the fourth to the top flight in as many seasons between 1977 and 1979. A creditable mid-table finish was followed by relegation and, within only one year, dissolution.
Wearing the same colours, in their place came Club Polideportivo Almería, who held Barcelona to a 0-0 draw in a cup game in 1999.
The final attempt at launching a local club in 1989, has, toca madera, worked out. El Almería Club de Fútbol, renamed La Unión Deportiva Almería in 2001 just when Polideportivo we out of business, notched up six seasons in the Primera before the big drop in 2015.
A taxi (+34 950 22 22 22) should cost around €15.
The Almeria Tourist Office offers brief details of local hotels and, remarkably, couch-surfing possibilities.
There are no hotels by the stadium. The best located in town is the relatively new Hotel Catedral Almería, a superior four-star whose gastronomy matches the quality of its 20 rooms. Equally central Costasol is a reliable three-star.
Grouped together on Plaza Flores, the four-star Nuevo Torreluz www.torreluz.com/en/new-torreluz-hotel, sister two-star Torreluz Centro and AC Almería all offer recommendable lodgings within walking distance of the city’s attractions.
The main bar hub is around Plaza Masnou and Calle San Pedro. In summer the scene moves to the Paseo Marítimo.
Nearby Café Colón (Plaza Marqués de Heredia) is a landmark while La Charka (Calle Trajano 7) is a great spot to watch the game over beers and tapas. The Bar Bahía de Palma (Plaza de la Administración Vieja/Calle Mariana) and El Tropezón (Plaza Salvador Torres Cartas 1) are in similar traditional vein, though lack communal football gawping.
Two spots – Kiosko de Mar (Plaza de la Virgen del Mar) and Kiosko Almadrabillas (Plaza Presidentes) between beach and station – allow for al-fresco sipping of Alhambra beer.