The splendid Moorish capital of Granada, backdropped by the Sierra Nevada, provides one of the best settings for top-flight football in Spain.
As Granada Club de Fútbol stayed up (just!) in 2015-16, the mayor should make good on his promise to build them a new stadium and training centre north of the city.
For now, the Rojiblancos play at the Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes, itself a relatively newly built ground south of town. It replaced the original Los Cármenes by the bullring that the cash-strapped club were forced to sell.
The story then gets complicated, involving lesser-known local clubs and shady arrangements for higher league status.
Granada CF, formerly Club Recreativo Granada, have been in operation since 1931. Unable to gain promotion to the Segunda at their new stadium inaugurated in 1995, Granada fell into so much debt their unpaid players complained to the FA. In 2002, Granada were forcibly relegated to the fourth-flight Tercera, where they found local rivals CP Granada 74 and Arenas Armilla.
It took four seasons, but Granada clambered up to the Segunda B. The CP Granada 74 they found there were not the same. Today CP Granada 74 still exist, and play at the Club Polideportivo in La Chana, north of town – but are the youth side of the original club. The Granada 74 CF created in 2007 have gone out of business. Founder and president Carlos Marsá Valdovinos bought the club Ciudad de Murcia, or rather their rights to play in the Segunda. All the players, including Argentine centre-back Cristian Díaz, a U-20 World Cup winner in 1995, moved everyone to Granada.
But… after one season in the Segunda, and one in the Segunda B, Granada 74 CF were too broke to carry on. As two clubs, the Granada CF of 1931 heritage and the newly created Granada Atlético CF had been groundsharing the Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes, Granada 74 CF were forced to play in front of meagre crowds at Motril, an hour’s drive away. The arrangement, and the budget, lasted two seasons.
So who were these groundsharers of Los Cármenes, Granada Atlético CF? In 2005, investors from Granada had struck a Murcia/Granada 74 type arrangement with Guadix, near Granada. (Another club from Granada Province, Íllora, then moved over to Guadix.) Five years on and with no fan base, Granada Atlético were dissolved too, despite proposals to recreate them as the reserve side for Granada CF.
Granada CF were, in effect, already a reserve side, due to a partnership arrangement with Udinese. In 2009, Udinese owner Gino Pozzo bought Granada. He agreed to take on many of indebted Granada’s players, in return for the Andalucians being able to give valuable match practice to reserves and youngsters from Friuli. Granada duly gained promotion to the Primera in 2011. Pozzo then bought Watford in 2012.
As for Arenas de Armilla, founded the same year as Granada CF, they can point to a proud history of serving the community, and 16 recent seasons in the Tercera. Based at the municipal stadium in the district of the same name, in south-west Granada, Arenas are now in the Primera Andaluza (Grupa 4), the fifth flight. The accent, though, is on youth, not artificially connived league status for quick profit.
Granada’s Federico García Lorca Airport is 18km (11 miles) west of town. An hourly bus (journey time 40mins, €3) runs to key points in the city centre. A taxi (34 658 224 756) to town costs €25-€28 depending on time of day.
The Granada Tourist Office has details of local hotels. Granada is a popular, year-round tourist destination, with a huge influx of visitors during Semana Santa in Easter week.
Nearest the stadium, the Hotel Abades Nevada Palace is a treat-yourself four-star with pools indoor and out, spa, gym and starlit terrace.
Near the centre, just over the river from the stadium district of Zaidín, the Hotel MA Nazaríes Business & Spa is where Spain and the better Spanish club sides stay when they’re in town. Nearby old-school Hotel Reino de Granada has a mix of rooms, some capacious, some cramped.
In the shadow of the Alhambra and by the tapas bars of Plaza Campo del Príncipe, the Hostal La Ninfa provides comfortable rooms behind a striking façade. Also stylish is the Anacapri near the Cathedral. Nearby are the Hostal Pensión Antares, stupid cheap if you don’t need private facilities, eminently affordable otherwise; and tasteful three-star Posada del Toro.
Granada prides itself on its bar life and its tapas, traditionally (but not always) free. Bar hubs include Plaza Campo del Príncipe, Plaza Nueva and the later-opening Calle Pedro Antonio de Alarcón in the student quarter. The local beer is Alhambra.
Most concur that the best and most expat-friendly bar to watch the game is Paddy’s Pub (Calle Santa Escolástica 15), the TVs strategically placed and the Guinness decent – it’s Irish-run. Hannigan & Sons is another pub choice, with Murphy’s and Paulaner to complement the Guinness and TV sports.
For a more Spanish atmosphere, head to Calle Pedro Antonio de Alarcón and the bustling beerhall Cervecería Agamenón (No.69), with its two huge TVs and many beers. Nearby Café Bar La Esquina (No.59) is more intimate, with bottles of wine and beer labelled in honour of Granada CF, generous tapas and TV football.
Bodegas Castañeda (Calle de Almireceros 1) is a local institution for beer and taps, though doesn’t do football. Mesón La Gamba Alegre (No.71) is cheap and definitely cheerful – the Happy Prawn, indeed.