Osasuna are the flagship club for both Pamplona and the Navarre region. Playing at the intimate El Sadar stadium, the Gorritxoak (‘Little Reds’) have maintained a top-flight presence for all but seven seasons since 1980.
With Basque roots – Osasuna means ‘Health’ in Basque – the club were late developers compared to Athletic Bilbao or Real Sociedad. Formed from a merger of two local sports associations in 1920, Sportiva and New Club, Osasuna played a series of occasional friendlies against mainly Basque opposition.
With star players such as Spanish international Seve Golburu and teenage prodigy Julián Vergara, Osasuna made the Segunda in 1932 and the Primera three years later. Despite the presence of the Bienzobas brother, international striker Paco and centre-half Cuqui, the stay was a brief one.
It wasn’t until the late 1950s that Osasuna kept pace in the Primera for any length of time. Later Real Madrid star, Navarre-born Ignacio Zoco started his career at Osasuna then, his departure signalling two dark decades for the Gorritxoak.
Forced to sell their long-term home of the Campo de San Juan and decamp to the out-of-town El Sadar in 1966-67, Osasuna moved into the modern, post-Franco era under long-term club president (and bank director) Fermín Ezcurra.
With the development of the Tajonar training centre and on a sounder financial footing, Osasuna regained top-flight status in 1980.
Foreign internationals such as Pole Jan Urban (best remembered for his hat-trick in a 4-0 win at the Bernabéu), Michael Robinson, Sammy Lee and Ashley Grimes came to the fore as Osasuna earned top-six league finishes and embarked on campaigns in the UEFA Cup.
A memorable 3-2 win in Stuttgart in 1991-92 stands out, Osasuna beaten by eventual UEFA Cup winners Ajax in the next round, with a goal in each game by Dennis Bergkamp.
In 2005-06, the Champions League beckoned thanks to consistent form from former Manchester United keeper Ricardo and a fourth-place league finish. Osasuna had pipped Sevilla on the clubs’ head-to-head record, though the Andalusians gained revenge the following year. Osasuna having failed to reach the group stage of the Champions League, they beat Bordeaux, Rangers and Bayer Leverkusen to make the semi-final of the UEFA Cup. Holders Sevilla then overturned a 1-0 deficit in Pamplona to go on to lift the trophy once more.
Since then, Osasuna have either been mired in mid-table or worse. In 2009, a 30-yard screamer from Juanfran saved the day against his old club Real Madrid. In bottom place and 1-0 down at half-time, Osasuna’s improbable 2-1 win kept them up for another season.
There was no such dramatic salvation in 2013-14, only a sad, slow sink back to the Segunda.
El Sadar, known until recently as the Reyno de Navarra, is the intimate ground built by Osasuna in 1967 after financial circumstances forced them to sell the Campo de San Juan.
Attractively located the other side of La Ciudadela park from the Hotel Tres Reyes, the San Juan held fewer than 10,000 spectators and served Osasuna for more than 40 years.
El Sadar was built close to the river of the same name, on cheaper land south of town. Comprising four two-tiered stands, it was unveiled with a triangular tournament in September 1967. The opening game was between Real Zaragoza and Vitória Setúbal.
A new Preferencia Alta Stand was added in 1989, increasing capacity to 30,000. This was reduced a decade later when El Sadar became all-seated. With the income from regional government sponsorship in 2006 – hence the short-lived name change – offices, private boxes and a club shop were gradually installed.
The layout remains simple – Fondos Norte and Sur behind each goal, the Preferencia main stand on one sideline, facing the Lateral on the other. Visiting fans are allocated a sector in the Tribuna Alta, the highest seats, above the Preferencia.
El Sadar is near the university campus south of Pamplona, just off the main Avenida Zaragoza that leads from town to the airport. Two buses serve the route, each running every 15-20min. No.11 runs from Labrit by the Plaza de Toros, passing by the Avenida Hotel, before stopping at C/Sadar, 14 by the stadium. It’s nine stops from Labrit, seven from the hotel – allow 15mins.
Airport bus No.16 runs from the bus station to Av. Zaragoza (FRTE No.105), by the junction with Avenida Navarra, the stadium a ten-minute walk away. It’s five stops from the bus station – allow 10mins.
The El Sadar office (Tue-Fri 9.30am-1.30pm, 4.30pm-7.30pm) deals with ticket sales in the week before the game, the El Sadar ticket office (Sat 11am-1.30pm, 6.30pm-8pm, match day from 10am) over the weekend. In town, the Echarte bookshop (Calle San Saturnino) also distributes tickets. Online sales are served by Ticketmaster.
For most league fixtures, a seat in the Tribuna Gol (Norte) and Sur, and Grada Gol is €50-€60, as it is in the Tribuna Lateral and Preferencia. Prices increase by at least €20 for Barcelona or Real Madrid.
At the stadium, the rather swish Tienda Oficial (Mon 4.30pm-8pm, Tue-Sat 10am-1.30pm, 4.30pm-8pm, match day Sun from noon) proffers a range of goods in red and blue, including dressing gowns, towels, dominoes and cards for the popular Basque game of mus.
Two bars are built into the stadium. El Txoko del Sadar is a simple, friendly place used as a day-to-day drinking spot by people from the neighbourhood. El Bodegón is more substantial, with touches of red and blue inside, and provides a full menu. Both have seats outside, El Bodegón also providing a roof above them.