LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Almeria

The good, the bad and UD Almería back in La Liga

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

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 is one of the most remote outposts for top-flight football in Spain. Perhaps even more unusually, local club UD Almería were only 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.

Into town strolled Turki Al-Sheikh. Head of the Saudi General Authority for Entertainment, this former winner of the Arab Sports Personality award steered the club he bought in 2019 back to the top tier after a seven-year absence.

Kiosko Almadrabillas/Harvey Holtom

Their stadium, the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos, was built for the Games of the same name of 2005. In 2021, the incoming Saudi ownership agreed with the city council to extend the lease to UD Almería for another 25 years.

By then, the Rojiblancos will not long have celebrated their 50th anniversary. 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.

Welcome to Almeria/Harvey Holtom

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.

Gran Hotel Almería/Harvey Holtom

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 went out of business, notched up six seasons in the Primera before the big drop in 2015.

Now a former adviser to the royal court of Saudi Arabia has the task of building a football empire on the edge of the desert – a script few would have imagined when Almería were battled relegation from the Segunda in 2018.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and timings

Almeria Airport is 10km (six miles) east of town, connected by local Surbús 30 (€1.05 on board, journey time 35mins) every 25mins (Sat-Sun every 35mins). The stadium is on the eastern edge of town towards the airport, one stop away on the same bus line. 

It also calls at the city’s main transport hub, Estación Intermodal, the adjacent bus and train stations just east of the walkable city centre. All tickets on the 16-line Surbús network are €1.05 or €7.40 for a bonobús of ten. 

A taxi (+34 950 22 22 22) should cost around €15.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

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.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the stadium and city centre

The Almeria Tourist Office has a database of hotels and other accommodation options.

There are no hotels by the stadium. The best located in town is the Gran Hotel Almería, a four-star near the ferry terminal on Calle Reina Regente – but with a pool and sea views, it won’t be cheap. Close by, the equally central Costasol is a reliable three-star.

Suitably set by the cathedral, the Hotel Catedral Almería fills a historic palatial building with superior four-star rooms, quality gastronomy, an outdoor pool and a rooftop dining and drinking space. 

Grouped together on Plaza Flores, the contemporary Nuevo Torreluz, sister two-star Torreluz Centro and Marriott chain AC Almería all offer recommendable lodgings within walking distance of the city’s attractions.