Hércules Alicante

Once mighty Greeks now do battle with lowly rivals

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Established in 1914, officially registered eight years later, Hércules Alicante have enjoyed relatively short spells in the Primera, first in 1935 and most recently in 2010.

Attached to the local swimming club, Hércules had adopted its colours of blue and white by the time French entrepreneur René Bardin Delille arrived, having married an alicantina. Also falling in love with the city, ‘Don René’ invested heavily in its local football club, building the splendid Campo de Bardín that opened in 1932.

Within three years, Hércules had risen from the Tercera to the Primera, bringing Real Madrid and Barcelona to the Bardín and gaining a sixth place in each of the two seasons either side of the Spanish Civil War.

Hércules Tienda Oficial/Peterjon Cresswell

Key player of the day was Spanish international goalkeeper José Pérez García, who stayed at Hércules until the club’s relegation in 1942. For the next three decades the Blanquiazules stayed mainly in the Segunda, before the arrival of another entrepreneur, José Rico Pérez.

Placing his trust in coach Arsenio Iglesias, who later turned Deportivo La Coruña into title contenders, Pérez built a new stadium north of the city centre. Perhaps even more impressively, he also brought the World Cup to Alicante.

In the run-up to the visit by Maradona and co, Hércules had dropped from the top six under Iglesias to relegation contenders, returning to the Segunda by the time Diego had scored his first World Cup goal to put Argentina 2-0 up against Hungary.

Although Hércules thrice come back up to the Primera, it was always only briefly – not even the goals of 1978 World Cup star Mario Kempes could keep them afloat in 1985-86. The club is currently doing battle with local sides from Catalonia, Majorca and the Valencia region in the fourth tier after relegation in 2022.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Built by the Hércules president of the same name, the José Rico Pérez opened exactly as the club regained promotion to the Primera after three decades in the wilderness. True, the Blanquiazules had had brief forays in the top flight but their curtain-raising friendly with Barcelona in August 1974 prefaced not only their longest stay in La Liga but a highest-ever fifth-placed finish that very season.

As now, the capacity then was 30,000. This was increased to nearly 39,000 when the wily, moneyed Pérez had his Alicante arena included on the 17-strong venue list for Spain’s hosting of the World Cup in 1982. Local rivals Elche was another but it was here that the holders Argentina were based – after the opener in Barcelona – and here that Poland beat France for third place. For a city with little football pedigree, this was prestige indeed.

The vertiginous four-tier Grada Mundialista remained in place though Hércules didn’t, relegated just before Maradona strode out here to face Hungary and El Salvador.

It was almost another 30 years before there was any significant revamp, again coinciding with the club’s promotion to the top flight, the most recent. Now all-seated, the José Rico Pérez reverted to its original capacity, its facilities improved and modernised.

Since immediate relegation and a deeper plunge into the fourth flight, Hércules bring scant crowds to the José Rico Pérez – as do the likes of Llosetense, Olot and Alcoyano.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

On match days, three special buses run to the stadium.

Infrequent bus 191 sticks to the eastern side of town behind the castle, skirting the city centre. The more convenient but the equally infrequent 192 passes near the train station at Aguilera 10, then central, bar-lined Plaza de los Luceros, before terminating behind the stadium on Calle Aureliano Ibarra. The handy 194 sets off from Plaza de los Luceros, every 20mins before kick-off.

Of the regular city buses, the most useful is the 8 every 10-15mins day and night, which runs from seafront Explanada de España, through the city centre along Rambla Méndez Núñez and up Avenida Elcoy behind the stadium. Elcoy 125 is the nearest stop.

A taxi from town should cost around €15.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

The ticket offices, taquillas, on Calle Foguerer José Romeu open up to 2hrs before kick-off.

For a Hércules league game, admission sold on the day, cash only. Prices start at €10 in the Fondo Sur and Norte behind the goals, with €15-€18 charged in the Preferente and €20 in the Tribuna, €25 if covered. Under-12s are charged €5, €10 in the Tribuna.

For Spain internationals, it’s around €25 in the Fondos and €20-€45 in the Preferente, prices rising to €60 under cover.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

By the ticket offices on Calle Foguerer José Romeu, the Hércules Tienda Oficial (Mon-Fri 10am-2pm, 5.30pm-8pm, Sat 10am-2pm, 2hrs before kick-off, closed the day after) sells blue scarves for boys, pink scarves for girls (bufandas, €12) and you still might find the odd souvenir relating to the club’s 90th anniversary.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

The first spot you come to from town, on Calle Foguerer José Romeu, shortly before the swimming pool and athletics ground, is a branch of burger joint Dadry’s, with a pull-down screen for big matches. 

For bars, head behind the stadium to the corner of Calle Aureliano Ibarra and Calle Cerda, opposite the church, where two-floor La Cuesta serves Mahou beer and mini sandwiches, mondaditos, as the TV blasts out constant football. Next door, San Miguel flows in the smaller Bar Toni. Note the Herculean iconography in each.