Set in the deep south west of Extremadura and close to the border with Portugal, Villanueva del Fresno is the archetypal sleepy, one-horse town, that might just have made Sergio Leone's short-list when location hunting for his Spaghetti Westerns. Back in the summer of 2011, things began to stir in this town of 3,600 inhabitants and it was all to do with the local football team, Sporting Villanueva Promesas.
|Estadio Municipal de Villanueva del Fresno. Lotta name, little ground.|
Formed in 1993, Sporting spent its first ten years in the regional league before hitting the Tercera at the start of the 2003-04 season. Progress since then has been steady with a play-off berth secured at the end of the 2005-06 season. Here they were paired with UD Puertollano and lost the two-legged tie 0-2 on aggregate.
|Not much in the way of home comforts, the ground holds 3,000|
The following two seasons saw the club finish outside of the play-off spots in sixth and seventh place, then in 2009-10 the club finished in a disappointing twelfth place. This prompted a splurge of spending by President Jose Maria Perez Hurtado and this was rewarded with a second place finish in the Tercera. In the play-offs Sporting saw off Binissalem and Racing Santander B and then Alhaurin de la Torre 3-1 on aggregate to win a place in Segunda B for the first time. However, that was when the problems began. Hurtado, despite financing the promotion push, decided that he could not finance the club's first season in the third flight, and for a time it appeared that the club may not take up its berth in Segunda B. Then, just before the July deadline, Hurtado sold the club.
The apparent saviours were the Garcia brothers, from far off Barcelona. They promised the world, but ultimately delivered diddley squat. The Catalan brothers pledged to build a new squad and expand the Estadio Municipal de Villanueva, and a first team was indeed assembled. Work even started on widening the pitch and improving the changing rooms, however this was not completed in time for the start of the new season. So the club temporarily decamped 20 miles to the north and played their first home match in Segunda B against local rivals Badajoz in Olivenza.
|The Estadio Municipal's main stand is... well... small|
Sporting Villnueva's exodus lasted just the one match as the club entertained Cadiz in week three of the season back in Villanueva del Fresno. All was not well however, for despite proving very difficult to beat, the players went unpaid for the majority of the season. In late October, the players and manager took up residence in the changing block and relied on hand-outs from sympathetic locals. This all came to a head at the half-way stage of the season when a deadline set by the players passed without any sign of their wages. Sporting Villanueva did not show up for their return tie with Badajoz on 15 January at the Estadio Vivero and with the players effectively free agents, the club resigned from the league on 19 January.
|Municipal de Olivenza, a temporary home for Sporting Villanueva|
|A pitch that is not conducive for all that Spanish tiki-taka nonsense|
Sporting played their matches at the rather ramshackle Estadio Municipal, an ageing ground in the east of town with one basic cover over 300 seats come steps. The other main areas for spectators are behind each goal, with the southern end having a short cover in the corner next to a bar. The east side has lost its wall and is now just cordoned off with a green and white hording. Sporting's story is a familiar tale in Extremadura, one of Spain's poorest regions. The past decade has seen clubs such as Cerro de Reyes, CP Merida & CF Extremadura all go to the wall, but as with the latter two, don't be too surprised to see another club trotting out at the Estadio Municipal sometime soon.
Labels: Extremadura, Tercera or Below