Arenas Club de Getxo is etched into the history of Spanish football. You may wonder what this little club from the distinctly middle class district in northern Bilbao has done to earn such recognition? Well not a lot recently, but go back to the first quarter of the 20th Century and Arenas Club was among the movers and shakers in the formative years of competitive football in Spain.
Formed in 1909 as Arenas Football Club, they made their first home at the Campo Lamiaco on the northern banks of the Nevrion, a ground that had just been vacated by regional heavyweights Athletic Club de Bilbao. In 1912, the club was renamed Arenas Club and a year later on 12 October 1913, took part in the the first ever match in the Campeonato Regional del Norte. Although Arenas beat Club Deportivo de Bilbao 0-2, they finished fifth out of six teams, as Athletic won the title and progressed to the Copa del Rey, beating Espana de Barcelona in the final. Those formative years were spent in the shadows of Athletic, and when they moved to the newly built San Mamés in 1913, Arenas left Lamiaco and took up residence at Athletic's former stadium, the Campo Jolaseta. It was here in 1914, that Arenas played a series of friendly matches against FC Barcelona that put the club firmly on the map. Over space of a week, Arenas played the Catalan champions three times, winning all the matches.
|A big sail-ship, red & black stripes and two dogs |
nailed to a cross. Must be Arenas Club de Getxo
|The Campo Jolaseta, Athletic Club's second cast-off for Arenas|
In 1917, in an attempt to stretch its appeal to a wider audience, Arenas became Arenas Club de Guecho, the largest district north of the Rio Nevrion. That year also saw the club's first major honour when it won the Campeonato Regional del Norte and therefore qualified for the Copa del Rey. Here they overcame challenges from Sporting Gijon and Vigo Sporting to reach the final. At 4 pm on 13 May 1917, Arenas and Madrid FC (later to adopt the Real pre-fix) lined up at Español's Camp de Muntaner (Not the Camp de la Industria as widely reported). The match went to extra-time and after 120 minutes, with the scores at 0-0, a reply was ordered. Two days later at the same venue, the clubs played again, and despite taking the lead in the 15th minute, Madrid equalised late in the game and sealed victory with a goal in extra time. In 1919, Arenas won the Campeonato Regional del Norte for a second time, then disposed of Racing Madrid & Sporting Vigo en route to the final of the Copa del Rey. The final was played on 19 May 1919 in Madrid at the Estadio del Paseo Martínez Campos, home of Racing Madrid, and FC Barcelona were the club's opponents. This time Arenas were not to be denied and although the match was tied at 2-2 after 90 minutes, three further goals in extra time saw Arenas lift the trophy.
|The Arenas team that won the 1919 Copa del Rey|
A further Campeonato was won in 1922 and three years later the club built its first ground, the Campo Ibaiondo on the border between Gexto and Leioa. The club's fourth league title followed at the end of the 1924-25 season, which also saw Arenas reach it's third cup final. Barcelona were the opponents at the Estadio Reino Victoria in Sevilla, and this time the Catalan's gained revenge with a 2-0 victory. A fifth and final Campeonato was won in 1927 and Arenas also made it to a fourth cup final. The final of the 1927 Copa del Rey was played at the Estadio del Torrero in Zaragoza and to date is the only all-Basque final. Their opponents on 16 May 1927? Athletic Club? Real Sociedad? No, Real Union Club, dropped down from the border town of Irun and won the trophy with a single goal, three minutes from the end of extra-time. With five regional league titles and a Copa del Rey victory from four finals, Arenas was a shoe-in for a place in the inaugural National Championship. It also helped that the club's Vice-President Jose Maria Atxa Larrea was instrumental in forming the championship, a fact that the other league club's recognised by presenting Arenas with a bronze bust of Larrea. However, the advent of a fully professional league would have major financial implications, and Arenas was about to be hung by Larrea's own petard.
|"It's in the trees... It's coming" A very rural Campo Ibaiondo|
Initially, Arenas was competitive, finishing fifth in the first La Primera championship and third a year later. However, as the spread of teams competing in the first division moved further south, so the costs of partaking increased. Add to that the financial clout that Athletic Club bought to the table, and Arenas was only heading one way. No longer able to attract the regions best players, or hold on to their own, the club's results suffered and they were relegated to La Segunda in 1935. In the final season before the Civil War, Arenas finished second in Group II of the second division, but lost out on promotion to Zaragoza & Celta Vigo in the play-offs. Life was very different after the war and after five seasons of diminishing results, Arenas dropped into the Tercera at the end of the 1943-44 season. A few years later, touched for cash, the club sold their Campo Ibaiondo, and bought a field 800 metres to the west of the old ground, just south of Getxo. The Campo Gobela opened in 1948 and had a capacity of 5,500. The main feature was a modest 15 metre wide stand on the south side of the ground.
|The original Campo Gobela in 1961|
The past sixty years or so has seen Arenas confined to regional football. That's not to say there hasn't been any highlights, they have just not been on the same scale as their ancestors exploits. The Tercera title has been won on three occasions, the last in 1960 seeing the club come mighty close to a return to La Segunda, before losing out to Burgos CF. The club dropped to the Regional Preferente for five seasons in the early 1970's, but gave a young Javier Clemente his first job in management, and he repaid them with promotion back to the Tercera in 1976. Three years later, Arenas clinched promotion to Segunda B, but their stay lasted just the one season, finishing eighteenth and within two years, the club was back in the Regional Preferente. Most of the last thirty years has been spent in the Tercera and Arenas has made the play-offs on two occasions, losing out to CD Tropezon in 2000 and Universidad Zaragoza in 2006. In fact the most significant event during this period has been the complete redevelopment of the Campo Gobela.
|On its last legs - The Campo Gobela had passed its sale by date|
|The Nuevo Gobela - A modern touch for one of Spain's stalwarts|
|The shape of things to come - Gobela's one stand stadium|