Background - The conversion in 1992 of many of
Spain’s leading clubs to Sociedades Anónimas Deportivas, in effect a limited
company, weighed heavily on a number of outfits as the decade wore on. The
necessity for greater financial transparency was something that did not sit
comfortably at the top of the Spanish game, with Sevilla & Celta Vigo only
receiving a reprieve from demotion to Segunda B, on the eve of the 1995-96
season. The need for clubs to provide endorsements against any debts amassed
saw many of Spain’s big clubs struggle. This culminated in May 2000, when the
La Primera campaign concluded with the relegation to La Segunda of three of
Spain’s biggest institutions, namely Real Betis, Sevilla FC and Atlético Madrid.
The story of the campaign – Atlético president Jesus Gil brushed
off relegation to the second division as an inconvenience, saying that the club
would have a “Season in Hell” before returning to the top flight. Unfortunately
for Atléti, “Hell” was not particularly welcoming and an appalling start to the
season saw the team lose its first three fixtures and win only one of the next
four. In fact, only Sevilla made a convincing start to the season, as Betis
also struggled to adapt to life in La Segunda. At the half-way stage, Sevilla
on 40, led Betis by a point, with Tenerife three points further back in third.
In truth however, every team showed startling levels of inconsistency, which
offered Atlético a crumb of comfort as they sat in mid-table, ten points off the
promotion places. By week 33, Atlético had reduced the gap on third place to
two points, but defeats in weeks 34 & 35 saw the momentum swing back to
Tenerife. In the run-in, Sevilla pulled away to claim the title with two games
to go, but Betis and Tenerife faltered. The final weekend saw Betis, Tenerife
and Atlético Madrid separate by a single point, with two places in La Primera
up for grabs.
|The shy & retiring Jesus Gil prepares for a year in Hell|
Significant Matches – The final set of fixtures saw all three
protagonists on the road, with Betis at Real Jaén, Tenerife at Leganés and Atlético
making the short journey to already relegated Getafe. Tenerife and Atléti were
separated by a goal difference of six in favour of the team from the Canarias,
as both sides had beaten each other by 2 goals to one. With the crowd limited
to 15,000 at Getafe’s Colisuem Alfonso Perez, many Atléti fans chose to cheer
on Leganés, ensuring that Tenerife faced a hostile atmosphere. Betis calmed
their nerves as early as the 2nd minute when Casas scored, and Atlético edged
into third place when Luque scored in the 28th minute. Betis sealed second
place when Casas added to his tally in the 71st minute. Then, with 18 minutes
of normal time remaining, Tenerife’s Hugo Morales struck a vital winner from 30 yards,
silencing Atlético’s support in two separate stadiums.
|Morales scores and extends Atlético’s stay in Hell|
Extras – Jesus Gil was a man not renowned for his patience, but
this season saw him at his most extreme, getting through 3 managers. First to
go, after week 6, was Fernando Zambrano. His successor was former Sevilla coach
Marcos Alonso, who guided the club to the semi-finals of the cup, but was
sacked following the 0-3 reverse at home to Real Murcia in week 35. B Team
coach Carlos García Cantarer saw out the remaining seven games. Atlético did
reach the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, losing 1-2 on aggregate to the
eventual winners, Real Zaragoza.
For the Record – The 2000-01 campaign may be remembered for many
things, but goal scoring is not one of them. A paltry 2.19 goals were scored
per match, with champions Sevilla topping the charts with 66 strikes.
Recreativo conceded fewest goals, with just 29 entering the back of their net.
However it was the size of the attendances that is the season’s most memorable
statistic. An incredible 4.8 million fans watched football in La Segunda in
2000-01, thanks in no small part to the presence of so many big clubs. Atlético
topped the charts with an average home attendance of 42,950, only bettered by
Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Primera.
Sevilla & Real Betis both averaged crowds of 30,000 for their home
fixtures, and the division as a whole witnessed a 60% year on year increase in
|Estadio Vicente Calderon - Big-time attendances in La Segunda|
Pichichi – Atlético Madrid’s Salva Ballesta was the division’s top
scorer with 21 goals. Sala was a Journeyman professional who started out at
Sevilla B in 1993. He left in summer 2001 for Valencia where he won League Championship
a year later. He scored a total of 145 goals in 400 senior appearances and
played 4 times for La Seleccion between 2001-05.
Zamora – César Quesada of Recreativo Huelva was top goalkeeper in
La Segunda. Quesada debuted for Elche in 1988, but left the club following
their relegation to Segunda B in 1993. His career appeared to be in the
doldrums, playing for a series of lowly Segunda B clubs, before signing for
Recreativo in 1996. Here he earned promotion to La Primera in 2002 and retired
after leading them to the cup final in 2003.
|Quesada - Top of the Stops|
The Clubs today – Any reunion of the class of 2000-01 would be a
fairly makeshift affair, with the eleven intervening seasons full of incident
for the participants. Sevilla, Real Betis, Atlético Madrid, Sporting Gijón,
Levante and Getafe now play in the top flight, but not all have made a direct
ascent, as Getafe dropped to Segunda B before making the top grade. Only Elche,
Córdoba, Real Murcia and Recreativo Huelva can be found in this season’s second
division, with Elche the only club that has remained in situ. Tenerife,
Albacete, Leganés, Salamanca, Eibar, Badajoz and Real Jaén all play their
football in Segunda B, whilst Racing Ferrol play in the Tercera and SD
Compostela play in the Galician regional leagues. Three of the season’s
contestants have disappeared from view, with CF Extremadura closing in 2010 and
Universidad de Las Palmas & UE Lleida departing last summer.
|The Final Table La Segunda 2000-01|
Labels: A Season in the Spotlight