Spanish football is world-renowned for the level of quality and passion; you can really feel the atmosphere at La Liga games and those that have been leave mesmerised.
At Valencia the streets around the Mestalla neighbourhood and the Mestalla itself are jammed full of people. However, when your cast your eyes on the away bay it is virtually empty. In fact, this is the case at almost every La Liga club.
For fans in England, Germany and Italy, the concept of “away days” is ingrained into the way they live their match-day experience. So why does La Liga, one of Europe’s biggest leagues, not have this in their culture?
Spain, in comparison with the rest of Europe is a huge country and has an extremely low population density. For reference, England’s population density is four times higher than Spain’s and Germany’s is twice as high.
With the population spread less densely, away days and inter-city travel becomes far longer and tasking.
Spain’s population is also distributed along the coasts, which maximises the distances to travel. A round trip from two coastal cities like Sevilla and Valencia takes roughly ten hours of travel.
Spanish sides are no strangers to these long distances; they currently hold the record for average highest distance travelled per season in Europe at 27,606kms.
Premier League fans travel an average of 7,156km, Bundesliga fans cover 13,034km and Serie A fans do 17,901km. Las Palmas cover 78,362km per season and are the most travelled team in Europe with Vigo at 3rd with 32,543km yearly
The distances are one issue, but the transportation makes it even more difficult. Although most trains connect the big cities they are often routed through hubs like Madrid and Barcelona.
This means that fans have to go via two cities and change trains, complicating and extending their travel times. In England and Germany, the train system connects every city and town to each other.
Short and direct train services give fans the opportunity to travel quickly between cities unlike in Spain.
Kick off times
Kick off times add to the conundrum of the Spanish away day and is a deterrent against them.
Spanish kick off times range from 7:45pm normally to 10:30pm during the hottest months around summer. This means the chances of travelling home become difficult as public transportation stops before the match even ends.
If the game is on a Sunday no one with school or work could feasibly travel home in time. The traditional kick off times of 3pm and 5pm ensure that fans can leave after breakfast and be back for dinner.
Although matchday weeks are announced in advance, the kick off times and exact day of the games in Spain are only released two match weeks prior to the game itself due to television rights.
The lack of clarity doesn’t allow fans time to plan travel to and from away games.
Culturally, Spanish football is vastly different from other countries in Europe. Although the passion is just as high the way fans display their affections for their teams differ immensely.
For most Spanish fans buying a “bono” (season ticket) and attending all homes games is the way to go. With away games being watched at the local cerveceria or café.
Unlike in England and Germany many small bars run the risk of illegal streams and services.
In 2018, Spanish police reported they were investigating over 2000 establishments nationwide for illegal televising of La Liga matches.
Despite being illegal, the availability of these streams help fans watch their team from the comfort of their “local”.
Although, away games are not attended as heavily, Spanish fans channel their passion into different facets of their footballing landscape.
Player welcomes are a huge phenomenon in Latin football and especially Spain – 40,000 people were at the Nou Camp to welcome Neymar when he joined them.
Around 45,000 were at the Vicente Calderon to welcome Fernando Torres back home while a record 80,000 people turned up to the Bernabeu to welcome icon Cristiano Ronaldo to their Galatico filled side.
They also voice their displeasure when games aren’t going as expected. Gary Neville found this out after Valencia were drubbed 7-0 by Barcelona, prompting fans to go to training to hurl abuse at the staff.
For Spanish fans the home games are where all the magic and passion happens. It’s how they have always done things and they definitely do them well.
The sound and colour in Spanish stadiums are beautiful and although there aren’t many away fans, the home fans do more than enough to generate a great atmosphere.