Football Deep Into Valencia’s City’s Landscape And History; Nigeria’s Sunny A Part Of It

Football Deep Into Valencia’s City’s Landscape And History; Nigeria’s Sunny A Part Of It

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My media tour of Spain – the land of Laliga Santander has started in earnest and Valencia is the first port of call by us journalists from different parts of the world.

You willreas here, an interesting piece about the city of Valencia and its iconic football club, Valencia CF, as contained in a media pack provided to us.

Talking about the illustrious history of Valencia CF, Nigerian Laliga fans will be happy to recall that their compatriot – a certain Sunday Stephen, once played for this club.

‘Sunny’ as he was popularly known during his time in Spain, played for Valencia from 2007 to 2011. He won the Copa del Rey title in his first season at the club. The midfielder represented Spain at youth levels before earning one senior international cap for Nigeria against Guinea in a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match.

Aside Sunny, some other African players have featured for Valencia CF, including; Ayman Abdennour (Tunisia), Ivan Salvador (Equatorial Guinea), Joel Johnson (Liberia), Salif Keita (Mali) and Seydou Keita (Mali).

Other African players to have made the roster of Valencia CF are; Geoffrey Kondogbia (Central African Rep.), Steve Mokone (South Africa), Romero Espinosa (Morocco) and Moussa Saib (Algeria).

Here is an engaging story of Valencia city and Laliga’s Valencia CF. Read on.

Nigerian midfielder Sunday Stephen (Sunny) during his days at Valencia

The two big clubs in Spain’s third-biggest city, Valencia CF and Levante UD, have played a huge role in the daily life of its 800,000 residents for the last 100 years.

With both clubs’ stadiums located relatively close to the tourist and commercial centre, supporters arriving from overseas can use football as a stepping-off point to learn more about the great history of the city and wider region.

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Many of Valencia’s other most popular tourist spots have links with one or both of the city’s two main clubs, while visitors who take the time to explore some of its hidden corners can discover just how deeply football is written into the fabric of the city.

Mestalla

Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium has hosted the club’s games since May 1923, making it the oldest football ground in LaLiga Santander. The 55,000-seater stadium has been regularly renovated over the decades and hosted games in both the 1982 World Cup and 1992 Olympic Games, with its orange seats featuring the black bat with extended wings from the club’s crest being particularly iconic.

An official tour brings visitors through the history of both the stadium and the club, telling the story of Valencia’s six LaLiga titles and the exploits of famous past heroes including Mario Kempes, Fernando Gomes and current LaLiga ambassador Gaizka Mendieta. The guided stadium visit also includes behind the scenes access to the dressing-rooms, press area, tunnel and pitch.

Around Mestalla

A must for many Mestalla match-goers is Bar Manolo del Bombo, run by legendary Spain fan Manolo who follows his club and national team far and wide. The national treasure has decorated his establishment with hundreds of flags, scarves, photos and other souvenirs from his travels. Its address – Plaza del Valencia Club Futbol – tells you just how close it is to the stadium.

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Mestalla Stadium

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Another sight not to miss in the stadium’s surroundings is the imposing bronze and iron monument of homage to Valencia’s supporters by world-renowned local sculptor Nassio Bayarri, unveiled on Avenida de Suecia during the club’s 75th anniversary celebrations in 1993.

Ciutat de Valencia stadium

Levante UD’s home ground is the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia [City of Valencia Stadium], located in the Orriols district just to the north of the old town. The 26,354-seater stadium, built in 1969, bounces on LaLiga match-days, when Los Granotas’ (the frogs) loyal fanbase are in full voice.

Quieter during the week as the team train at their facility in the town of Buñols outside the city, the stadium houses the club’s offices and a recently refurbished and extended club shop. The Ciutat de Valencia’s mystique grew in 2005 when Malaga player Duda claimed that a ghost appeared to him on the pitch, causing him to miss an open goal during a league game.

Historic old town

Valencia’s historic old town has over 2,000 years of history for visitors to discover, with the large palm tree filled square in front of the city’s ‘Plaza de Ayuntamiento’ [town-hall] having particularly close links to Valencia CF.

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Valencia CF players celebrate a goal during their recent Laliga game

This is where Los Che fans always gather to celebrate trophy victories, many aware that their club was first established near here back in 1919. The ‘Bar Torino’ which hosted that inauguration meeting no longer exists, but the club recently commissioned a commemorative wall-plaque to mark its foundation location at number four, Calle Barcelonina.

A short stroll away, just past the city’s 13th century cathedral, is the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados. This 17th century baroque basilica is home to ‘Our Lady of the Forsaken’, patroness of the city, who at the start of each LaLiga season receives an official visit from the squads of both her favourite teams.

Turia garden park

Both Mestalla and the Ciudad de Valencia stadiums are within walking distance of the city’s old centre. Each trip involves crossing the old course of the river Turia, which was diverted in the 1960s due to dangerous floods. This has allowed for a nine-kilometre-long ‘city garden’ which features 18 bridges as well as many museums, children’s playgrounds and full-size football pitches.

Also Read: Dessers Relishes Winning Goal Against Champions Ajax

Crossing the Turia on the way to Levante’s ground you pass through the 14th century ‘Serranos Gate’, with its imposing stone towers, while a short detour could mean taking in the Royal Gardens or the city’s Fine Arts Museum.

The fastest way to Mestalla is to cross by the ‘Puente de Las Flores’ [The Flowers Bridge], which is a riot of colour all year around. A short stroll away is the modern City of Arts and Sciences, with its world class Oceanographic Museum.

All You Need to Know About Valencia CF

One of Spain’s most successful and historic clubs, Valencia’s current excitingly talented young team looks set for further glory over the coming seasons.

An illustrious, trophy-laden history

Officially formed in 1919, Valencia CF entered the Copa del Rey from 1923 and were placed in the second tier when LaLiga began in 1928/29. Within just three seasons they were up in the top flight, winning a first LaLiga title in 1941/42 and two more in the next five years as they firmly established themsleves as a giant of Spanish football.

Further championships have followed in 1971, 2002 and 2004 – when a team including current LaLiga ambassadors David Albelda and Gaizka Mendieta was managed to success by future Real Madrid and Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez. That side also reached the Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001 and achieved European glory by lifting the 2004 UEFA Cup.

The club’s current successful era has been overseen since 2014 by maximum shareholder Peter Lim, a Singapore businessman, with close associate Anil Murthy as president since 2017. This period has brought significant international growth and expansion, as well as regular Champions League and Europa League football at the atmospheric 55,000 Mestalla stadium, the oldest yet one of the most iconic football grounds in LaLiga’s top flight.

An unforgettable centenary

The club celebrated its 100th anniversary last March in style. Valencia’s streets were decked out in the team’s white, black and orange colours to mark the special day, while a series of events were held at its Mestalla stadium to include fans in the celebrations. A few months later the party continued as ‘Los Che’ won the Copa del Rey for an eighth time by shocking Barcelona and Lionel Messi 2-1 in the final.

A strong commitment to youth development

Valencia’s Paterna academy is among the most famous and fruitful in world football, counting among its graduates World Cup 2010 winners David Silva and Carlos Marchena. The talent continues to flow, with the current squad featuring exciting homegrown and locally born Spain underage internationals Carlos Soler and Ferran Torres.

First team stars include senior La Roja internationals Rodrigo Moreno, Dani Parejo and homegrown Jose Gaya, meaning a big Valencia presence is likely at this summer’s European Championships. Other promising talents are the highly touted South Korean teenager Kang-In Lee (U-20 2019 World Cup Golden Ball winner) and Uruguayan centre-forward Maxi Gomez.

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In contention this season

Early 2019/20 saw a new Valencia coach in former Barça and Real Madrid player Albert Celades, who successfully guided his team through the UCL group stages in the autumn. Impressive domestic results have also included a 4-2 victory at neighbours Levante last December, and January’s convincing 2-0 win over LaLiga leaders Barça at Mestalla.

Such results were cheered by Valencia supporters all over the world. The club currently has over 500 official fan clubs throughout Europe, America and Asia, most of whose members have the words of the official club hymn ‘Amunt Valencia’ [“Up Valencia”] engrained in their hearts.

Further celebrations look likely given the club’s strong history and promising future; these are very good times indeed to be a follower of Los Che.

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