Words by Dominic McCearney
There are a multitude of things to consider and plan for when moving to a different country; employment, where to live, learning the language and most importantly, which football team to support.
When I decided to move to Catalunya from Scotland, after accepting a job offer in 2018, I barely spoke a word of Spanish – never mind Catalan. It probably says a lot about myself that choosing a team took place before I could even string a sentence together. Supporting Barcelona, or even Espanyol, seemed too easy, so I started doing some research on teams in the lower Segunda and Tercera Divisions. My plan was to go to the matches of a few local teams and see which one felt like the best fit.
I first came across Unio Esportiva Sant Andreu when their ultras visited Celtic Park for the Glasgow Derby in September earlier that year, and after attending my first UESA match, I became completely besotted with the club. Simply known as Sant Andreu, the club was founded in June 1909 under the name Club Z, later being renamed Andreunenc Football Club. By a weird quirk of fate, El Campo de las Medicinas, the stadium where the club formerly played their home games, was on Carrer d’Escocia, which translated into English means ‘Scotland Street’.
The Andreuenc won their first match in this guise 2-0 in the Copa Cataluña Junior wearing striking yellow and red vertical stripes, akin to Les Quattre Barres, the famous flag of Catalunya. In 1925, following a merger between two local clubs, they became Unio Esportiva Sant Andreu. The club now plays it’s home games at the Estadio Narcis Sala, holding just over 6500 people.
The club have enjoyed a relatively modest history, their most successful period coming in the 1970s and 80s when a feeder club agreement with RCD Espanyol saw the arrival of a new coach and a dozen Espanyol players. As a result, the team coasted through the Tercera Division and remained in the Segunda Division for 8 years, reaching the semi final of the Copa Del Rey in 1971 and the quarter finals in ’72, ’73 and ’74.
However the last few decades have been wracked with uncertainty, due to multiple owners and financial troubles. UESA are now languishing in the Tercera Division B, the fourth-tier of Spanish Football, and a division which is notoriously difficult to escape from. Despite this relative fall from grace, the Sant Andreu fans are still as fucking loco as ever when it comes to supporting their team.
My first experience of the Estadio Narcis Sala was for Sant Andreu’s Wednesday night cup fixture against CD Calahorra in the third round of the Copa Del Rey. Making the the 25-minute metro journey from Plaça Cataluyna, in the heart of Barcelona, to Onze de Septembre Station, less than 300 yards from the Estadio Narcis Sala’s ticket office. There I was informed there was no charge for entrance to the stadium’s Gol Nord section, the stand inhabited by UESA’s rowdy ultras, Desperdicis.
When I took my place in the Gol Nord, 15 minutes before kick off, the ultras were already in full voice with chants of “Dale UESA” ringing out all around the 6500 capacity stadium. Everywhere you looked there were yellow or red flags, some emblazoned with the iconic Antifa motif. And scarves emblazoned with the words “This is not Barcelona. This is Sant Andreu”.
The slogan is a reference to the fact that, prior to the construction of the Eixample district and the subsequent expansion of the city of Barcelona in the 19th and early 20th century, Sant Andreu de Palomar was once a town in its own right.
Desperdicis appear to have an extremely good relationship with the club itself, with Entradas del Gol Nord being significantly cheaper than general price trickets. A season ticket in this section costs a measly 30 euros, which to put that into context, is the same price as entry and two drinks at Razzaamatazz, one of Barcelona’s most famous nightclubs.
Nine tines out of ten, the club actually negotiates a deal for away games where UESA season ticket holders pay a discounted price to gain entry to the home team’s stadium. However, when such a deal is not in place, such is their dedication to the team, they refuse to enter the stadium, instead watching the game from outside. I was told by a member of Desperdicis that this happened in the 2017/2018 season for an away game against Cerdanyola FC. The travelling away support made clever use of some crates found nearby, peering over an 8-foot concrete wall to watch their team romp to a 4-1 victory – they are dedicated, but mad, bastards!
There was an image in my head when I thought of football ultras and what they looked like, but this was completely shat on by Desperdicis. Think less Stone Island jackets and Adidas trainers and more Doc Martens, shaved heads and tattoos. Almost punk-rock. Not surprising when you find out they take their name from 80s Catalan punk band, Desperdicis Clinics.
The game itself was a tense affair, with both sides threatening to break the deadlock on several occasions. It was the home side that finally managed to make the breakthrough in the 95th minute of extra time, speedy number 9, Kuku, running through onto a dainty flick-on from Oscar Muñoz to calmly slot the ball past the goalkeeper, sending the Estadio Narcis Sala wild. Flares were lit and the noise was amplified as UESA held on for a 1-0 win.
Drawn against Madrid giants Atleti in the fourth round, St Andreu slumped to an unsurprising 5-0 aggregate defeat. But it was the UESA fans that made headlines, displaying the logo of Proactiva Open Arms, an organisation who’s mission is to “rescue from the sea those people who try to reach Europe fleeing from war, persecution or poverty.” Oscar Campos, the organisations founder, later said the “generosity of Sant Andreu in showing our logo in their most important game was priceless.”
Sant Andreu share a fierce rivaly with CE Europa, hailing from the city’s Gràcia district. In promotional material for the derbies, both clubs bill it as “the authentic derby” in reference to the high number of tourists that frequent the Camp Nou for El Clásico and El Derbi Barceloni.
I’ve never seen armed police at any football match back in Scotland, never mind a game in the fourth tier. But there we big meathead vans patrolling along side El Mossos d’Esquadra (the Catalan Police). I received a more-than-enthusiastic pat down on my way through the turnstiles, the first time I’d been to a UESA match where the sale of alcohol was prohibited (not that that stopped the away support from smuggling their cans of Estrella into the ground).
Sant Andreu took an early lead and the away supported exploded. Limbs everywhere. So much so that a club official from Europa, an elderly man donning a club blazer, stopped the match and had to walk over to the away end to tell the travelling support to calm down. My Catalan is terrible but in a derby as fierce and as volatile as this, I can only imagine what sheer vitriol was sent his way from the UESA fans.
The game eventually ended 1-1, with Europa equalising in the second half and Sant Andreu finishing the match with 10 men after a straight red card for midfielder David Lopez. Interestingly, this was the fifth match in a row between the teams to end as a draw. All in all a frustrating night.
After an indifferent start to the season, Sant Andreu were sitting in 11th position in the table. However, at the time of writing, a 10 match unbeaten run has rocketed the boys up to 5th in the league – within 5 points of the playoff places. The storm of a run has included highlights such as an injury time winner away at, then leaders, Llagostera. There’s a feeling around the place at the moment, that San Andreu can beat anyone, do anything and, god, I hope this carries on.
But no matter what happens in the rest of the season, the club did themselves proud in the Copa Del Ray and have the final of the Copa Catalunya to look forward to (having dispatched three higher-division teams already). I like to think of myself as a good luck charm – I’m yet to see the team lose.
When people from back home ask me “Are UESA any good?” I tell them they’re the best team in town. “What about Barça?” they say.
I reply “Sant Andreu is not Barcelona.”