I'm especially taken with the task this summer now that my hometown team is just (sort of) bouncing back from an ugly stretch and my great-grandmother's hometown team is drifting rudderless into another year in England's second division. So on a recent afternoon I had a Crowley Moment, only instead of drunk-waking in front of the Argentine Air Force's Web site, I discovered myself reading a July 2006 post by Bill Simmons on the same dilemma. Not only that, but I've succumbed to the Internet wormhole Crowley describes: I've checked enough European clubs' Wikipedia pages to know that FC Dordrecht (Netherlands) considers Johan Cruyff to be its most famous player, even though he appeared in only three 1981 friendlies for the team.
Anyway, all of this is some long-winded context for a new feature I'll be adding a weekly feature on this site. Each week I'll track the progress of SD Eibar, a newly-promoted team to Spain's La Liga division for the following five reasons
- By Maine standards, Eibar is a small town. Its 9.57 square miles of land area make it about half the size of Westbrook, but only about one-third larger than Hallowell. Also, its 27,000 residents would make it only the 4th most populous city in our relatively sparse state, which means it's only slightly more populous than South Portland.
- By Maine standards, Eibar's stadium, Ipurua, is a small stadium. To wit: Portland's Fitzpatrick Stadium can fit 1,000 more fans than Ipurua can with its current capacity of 5,250.
- SD Eibar is debt-free, which is a remarkable feat in an industry notorious for financial excess. In fact, the club has been so fiscally responsible that it recently had to raise $2 million to ensure its promotion from Spain's second division to the country's top division went through.
- Speaking of being forced to raise $2 million to satisfy a requirement of promotion to Spain's top league: The club tapped into the Basque region's worker cooperative ethos and sold voting shares of the club for 50 euros each, with a maximum investment of 100,000 euros.
- The club's story reminds me of The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, the late Joe Mcginnis's book on a similarly-sized club's unlikely season playing top-level European soccer. Read this book, if you get the chance.
- And finally, even though the chances of Major League Soccer adopting a promotion and relegation system appear to be slim, SD Eibar's unlikely ascent to La Liga gives us provincialists everywhere hope that one day the world's finest players--i.e., Xavi, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, etc.--could one day play in our backyards.