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RCD Espanyol may have been cast as the understudy forever destined to sit in the shade of the eternal eclipse that is Barcelona. However, as you walk amongst the blue and white corridors of the Stage Front Stadium, the ominous shadow of the Nou Camp disappears and is replaced by a sense of romanticism towards a club that is so much more than the corporate money-hungry machine their neighbours from hell have become.

Image: Andy Barrow

Espanyol as the story goes were formed just 12 months after Barca by a student ‘for the working class of the city.’ It is that core value that is ingrained into the fabric of the club.

At the heart of RCD Espanyol’s identity lies its motto: ‘La Força D’un Sentiment’ (the strength of a feeling) and it is as relevant today as it was all those years ago. This phrase encapsulates the club’s fighting spirit, its commitment to its community, and its unity.

Image: Andy Barrow: La Força D’un Sentiment’ (the strength of a feeling)

Known as ‘Los Pericos’ or “the budgies” Espanyol were one of the founder members of La Liga in 1929. It’s a club with over 100 years of history, steeped in the tradition of the local community.

As I walked through the 45,000-seated Stage Front Stadium I was confronted by the rich history and heritage of the club. It was in that moment that I truly realised what an institution the club is. A club considered by many to be the best team to never have won La Liga.

Image: Andy Barrow

Espanyol has reached nine Copa del Rey finals, winning four, and has achieved three top-two finishes as well as two European Finals. Even now there is still a tinge of “the what ifs” amongst fans regarding that 2006-2007 period, missing out on penalties in the classic 2007 UEFA Cup Final with a side including the likes of Albert Riera, and Pablo Zabaleta.

Image: Andy Barrow: Espanyol remain one of Spain’s most famous clubs

Los Pericos is not just a football club; it is an integral part of the Catalan culture. The club’s close relationship with its community is evident through its youth academies, grassroots programs, and charity work. The club is deeply committed to nurturing local talent and giving back to the people who support them.

Image: Andy Barrow: Mauricio Pochettino

They also have a proud history of youth development, innovation and a desire to play entertaining football, with coaches such as Javier Clemente, Mauricio Pochettino and Quique Sánchez Flores and players such as Zamora, Walter Pandiani, Ivan de la Pena and Raul Tamudo gracing the club’s hallowed turf.

Image: Andy Barrow: Quique Sánchez Flores

It was clear from my time spent in the neighbourhood and from my travels around the stadium that there is a real sense of pride and an almost protective nature amongst the club’s fans.

A cab driver, corrected me when I tried to compare them to Atleti, he stated this was a club for the poor, for the workers, for real people, and he emphasised they were more similar to that of Betis, Vallecano or even someone like St Pauli.

Image: Andy Barrow: “Por La Gente, Para La Gente” (by the people, for the people)

He finished by saying…”Por La Gente, Para La Gente” (by the people, for the people.) For those that didn’t know, there is definitely more than one club in this Town

Even as Espanyol slipped into the Segunda Divison, the passion and support has remained the same as always. In its darkest moments, the club is always illuminated by its loyal and fervent fans, who forever stand by their side.

It is that loyalty that is needed now more than ever as the battle begins to take the club back to where they belong.

Image: Andy Barrow: The loyal and fervent fans, who forever stand by their side.

With the Segunda season now underway, we caught up with Deputy Director General, Antoni Alegre as he told us just how important the fans are to the club, why it’s imperative that they are promoted and what makes the Stage Front Stadium an experience that everybody should have at least once in their life.

Image: Andy Barrow: “The Stage Front Stadium is an experience that everybody should have at least once in their life

Without our supporters, we wouldn’t be anything

‘Por La Gente, Para La Gente’ could work as a description. However, every ‘Perico’ would give his own description of the club. We are a familiar club, proud of our history, our colours, our players.

Image: Andy Barrow: “Without our supporters, we wouldn’t be anything.”

Our supporters are the most important thing for us, they are in the centre of all our ideas, projects and actions. It is not easy being an Espanyol supporter in Barcelona, Catalonia, and we have to be near to our people. Without our supporters, we wouldn’t be anything. 

One of the other great things we have at the club is our Communication Department. We have done great things in the last few years and we are one of the clubs that works better in this sense.

We do try to show things that people are not able to watch. We know social media is a great tool for us and that we can approach our people or potential fans. 

Image: Andy Barrow

I think it is an experience everybody should have once in their life

We must be promoted to La Liga again. That is the main aim for us. We are one of the most historical clubs of the Spanish League, we have won 4 Cup titles, and we have been twice runner-up in the UEFA Cup.

For us, it is very important to return to the First Division. The difference in the budget, for example, is really important and in this category, we have been able to close a good deal like the naming right of the Stadium (Stage Front Stadium) the investment has been reduced as a result of relegation so we know we have to fight to achieve our goal.  

Image: Andy Barrow: “It is an experience you shouldn’t miss.”

I think visiting Stage Front Stadium is an experience everybody should have once in their life. The atmosphere in our Stadium is incredible, we have a very passionate crowd and supporters.

A lot of people that have come to see our matches have returned in the next years or they have followed Espanyol. The games at the Stage Front Stadium are incredible, it is an experience you shouldn’t miss. 

Image: Andy Barrow: “It is very important for us to show respect.” 

We have to show all our respect.

We have a lot of respect for all the teams in the Second Division. It would be a big mistake if we thought we would win because of our name and history.

The teams in the Second Division are very good, prepared, and have great players. We imagine many teams are excited about coming to our Stage Front Stadium, but we must show all our respect. Last time we were relegated we had to be clear that it was very important to show respect. 

Image: Andy Barrow

After the match against Valencia, where we were relegated it was very tough for all of us. Maybe we didn’t complete a good season but the truth is that we fought until the end and we weren’t very lucky with some decisions. However, we can’t change that and we have to start to put all our focus on this season to fight for the promotion.

Image: Andy Barrow

Being a fan of a club like ours is not about winning, it is about getting up when you fall

It is difficult to explain and maybe to convince someone what makes our club so different. The truth is that we don’t win titles, we don’t have the best players, but we do have something that makes us unique.

As I say it is difficult to explain because it is something you have to live and experience. We have to fight against a lot of injustices and we don’t get all the attention we deserve, but we keep fighting.

Image: Andy Barrow

Being a fan of a club like ours is not about winning, it is about getting up when you fall, it is being proud of the little things. It is the strength of feeling. 

All of our thanks to Deputy Director General, Antoni Alegre and Espanyol’s Communications and Media team.

Images by Andy Barrow

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