FilGoal | News | Ponferradina..a land of second chances in the middle of nothing

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The Spanish Second Division is filled with many familiar clubs, most of which have previously participated in the first division.

Malaga, Eibar, Girona, Almeria, Leganes, Huesca, Valladolid, Las Palmas, and even Real Sociedad (b), all the clubs known to the football follower. But have you ever heard of Ponferadina?

At the moment of writing these lines, Ponferadina is sixth in the Spanish second division, a position that allows him to play the promotion play-off for the first time in his history.

An ascension, if achieved, would be historical because it would occur precisely in the centenary year; June 7, 1922 The club was founded, and after 100 years of existence a miracle might finally come true.

This beautiful story prompted FilGoal.com to conversation Javier Jimenez Sacristanthe director of development at the Ponferradina Club, who came on a quick visit to Egypt to attend an international conference organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

“I have been working in Ponferradina since last November, and I previously worked as a consultant at the Cordoba Club.”

Jimenez explained in his speech to FilGoal.com The club’s new policy: “In Ponferrada (the city) we have reached the max of victory, we can’t spread any more, everyone knows us, so we need to expand in search of more audience.”

“Egypt is the first country we visit in our international expansion, it is a country of more than 100 million citizens, an interesting country for us.”

and subtract FilGoal.com The usual question for Jimenez: Is it possible to exploit this large population and buy an Egyptian player for both technical and economic reasons?

Jimenez replied: “Football has become an industry. But we are talking about people, not products, who have their feelings and many aspects to study.”

He stressed: “If there are options, we have to think that this player comes from a country with a lot of fans, and this is a good economic mentality.”

Centennial

Jimenez revealed his club’s plans to celebrate the centenary next summer, plans that include Egypt by the way.

Jimenez said: “We will organize an international tournament for players under the age of 15, with the participation of Atletico Celta Valladolid and a French academy.”

He explained: “And we want to involve at least an academy or a club from Egypt. I spoke with several people and I hope we can resolve the matter quickly. We may invite several children from different teams or from one team.”

revealed: “We met with the management of Zamalek, as we will meet Al-Ahly and present the offer. This tournament may help our global spread.”

The centenary coincided with the best season in Ponferadinas history, as he scored 51 points so far in 33 rounds, out of 13 victories and 12 draws, and he has only lost 8 times.

Jimenez justified this sudden renaissance in his club: “The club’s president, Jose Fernandez Nieto, is the second oldest in Spain after Fernando Roig at Villarreal. Our CEO has been at the club for 16 years.”

“Coach Polo is spending his fourth season with the team, and this is very difficult in football. We rose with him from the third division to the second in the first season and we continued to develop and we may go to the playoffs to rise to the excellent this year.”

“We are a small and humble team, but we are stable, and the family atmosphere helps the players to give their best.”

We then moved on to talking about John Andoni Perez, better known as “Polo”, the historical coach of Ponferadina.

Polo (48 years old) started his football career at Athletic Bilbao, and played for Osasuna and Rayo Vallecano among several other clubs. But coachingly, no team before Ponferradina, except Arenas Gicho, coached any team.

In 2018, Polo came to Ponferradina while he was in the third division, and ascended him to the second division in his first year, then the 18th place and survived the relegation, then the eighth, and this season he is competing for promotion.

Jimenez says: Polo said a while ago that he would like to be Ponferadinas Sir Ferguson.

“We are looking for stability, and his sporting successes speak for themselves, but he is also an outstanding coach on a personal level and leads the locker room very well.”

kiba

In the 2015/2015 season, Athletic Bilbao loaned its young goalkeeper to Ponferradina in the second division, that goalkeeper is Kepa Arrizabalaga, who later became the most expensive goalkeeper in history by moving to Chelsea.

Despite that, Ponferadina has only two loaned players in its ranks, so why not count on more loans to strengthen its ranks?

Jimenez explained: “It is not easy to bring in players from the Premier League. We may be a suitable club for someone who wants a quiet environment. But for example there is no airport nearby, and in the end players are people and that affects their decisions. We hope to attract more players next season.” .

the legend

As for the greatest player in the history of Ponferadina, he is without question the Brazilian Yuri de Sousa, the current captain of the team.

Yuri (39 years old) played in Ponferradina between 2009 and 2016, before returning to it quickly in 2017 because he could not stand the separation.

Yuri is the all-time top scorer for Ponferadina with 181 goals, and he is the team’s top scorer in 9 of the last 10 seasons, only because he was not in the team during this orphan season.

Yuri has a touching story of loyalty to Ponferadina that occurred when he moved to Qingdao Huanghai, China in January 2016.

Ponferadina was at the 16th place in the second division, and Yuri was the team’s top scorer with 10 goals. But as soon as he left in the middle of the season, the team’s results regressed and he was relegated at the end of the season.

Yuri says in a previous interview with a magazine Panenka The Spaniard on his move to China: “It is one of the most difficult decisions of my life, because of all that I have lived in Ponferrada.”

The Chinese offer was worth 10 times what he paid in Ponferradina, but even so, he felt very guilty when the team was relegated.

In the last round, Ponferadina played against Girona at 8:30 PM CST and 3:30 AM CST.

Yuri had a match with his team the next day, he tried to sleep, but he could not worry about his life team, so he began to follow the match through an electronic application, before his wife woke up frightened by the sound of his wailing and crying, and asked him in horror: “What happened?”

Yuri answers: “Ponferadina has descended.”

“It was a very sad day,” says Yuri. “I cried so hard.”

“All I thought was that I didn’t have to leave, I felt guilty and owed the club. I had to go back and help them.”

One year later, Yuri returned to Ponferradina, rejecting many offers that were better financially, refusing to listen to any, and preferring to listen to his heart.

“I understand that some will see me crazy,” Yuri comments.

In 2019, Yuri paid his debt to the city of Ponferrada, and led the team to return to the second division without falling until the moment.

Jimenez says in his interview with FilGoal.com On his club legend: “Yuri keeps himself tremendously, is a leader and a role model and has great respect for being a likable person.”

He added, laughing: “He still has a long way to go.”

Small but giants

When La Liga released the salary cap for first and second division clubs in mid-March, all focus was on -144 million euros, which made Barcelona the only negative club on the list.

But at the bottom of the second-tier numbers, Ponferadina is in the lowest 5 clubs, with 5 million and 834 thousand euros as a salary ceiling.

A very poor budget, but it allowed the team to beat its top class and compete for the impossible climb.

Jimenez explained: “This number gives more value to the work we do at the club, stability is important and our players are playing with memory, their fellowship has become friendship, they make much less money than their parents in other teams, but they prefer to be with us.”

Noted: “In our ranks is Amir Abedzadeh, the goalkeeper of the Iranian national team. He is happy and comfortable with us, although he is an international goalkeeper who will participate in the World Cup and can move to a club in the first or second division, but he loves to be with us.”

in the middle of nothing

A phrase that the Spaniards repeat when they describe the city of Ponferrada, located in northwestern Spain in the province of Castilla and Leon, which is that it “You are in the middle of nothing”.

A city that is largely isolated from other major cities, and has a small football team, does Ponferradina hope to repeat the experiences of other small teams that have achieved stability and success in the Premier League, such as Eibar and Villarreal?

Eibar is a team with a meager budget whose stadium cannot accommodate more than 8,000 fans. While the city of Villarreal consists of only 50,000 residents.

But Jimenez doesn’t see it the same way: “I don’t like comparisons, there are small details to highlight.”

“The city of Ibar is only 10 kilometers from Bilbao” which makes its situation different from Ponferrada, which is very far from any big city.

Jimenez continued: “Villarreal is also located in the Castellon region, and they are owned by a great businessman who has done a great job over the years.”

“In Ponferradina we are fighters.”

What about the junior sector? A question we asked Jimenez.

The club’s development director replied: “It’s complicated, in Ponferrada we have university stadiums belonging to the University of Lyon, which is 100 kilometers away.”

He continued: “And there are the cities of A Coruna, Vigo, Gijon and Oviedo, which have clubs with greater capabilities, and therefore a greater potential to attract talent.”

Noted: “We cannot offer our young players a college life, for example, and this is a weakness that we must find a solution to.”

Serge Enrique

In the end, we couldn’t have missed the interview without asking an argumentative question: Ponferadinas Serge Enrique.

Enrique (32 years old) played in Eibar between 2015 and 2021 and scored 34 goals in the Spanish League. And when he traveled last summer to join the German Schalke 04, and after he agreed on all the terms with the management, the Royal Blue fans were furious that the deal was stopped at the last moment. What is the reason?

Back in 2016, Enrique appeared in a leaked sex clip while having an affair with one of the women in the presence of his Eibar colleague at the time, Antonio Luna.

Luna filmed a few seconds of the relationship amid calls from the woman to stop, and after the clip spread, the woman sued Luna and Enrique for allegedly photographing her in an intimate position without her consent.

In January 2021, Enrique and Luna were finally sentenced to two years in prison. A verdict that was suspended because Spain’s criminal code does not carry out a prison sentence of two years or less if the offender does not have a previous criminal record.

A conviction prompted Schalke fans to reject the Spanish striker, but in the same summer he managed to sign with Ponferradina. Is it the land of second chances?

Jimenez’s response was strong and stern to that last question in the interview: “What’s going on with Enrique is unfair, totally not worth it, I don’t like to describe what’s happening because then I’ll say words I shouldn’t.”

“What is happening with this boy is a clear injustice, he is one of the most respectable people, he never objects to the rulers, shakes hands with his competitors and has a lot of affection for them.”

“It is unfortunate what societal injustice is going through, society has become crazy and all they are looking for is attacking others harshly and without really knowing people. We are all human and people should learn to look in the mirror before judging others.”

“In the end, we were able to include him with us because of the unjust situation he lived in, and he is very comfortable in Ponferradina, and to have a player with such great experience in the first division is an honor, and we hope to achieve progress in his presence.”



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