The time would have been around 6pm. The final spots of daylight were fading quickly into the surrounding buildings. The sun had been kissing the horizon when we left the guest stadium in Bornos, but that had changed quickly in the bus ride back through the foothills of the Cordilleras Béticas. In the shadow of the Chapín, my two interviewees led me to an innocuous family bar.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but the fact that Xerez Deportivo FC had volunteered to play a home league fixture 30 kilometres away spoke volumes. That summer had been particularly harsh, even by Andalusian standards. The city council who manage the 20K capacity stadium had voiced concerns over the health of the grass ahead of the beginning of the season that year. After much hand wringing, its current tenant club had been given the go ahead to play in the Estadio Municipal de Chapín, but after several months that season of equally dry weather, it was clear that the ground was suffering. To avoid further damage and cost, directors and fans of Xerez Deportivo agreed to play several “home games” in a surrogate stadium – the Estadio Municipal de Bornos, a full 45 minutes drive away. It was therefore with some sighs that we arrived back in the car park of Jerez’s leading sports venue that afternoon, but my two companions complained not for a second. After all, they have become accustomed to making compromises for the benefit of their club. In fact, they were upbeat that this arrangement was saving them a few bob.
Alvaro and Bernardo found a convenient table for us to sit at discuss the past, present and future of Xerez Deportivo FC. As I tested my recording equipment and scanned through my notes, they ordered me a glass of dry sherry aged about 1 kilometre from where we set. As we spoke, the lengths they have been through for the sake of this young club struck me as being more than just remarkable. It is a cliché to hear somebody say they live for their Football club, but these two men do. They have taken out loans, put their names on businesses they have founded themselves, employed locals with the requisite skills they need and suffered tremendous heartbreak and betrayal in the process.
Halfway through my glass, I stopped and asked the very simple question; “what is the goal with this project exactly?” Alvaro, a frank and candid man by nature, gave me a clear answer;
“We want to see La Segunda Football again in Jerez. That is where this afición belongs. We have been fucked around far too much, so we are doing it ourselves”.
Football in Jerez de la Frontera goes back a long way. Local historian Ernesto Alba Reina claims that the first ever organised Football match in Spain took place in Jerez on the 1st of November 1870. The local jerezanos took a liking to this strange sport introduced by the British sailors and merchants working in the local area and welcomed the founding of Football clubs that could represent their city. Though Jerez Industrial CF has the claim to being the city’s oldest club still in existence, it was Xerez Club Deportivo that would carry the mantle for the Football enthusiasts from the Sherry City. The azuliblancos were perennial La Segunda stalwarts until finally achieving promotion to La Primera for the first time in 2009. That season in the top flight of Spanish Football was a landmark year for Football in Jerez – but not for the right reasons.
Xerez CD finished the season in last place. The following 3 seasons in La Segunda were increasingly poor, with finishes in 8th, 14th and then 22nd place in 2013 prompting a second relegation in just 4 years (the club itself had changed hands thrice in that time). Throughout this frustrating era, each president had been blind to the looming danger, shelling out for expensive talent in an effort to ignite a promotion campaign through sheer force of will. That did not happen, and as debts accrued, the financial situation got worse and worse. Anxious fans watched on helplessly as their Football club lurched from one disaster to another under the stewardship of Joaquín Morales in 2013. When administration and another obligatory relegation loomed, they acted. Following negotiations with the RFEF (the governing body of Spanish Football), a band of fans led by members of the Ultra group El Kolectivo Sur / KS91 put pen to paper and founded their own Football club in spite of the dealings and stubbornness of Morales. It was agreed that this new outfit “Xerez Deportivo Football Club” would take the position in the Western Andalusian divison of La Tercera for the 2013/14 season vacated by the now defunct Xerez CD.
Or so they thought. A mere 5 days after this new entity was created, Morales announced a new buyer of Xerez CD. Its debts were immediately paid and the threat of administration disappeared overnight. As a consequence, Xerez CD was once again completely eligible to compete in Group X of La Tercera, creating a quandary for the fans who had invested their time, effort and money in creating a replacement club. This breakaway group was faced with 2 options; give up their new project, go back to following the historic club and let Morales have his petty victory. Or they could stick to their morals, take their fan-owned club and begin right at the bottom of the Spanish Football tree.
They chose the latter, competing the 2013/14 season in the 8th tier of domestic club Football. Countless records were broken that year; biggest home following for an 8th tier match, largest average attendance, biggest amount of goals in a season, largest away attendance, and the first time ever that a competing team won the league in its nascent season. But that was only the start. In the years that followed, Xerez Deportivo FC climbed up the regional leagues of Andalusian Football one by one until reaching familiar territory in 2018. That year, new and old would clash in La Tercera. Xerez Deportivo FC was now on equal terms with Xerez CD. It was that year I first visited the Sherry City to interview Alfonso and Bernardo about the civil war they found themselves in.
The fan-owned club then spent 3 consecutive seasons in Group X of La Tercera – but that has now changed. In spite of a 2-1 loss away at San Roque de Lepe, Xerez Deportivo FC achieved automatic promotion to La Segunda B earlier this May. While this is still a division spit by regions, the 8 year old club that carriers the Football traditions of Jerez de la Frontera will come up against some big names in Spanish Football, including old foes Córdoba CF and Recreativo de Huelva.
Xerez Deportivo FC – a Football club born of passion, commitment and tradition – is now higher in the Spanish Football pyramid than Xerez CD – its historic forebearer tainted by greed, arrogance and poor management. FBTG wants to publically congratulate them on this promotion. Viva el Xerecismo.