Knowing your opponent: SD Eibar

Nischal Joshi

Barca Nepal, Feb 18. FC Barcelona took on SD Eibar on the 24th round of the La Liga fixtures. A small club based on Eibar city of the Basque country, SD Eibar holds a unique distinction of being one of the few debt-less clubs in the entire world. Despite a population of only roughly 30,000 – you can fit in the entire population thrice in the Camp Nou and still have empty seats – Eibar have a fan base following that every club dreams to have. Eibar are a fan owned club and have a history with that.

In 2013-14 Eibar got promoted to La Liga from the Segunda Division. Despite securing promotion, they faced an immediate danger of being relegated back to the Segunda Division without even playing a minute of football in the Division 1. Spanish League has a structure whereby every La Liga team has to maintain (obtain) the SAD – a measure used to maintain financial transparency in sports in Spain. Every club – except Atletico Bilbao, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Osasuna – is obliged to convert to SAD status. So, what got them almost relegated back to the Segunda? They had to maintain a share capital of €2,146,525.95 before 6 August 2014. [Season ended in May 2014]

A campaign named “Defiende al Eibar” (Defend Eibar) began and thousands of fans from all over the world sympathetically supported the club through crowd funding and allowed the club to play in the main division. Eibar began the season on a high and at half way stage were at the 8th position with a place in the Europa League looking a realistic target. What followed next was a disaster though. They won only 2 of their next 19 fixtures and finished 18th in the league. Despite winning their final day fixture, the match results on other parts of the country, they got relegated to the Segunda Division.

But, in dramatic fashion, Elche (who finished 13th) were punished for economic instability and were instead relegated to the Segunda Division allowing Eibar to play in the La Liga for yet another year. They followed it up by finishing 14th in the next season and 10th in the last. Currently they sit in 7th position (their best ever) and are only 2 points adrift of the Europa League spot. With no European football or Copa del Rey fixtures to keep their foot busy, Eibar have a solid chance of playing in the Europa Leauge next season.
Eibar’s chances are backed by their form as well. A few stats to back this are:

• Eibar have only faced 182 shots in La Liga. This is better than every team in La Liga. Infact only Manchester City fare better than them in the top 5 leagues.
• They have won possession in midfield for 704 times this season. Again, this is better than runaway leaders FC Barcelona.
• They have won possession in final third of opposition 134 times.
Moreover, after Matchday 11 only Atletico (29) and Barcelona (28) have collected more points than Eibar (27).

These stats show how Eibar have maintained a wonderful footballing display whereby they have hardly played a defensive football but yet have managed to resist any type of flow of the ball against them to the final line. This works especially well against teams like Barcelona who play a possession based football.

Socially and politically speaking, Basque country is one of the most sensitive regions in Spain. While Basque country has not adopted a direct and harsh step as Catalonia took with a referendum, Basque Country has been trying to secede from the country as well. This has led to a level of autonomy granted to Basque region that is quite uncommon. In fact, The Economist once reported that Basque region have more autonomy than any other part in the entire Europe. So, Eibar are a part of the fight for independence, for the Basque region, like Atletico Bilbao.

Eibar have a stadium that can fit in in total about 8000 attendees. Despite a population of just about 30000, Eibar usually have a strong attendance. This is because football is an integral part of the life of people in Eibar. Watch what football means to this small club of the Basque region here:

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