The region of Galicia perches on the north-west corner of Spain and, with its unique culture, language, food and weather, is a world away from the rest of the country. The capital, Vigo, is home to just one professional football club, but it hasn’t always been that way. Celta Vigo didn’t exist until 1923, a couple of decades late in terms of the foundation of Spanish clubs, but now ply their trade in La Liga. Their story is dappled with spells of success and is one of the most difficult away trips in the league calendar.
Location and History
Situated around 30km from the Portuguese border, Vigo is the most western footballing city in the country. Celta Vigo play at the Estadio Municipal de Balaídos (or just Balaídos) which you can find in the south-west of the city just a mile or two from the port. Celta are the only major football club in the city but weren’t founded until 1923. Before then, the city was home to Real Vigo Sporting and Real Club Fortuna de Vigo. The Galician league Championship was won almost exclusively by these two teams at the start of the 20th century before figures in the city wanted change.
In order to compete with teams from other autonomous regions, the Basque Country in particular, local writer Manuel de Castro pushed for a single club. The presidents and managers agreed with the idea and the two clubs formed to make Celta de Vigo. Real Vigo Sporting’s red colours were used on the kit for the first few decades before sky blue and white became synonymous with the club; being the colour of the Galician flag. Celta have never won La Liga or the Copa Del Rey but have spent most of their time in Spain’s top flight, so I guess you could say de Costa’s plan worked.
Balaídos still holds dearly the image of tradition with spectators notably quite a distance away from the pitch behind either goal. The stadium was opened in 1928, five years after Celta Vigo were founded, as a new home for Galicia’s newest team. Like many other venues in Spain, the 1982 brought major renovation to Balaídos with the complete reconstruction of one stand, the renovation of two stands and the construction of a fourth.
Champions League regulations put a spanner in the works in 2003 after Celta qualified for Europe’s elite club competition for the first time. Their ground failed UEFA inspections before the necessary renovations were carried out by the local authorities. In recent years Balaídos has seen some famous Celta Vigo victories, most notably 4-1 and 4-3 wins over Barcelona in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Manchester United visited in 2017 during Celta’s impressive Europa League campaign with the most memorable thing being Celta fans’ rendition of the ‘A Team’ theme tune rather than Marcus Rashford’s free kick.
Galicia is similar to other autonomous regions in terms of how it functions, with its own laws and language, but is unique in its cultural components. Given its close proximity to the sea, you can expect to be served ‘pulpo a la gallega’ (octopus) in Vigo’s heavily seafood-orientated restaurants and bars. ‘Mejillones’ (muscles) are also popular on the menus as well as ‘caldo gallego’ (broth consisting of mostly local vegetables and potatoes).
‘Gallego’ is the region’s official minatory language and is only spoken in Galicia. It’s a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese with its roots firmly in the region’s Celtic heritage. The name ‘Celta’ literally translates as ‘Celtic’ so if any Glasgow Celtic fans are looking for a Spanish team to support, this is the one. Other than football, sailing and basketball are the city’s most popular sports with a sailing club dating back to 1906.