La Liga Cities: Valencia

The footballing interest of Valencia extends further than the walls of the Mestalla while the city’s culture is unique to everywhere else in the country. There are two primary football clubs in the city in Valencia and Levante. Games between the two are unlike most derbies in the world of football.

 

Location and History

Only Madrid and Barcelona have higher populations than the city of Valencia in Spain. The capital of the ‘Comunitat de Valencia’ region sits on the Spanish east coast and its port is the busiest in the Mediterranean. Contrary to popular belief, Levante were the first football club founded in the city, opening operations a decade before Valencia CF. The club got its name from its geographical position – being on the side of Spain where the sun always rises (‘levantar’ is ‘to rise’ in Spanish). After a 49-year absence from Spain’s top flight, Levante gained promotion in 2004 and have been a mainstay in the country’s top tier for the majority of the time since.

Valencia Club de Fútbol are the more well-known and successful club of the two. Rafa Benitez guided them to their 6th La Liga title the same season that Levante were promoted (2003/04) and ‘Los Che’ (the guys) have been runners up in the Champions League twice.

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Both clubs feature a bat on the top of their crest. This is thought to originate from King James I of Aragon, who conquered Valencia in the 13th century. Legend says that a bat landed on top of his flag as he entered Valencia and hence was included in his coat of arms from then on. Or it could just be that bats are quite common in the city.

 

Stadia

Valencia’s Mestalla is known for its jaw-droppingly steep stands and intense atmosphere. It was built in 1923 and holds just under 50,000 people. Plans were put in place for Valencia to move into the Nou Mestalla in time for the start of the 2013/14 season but construction of the new ground has stalled in the northwest of the city. The Nou Mestalla is still being built as the club waits to move into its bigger and better stadium.

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Levante started off playing home fixtures in a venue by the port before merging with local club Gimnastic in 1939. Its current stadium, Estadi Ciutat de Valencia, was constructed in 1969 and holds just over 26,000 fans. The Spanish national team played a Euro 2016 qualifier against Macedonia there in 2016 – the first international match to be held at the venue.

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El Derbi del Turia

You won’t get the animosity, hostility or intensity of a Clásico or a Sevillan Derby at the Derbi del Turia. The match, played between Valencia and Levante, is named after the river which runs through the city. It’s known for its friendly nature with very little hatred between the two clubs and its sets of fans. Valencia are the most successful side in competitive matches between the two, winning 17 of the 31 meetings.

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Los Che haven’t lost a Valencian Derby (as its also known) at the Mestalla since 1937 but were beaten there by Levante in 1995. Levante will be wanting to rewrite history when they visit next April in La Liga.

 

Culture

Valencia is the original home of ‘paella’ – a Spanish dish consisting of rice, meat, fish and vegetables all thrown in together. It’s also known for the Falles festival in which structures and monuments are paraded through the streets before being burnt down on the final day of the five-day long event. Like Catalonia, the region has its own minority language – Valencian – which is still prominently spoken in the city and its surrounding area.

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