Getafe: From favourites to fools

Success is infectious and everyone loves to jump on a bandwagon, especially when it is heading for the big time. In April 2008, Cercanias, the regional train system that runs through Madrid, had firmly hitched its wagon to the Getafe, the football team. The C-4 line had changed colour from red to blue and train stations had changed names too.

Gone were Villaverde Alto and Bajo and in came Cosmin Contra and Cata Diaz. The changes were temporary, a celebration as Getafe made their way to their second Copa del Rey final in succession. The whole of Madrid was behind them but in the end it was a false dawn, one that would become comical. So how did a club from the suburbs rise so quickly and fall so drastically?

It all starts with the man in charge. Angel Torres Sanchez is one of La Liga’s most outspoken Presidents, and sometimes it’s most hilarious. Getafe, as we know them, first came into existence in the 1980s. Heavily funded by the local town hall, in 2000 Angel Torres was convinced to take a controlling stake in the club.

Although he was born in Toledo, he had moved to the suburb at a young age and so was seen as the perfect candidate to bring the club forward. He made his money in construction but also some shrewd investments in bingo halls, bars and nightclubs and so the scene was set.

In just three years he had the club in the Primera and another three after that they were playing in the Copa del Rey final. He had struck up an agreement with Real Madrid that saw Los Azulones sign the likes of Ruben de la Red, Esteban Granero and Roberto Soldado on loan and then on permanent deals.

They also turned around the career of Dani Guiza and gave up and coming Coaches a chance to cut their teeth in the top flight. They were a club that paid their debts and owed nobody anything and they were widely admired for it.

A year after losing the first final and whilst in the process of repeating the feat, they almost knocked Bayern Munich out of the UEFA Cup in a gripping game. Torres famously said that Franz Beckenbauer had no idea of who or where Getafe was but he left knowing that he will never forget it.

Torres worked with the local city hall and also the regional government on a number of issues to promote the club. One of his biggest wins was the organisation of public transport to and from games. Fans were easily able to attend games as special buses and trains were put on for match days. It worked and the stands filled.

Torres, a Real Madrid socio, was starting to be tipped as a possible Real Madrid President. He won worldwide praise when he publicly spoke out against racism and threatened to kick out and ban any Getafe fan he caught racially abusing not just players but fans too.

Then the walls came crashing down as the recession hit. Getafe was to lose very important revenue. Whilst Torres was footing most of the bills at the club, the local government were still paying for a few things, most notably the club’s academy. With austerity cuts, the funding was pulled and so the good days had gone.

Torres decided that he could no longer pour money into the club and so looked to sell. He thought he had found a buyer in the Royal Emirates Group. The deal was said to be one that would make Getafe one of the biggest clubs in Spain but something didn’t seem right. The money didn’t come straight away and little by little there was speculation asking would it ever arrive.

In 2012 a group of fraudsters were arrested for swindling football clubs by posing as ‘Rich Sheiks’ in Barcelona. A few weeks later Torres claimed that Getafe was not part of the fraud and that he had met with members of the Royal Emirates Group and the royal family.

But, why then had he gone to Mexico a few weeks earlier, trying to sell the club to Carlos Slim if it had already been sold? Nonsensical comments would start to become the norm for the once Golden Boy of La Liga.

Calling his Coach a ‘housewife that wants a new coat every time I step through the door’ or claiming that a 30,000-seat new ground would see fans come back to support the club are just a few Torres’ outrageous claims. Empty seats can be clearly seen at home games and the President says it is because fans don’t love the ground as it doesn’t belong to the club but the local government.

Maybe Torres should look at ticket prices. Last year with relegation looming, the club reduced prices and saw a huge increase in attendances. Before that, Getafe’s prices matched Real Madrid and Atletico for some games. It is understandable that the club need to increase revenue but pricing fans out of games and making them the butt of La Liga jokes surely isn’t the answer.

The latest about Getafe is an Iranian businessman is interested in taking over the club. According to Torres he has many offers on the table but he has been saying this for almost five years now. Strangely, for a man who provides such comical statements and is always good for an outrageous outburst, he gets very little coverage in the Spanish Press. But if he did he might calm down a bit – and nobody wants that.