From an idea dreamt up in a local cafe on the famous La Rambla in the city to pitting their wits against some of the finest and most talented players in world football, Girona Football Club are the newest additions to La Liga after, at long last, making the jump from the second to the first tier after several years of trying.
Founded in 1930 and, in many ways, helped by the disappearance of former side Unio Esportiva Girona around the same time, Girona started their footballing journey during the 1933-34 season in the third tier of Spanish football, before fluctuating somewhat for at least 40 years in between the second and third divisions.
Despite first-place finishes most notably in two of their first three seasons as an established outfit and several more that followed, elimination in the playoff rounds, which ultimately determined those promoted, therefore meant the club would face an uphill battle to make the step-up – a battle that has almost taken an incredible 87 years to fully achieve.
Despite initially offering Girona a way out of the third tier, where the club plied their trade for 18 consecutive seasons between 1959 and 1977, the creation of the Segunda Division B ultimately did very little to help Girona progress higher up the Spanish football pyramid. If anything, it was only during the two decades that followed the inception of a sub-division within the second tier in which Girona slid even further away from the top, dropping into regional Leagues within Catalonia, most notably for two consecutive seasons between 1997 and 1999.
The turn of the millennium, however, with the benefit of hindsight, appeared to bring new hope, as well as greater optimism and a fresh start for the club. For once, Girona not only began simply looking upwards but doing things right, both on and off the pitch, to help finally obtain their long-standing objective.
Looking at the first decade of the modern era, one word to describe Girona's development since the year 2000 would be ‘prosperous'. Bookmarked either side by two, last-32 finishes in the Copa del Rey (2004-05 and 2013-14), the latter half of the noughties saw the Catalans sow the necessary seeds and plant sufficient foundations, which have contributed almost a decade later to their recent ascension to La Liga. Consequently, a successful return to Segunda B was soon topped by gradual progression throughout the Segunda, before defeat in the 12-13 playoff final prevented them from reaching the promised land.
In equal measure, just as Girona began to show signs of recovery and even growth on the pitch, there were indications away from the playing field of an incredibly, forward-thinking club, with their eyes firmly set on a highly, sought-after promotion to the Primera.
Significant investment made in 2010 by a group of local businessmen not only saw 72 percent of the Blanquiavermell change hands, but both the creation of a youth team in 2011 and the widely-popular ‘Girona FC tambien es mío’ (Girona FC is mine too) campaign to raise more capital two years later underlined their ambitions going forward.
Indeed, since the disappointment of 2013, Girona edged ever closer to the top tier with three top-four finishes prior to last season. Therefore, with their eyes firmly fixed on La Liga, the agony of being denied promotion by a last-minute goal by visitors Lugo during the final game of the 14-15 campaign would be soon eclipsed by the emphatic scenes, jubilation and ‘ilusion’ of the last League campaign as Girona finally went up as Segunda runners-up.
Avoiding the playoffs, which had haunted the club on numerous occasions, the Catalans finished the season as the League’s top goalscorers and edged promotion by a mere two points, making ‘historia’ in the process and providing the Spanish top tier with yet another team from the region.
Words: Adam Selby