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Sports In Spain

Although sport in Spain has been traditionally dominated by football, Spain offers a vast selection of sporting options...

Posted by Sammie

Tagged: football in spain, skiing in spain, futbol, football, spanish sports, water sports in spain, spain sports, spain sporting activities, sporting activities in spain, golf in spain

Getting active in Spain: go outside, inside and on the water. Information about the most popular sports in Spain, where to watch them and where to play them. Also information about the incredibly diverse range of sporting options available throughout the country

One of the most incredible things about Spain is that there’s something for everyone. The geographical diversity of the country’s landscape provides for amazing opportunities when it comes to sports in Spain. Although sport in Spain has been traditionally dominated by football (soccer as the North Americans call it) Spain offers a vast selection of sporting options ranging from the ocean to the mountains. Today, Spain is a major world sports power especially since holding the Summer Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. Many say the Olympics was the kick start to sports such as golf, skiing and water sports becoming increasingly popular all over Spain. These sports along with cycling and bull fighting provide people with unlimited options no matter what season it is.

Here are some of Spain’s most popular sports. Where to watch them, where to play them and how to participate in sports in Spain.

Firstly a look at Spain’s ‘second religion’…Football!

Football in Spain

It is said that Football (futbol to the Spanish) is like a religion in Spain. However it’s probably more accurate to say that religion is like football due to the incredible devotion expressed by the Spanish for their beloved sport. Instead of going to church on Sunday mornings people all over the country are watching Football.

Spain boasts some of the greatest football teams in the world arguably only beaten by England and Italy. Real Madrid, is the most successful soccer team in Europe with FC Barcelona close behind. Football in Spain is relatively inexpensive with tickets available at times for less than 20€ from the clubs themselves. Realistically you should be looking to pay about 35€ to see a game unless you purchase tickets from a tout in the street.

Getting to Know Spanish Football
The Spanish Football season runs from mid September to mid May. There are four professional leagues with promotion and relegation taking place at the end of each season. Each team will play each other once at home and once away within a season.  The highest league of football is La Liga with 20 teams in its division. La Liga is widely regarded as one of the world’s strongest divisions containing clubs such as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Valencia CF. La Liga is often referred to in Spain as just Primera however it has always featured a Segunda División currently designated Segunda Division A. The lower leagues, Segunda Division B and Tercerca Division are amateur and regionalized.

When To Watch Football In Spain:

  • Saturday -There is one La Liga game per week and it is played on Saturday.
  • Sunday-The rest of the domestic games are played on Sunday.
  • Tuesday-50% of all Champion League games (Europe’s biggest cup competition) are played on Tuesday. If a Spanish team is involved it will be advertised in the bars.
  • Wednesday-The rest of the Champion League games are played on Wednesday.
  • Thursday-UEFA cup is the secondary European Cup after the Champions League. If a Spanish team is involved it will be advertised.

Must See Football Games in Spain:
If you want to see what football’s really about in Spain make sure to catch one of these amazing matches. Many of these games will sell out early (especially Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona) but don’t worry because any bar or cafeteria (at least any reputable ones) will definitely be showing the match.

For more details on when the matches take place see www.soccer-spain.com

Spanish Football Games Not To Miss:

  • Real Madrid vs Barcelona-Twice a year Real Madrid and Barcelona face off in what is considered to be two of the best and most important football matches of the year. There is also the added factor that this is Nationalistic Spain vs. Catalunya.
  • Sevilla vs Real Betis-When these two teams face each other it is always a party no matter what the outcome. The Seville Derby is well supported with an average attendance of 50 000 plus people.
  • Deportivo de La Coruna vs Celta de Vigo-The main two teams from the north-west tip of Spain have a notorious rivalry during the Galicia Derby.
  • Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid – Real Madrid seem to have more of a middle to upper class following where as Atletico Madrid are supported by the working man. Atletico Madrid has gotten used to losing but when they do win it’s a wild party celebrated throughout the city.

If you’re catching a game take note that kick-off times are only published once a week after the television stations have had their picks. Bars showing the games will have the kick-off times published in the windows.

Cities Showcasing Exceptional Football Games:
If you live in any of these cities or are looking to travel to catch a good game, look out for some amazing matches during the football season.

  • Barcelona-League champions in 2005 and 2006, they also won the European championship in 2006. Playing in the heart of Barcelona in Nou Camp, Europe’s largest football stadium with a capacity to hold 120,000, they feature football stars such as the Brazilian Ronaldinho & Spain’s Puyol.
  • Madrid- FIFA (Football’s world governing body) recently named Real Madrid as the most successful soccer club of the 20th century having won more European championships than any other team on the continent.
  • Bilbao- Atletic de Bilbao, a club seen as a symbol of Basque nationalism, only ever includs players from the Basque county on its roster.
  • Sevilla-The south of Spain is famous for its passion and latino love for life. This extends to the football club of Andalusia’s capital which although not as successful as Real Madrid and Barcelona, still draws over 55 000 people to watch and celebrate every game. They were the 2006 UEFA cup winners and will be challenging Madrid and Barcelona during the 2007 football season.

Golf in Spain

(Also known as…)The Fastest Rising Sport In The Country It’s Time To Go Golfing In Spain

Another increasingly popular sport in Spain is Golf. Spain has become the golfing mecca of Europe as the country offers both world class courses amongst beautiful scenery in a climate ideal for playing all year round. Golf’s appeal is rapidly growing amongst the Spanish people and the number of quality golf courses in Spain is increasing at a phenomenal rate with many property developments actually being built around golf courses themselves. This is happening largely around the Costa del Sol or the ‘Costa del Golf’ as it is sometimes called.

The Costa Del Sol is recognized as one of the world’s best golfing destinations with courses for all levels. One of the fundamental appeals of the Costa Del Sol is its incredible location as it borders both the shores of the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees in the north. Also known as the ‘Sunshine Coast’ the Costa Del Sol boasts more than 30 courses including Spain’s most famous golf course, Valderrama, which hosted the Ryder cup in 1997 and the World Golf American Express Championships in 1999 and 2000. The club has also become the home of the prestigious Volvo Masters tournament (the European Tour’s flagship championship).

Where To Golf In Spain?
No matter where you live in Spain there’s a golf course close to home.

  • Almeria-In the north eastern end of Andalucia you can play golf in Europe’s only desert. The Valle del Este and Desert Springs courses are two first class courses surrounded by desert making you feel like you’re anywhere else in the world, except in Spain.
  • Catalunya- Catalunya has several wonderful courses including the PGA “Golf de Catalunya” near Girona and the highly rated Emporda Golf Club.
  • Murcia-The La Manga resort in the province of Murcia in south east Spain has three of Europe’s finest courses and has played host to five Spanish opens. The Costa Blanca, Costa Azahar and Costa Dorada along the east coast also offer some great courses that are interspersed amongst the coastline’s popular tourist resorts. Las Ramblas at Torrevieja, La Sella at Denia and nearby Oliva Nova are also amongst the many east coast resort complexes. This area has attracted ex-pat buyers and golf crazy holidays goers, especially in the past few years.

Notable Courses Across The Country:

  • San Roque Club:-18 holes, Par 72. San Roque courses represent an exacting challenge for golfers of all abilities. Advanced booking is advised.
  • Located: San Roque, 126km near Gibraltar For More Information on location, prices and availability check out: http://www.sanroqueclub.net or call (+34) 956 613 030
  • Club Golf De Sotogrande- 27 holes ,Par 72 Located: Cadiz and borders the sea. For More information on location, prices and availability check out: http://www.golfsotogrande.com
  • Club De Golf Valderrama-18 holes, Par 72, hosted The Ryder cup in 1997 Prices: Green Fee (Monday to Friday)-260 Euros, Weekend-290 Euros PGA Professional rate: 180 Euros Valderrama Golf Day Package: 400,Euros Caddy:45 Euros (previous reservation necessary) Buggy (GPS included): 55 Euros Electric trolley (con GPS): 25 Euros Hand trolley: 8 Euros For More information on location and availability check out: http://www.valderrama.com

(assistance for this section provided by the folks at Golf This Canada)

Bullfighting:

Although not the most active sport in Spain, it is one of the most entertaining as well as the most controversial. Bullfighting is the biggest sport in Spain as well as an integral part of Spanish history, art and culture. The Bullfights were started in the village squares and became formalized with the building of the bullring in Ronda in the late 18th century.

All major cities have bull rings. For example there are 70 bullrings in Andalucia alone with the oldest being Ronda and the most important being Sevilla. The bullfights normally begin early afternoon with prices for seats varying depending on whether you’re in or out of the sun. (get there early to get a good seat) A matador is usually dressed with his satin traje de luces (suit of lights) which are generally decorated in gold but the most popular colours to wear in the fight are red, black, green, blue and white. Yellow is never worn not even by spectators as it is considered to be unlucky and toreros are highly superstitious.

How Does a Bullfight Work?
As controversial as bullfighting is both amongst locals in Spain and to foreigners, it is an exceptional experience and something to see at least once. During a bullfight the fighting follows a strict sequence of events. Firstly there is the entrance of the bull, the picador, the banderillos and finally the matador (bullfighter). Spanish-style bullfighting is called a corrida de toros, and is also named fiesta brava. In a traditional corrida three toreros, also called matadores each fight two out of a total of six bulls, each of which is at least four years old and weighs up to about 600 kg.

Bullfighting season in Spain runs from March to October and the fights that attract the most spectators are the ones held during a fiesta.

Spain has become the golfing mecca of Europe as the country offers world class courses amongst beautiful scenery in a climate ideal for playing all year round.

Along with Football, Bullfighting and Golf there are a host of other amazing sports and activities that you can do all across Spain. They range from outdoor and mountain sports to water sports that you can do along the coast. In the Pyrenees mountain range there are excellent mountain trails and river valleys which are perfect for trekking, mountain biking, rock climbing and other adventurous activities. Camping is also a viable and enjoyable option in Spain and there’s a great variety of wildlife including, deers, boars, brown bears and mountain goats. It’s a serene and peaceful place if you want to get away for a few days.

Getting Active Outside In Spain

A Few Outdoor Sporting Activities to Consider in Spain:

Walking in Spain
Spain is a walker’s paradise. There’s something for everyone from experienced hikers to backpackers to those who would rather take a stroll through the bodegas (vineyards) and have a few dinks. Travel by foot is definitely the best way to get a true taste of the real Spain and it’s easy to do.

One monumental place to note when considering where to go walking and exploring is in the town of Santiago, on the Santiago de Compostela. The Santiago de Compostela was the final destination of the legendary medieval way of pilgrimship Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James), and is now considered by Unesco a World Heritage Site. It’s a wonderful place to see and walk around and until today it attracts visitors from all over the world due to its unique and amazing monuments. The town has a particular architectural style and is full of life with one of the most famous Universities and a large number of students who attend.

Horse Riding in Spain
If you love to ride, Spain is one of the best places to see via horseback. The incredible terrain provides for some beautiful trails and long scenic routes for riders of all levels. Whether you’d rather a relaxing two-hour tour through the countryside or a challenging two-week vacation on horseback you can find it in Spain.

For a great list of where to ride and where to hire horses (specifically in Andalucia) check out: www.andalucia.com/rural/horseriding/hiring.htm

Hunting in Spain

Hunting is one of the main activities in Spain and a popular sport between October to February each year. Spain offers two types of hunting: small game hunting for animals such as rabbits and big game hunting of large animals such as deers and boars. However there is a whole host of animals to hunt in Spain including: Wild Fallow Deer, Roe-Deer, Mufflon, Barbary Sheep, Chamois and Wild Boar. Bird shoots include Partridges, Woodpigeon and Turtle-Dove. Hunting in Spain allows you to experience the incredible beauty of the Spanish wilderness ranging from the central and coastal plains to the Mediterranean shores and the Green Northern Highlands.

Bringing Your Hunting Gun To Spain:
Bringing a shotgun to Spain from abroad is permitted as long as you obtain an international permit extension to your existing shotgun certificate. This permit can be obtained through your issuing police authority in your country of residence. The permit can usually be obtained if the applicant: 

  • Has no criminal record
  • Does a sport needing a shotgun
  • Passes a psychophysical and theory test proving knowledge of the arms and current regulations.
  • Passes the practical arms handling test

It’s a good idea however, if you do want to bring your own gun over contact your airline and/or customs offices prior to trying to cross the border with your shotgun and obtain current details of the necessary paperwork that you will need to have.

Where To Hunt In Spain:
Hunts are generally organized on private estates or run by a hunting club. Other organizations arranging hunting are local town council hunting groups, intensive hunting grounds, controlled reserves and national hunting reserves. The best way to find out how to hunt is to contact your local hunting club and speak with them on the best way to get involved.

Skiing in Spain
There’s no better way to take advantage of Spain’s mountainous terrain than by strapping on the skis when the snow begins to fall. Spain is the second highest country in Europe with an average altitude 2,000 feet and offers many great opportunities for skiing, snow boarding and other winter activities. Two popular destinations are the Pyrenees and the Sierra Nevada ski areas that offer both challenging terrain and beginner hills for those who’d rather take it easy.
For more information on skiing in Spain, click on ‘Skiing In Spain.’

Water Sports In Spain

With well over 4000km of coastline Spain has excellent facilities for a wide variety of water sports including water-skiing, windsurfing, surfing, diving, rowing and canoeing. As well in the northern mountains in Spain you can find white-water rafting and canoeing in the rapids. When it comes to water sports in Spain, Andalucia has distinguished itself as the hub, due to the proximity of the coastlines as well as the numerous lakes and reservoirs surrounding the area. There are clubs for most water sports in all major Costa resorts and instruction is generally available upon request.


Now for some key water sports and where to find them…

Rowing and Canoeing in Spain
It’s really easy to row and canoe on the many lakes and rivers throughout Spain and there is usually a place to rent boats kayaks and canoes on the beach.

Places to go to Row and Canoe Check out:

  • The marinas inland at Sevilla and Gelves that offer great sailing on the Guadalquivir River near Sevilla and the mouth of the Guidalquivir near the Doñana National Park.
  • There are also boating facilities near the source of the Guadalquivir river in Tranco de Beas Reservoir in the Nature Park of Cazorla, Segura (Jaén province) and also at Las Villas.
  • Marinas are also available on the Iznájar Reservoir that covers parts of three provinces - Córdoba, Málaga and Granada.

Windsurfing in Spain
The varied coast line in Spain gives windsurfers of all levels the chance to practice this awesome sport. Tarifa, on the Costa coastline, is on the annual world windsurfing championship circuit and is one of the best places in the world to windsurf.

Surfing in Spain

Although surfing in Andalucia can’t really compare to the waves in Hawaii or Australia, there are still some pretty sweet waves for surfers of all levels and more than anything it’s a great place to pick up the sport if you haven’t already. The spring and fall are the best seasons for surfing and it’s particularly popular along the coast of Spain on the Costa del Sol. The beaches around Estepona are a hot destination spot for both locals and tourists, however, it is the Costa de la Luz, between Tarifa and Cádiz, which has the best and most consistent waves for surfing. More specifically the beaches of El Palmar in Conil are more notable for surfing and body boarding but you can always take a trip to Tarifa as it’s only a 35 minute drive away.

Renting a board:
If you don’t have a board-No Problema! Most of the larger sports shops on the beach stock surf boards as well as some smaller specialty shops.  (Tip: If buying a board shop around, don’t buy the first one you see as shops vary in their prices and you can often find a good deal by scouting out a few different places.).

Snorkeling and Diving
There is some amazing diving and snorkeling to be had in Spain. Whether you are a certified PADI diver or just like to snorkel, along the coastline Spain boasts some of the most beautiful underwater scenery in Europe.

Some particularly great areas to explore are: Cabo de Gata in Almeria and on the Costa Tropical, at Almuñecar.

Last updated 26 01 2012

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