GOD BLESS SC HUESCA
Aragon is dominated by the Pyrenees. Its glaciers tear through idyllic countryside of and frame it with an epic backdrop. These mountains are often the focus when people think about the north-eastern region of Aragon, rather than that which is hidden beneath them.
Huesca is a quaint city nestled below the towering mountain range of the Huesca Pyrenees. It's an hours drive north of Zaragoza and very much its little sister. While Zaragoza is where half of Aragon's residents call home, Huesca is only made up of 55,000 people. It's the kind of place your mate ended up in on his niche interrailing trip around northern Spain.
That being said, it's football team - SC Huesca - have recently replaced Real Zaragoza as Aragon's flagbearer in La Liga.
Famously founded by Barça supporters, SC Huesca proudly sport the Azulgrana colours on their home strip. But their fortunes could not have been any different to their Catalan counterparts. Huesca played in the tertiary division of Spanish league football from their foundation in 1960, only being promoted to the Segunda division in 2008. Their steady rise through the senior ranks of Spanish fútbol ever since was triggered by a takeover by two ex-players, one of which was Jose Antonio Martín 'Petón' - their current CEO.
This business association with Petón, often coined as the Spanish Jorge Mendes, brought Huesca into contact with Bahia - one of Spain's biggest player agencies. Four of Huesca's current crop are managed by Bahia, and there's no denying that their relationship with the agency has been integral to their footballing success. Huesca pride themselves on youth development and it's often Bahia that puts them in contact with the country's rising stars.
This is the only sustainable development model for a side that worked under a transfer budget of €8 million for the entirety of last season. Huesca's new record signing, Serdor Gürler from the Turkish second divison (£2.25 million), is a product of the financial windfall that Huesca received from promotion to La Liga. Much of the rest of the cash seems to have gone into their stadium expansion, which saw their ground almost double in capacity from 4100 to 7500.
Huesca's Estadio El Alcaraz sits on the fringe of the city, surronded by dry fields and the odd bit of dusty tarmac. This isn't Madrid. This isn't Barcelona. This is Aragon. Forget the galactic transfer fees being negotiated by Florentino Perez; Huesca represents the grain of Spanish fútebol. It's unpolished, its rough edges are on show - and its absolutely fucking brilliant.
SD Huesca fought against all odds to be where they are now. Its a club representing a city of 55,000 people, and its in the top division of Spanish football. If we're talking population counts, the British equivalent would be Barry Town playing in the Premier League.
But this is a city that's strongly familiar with the tale of the underdog. Huesca sport the St George's Cross on their away shirt; a nod to Aragon's Patron Saint and his miraculous taming of the dragon. Resilience, too, is in their blood. Huesca was on the Falangist frontline during the Spanish Civil War and was a famously stubborn stronghold. Republican fighters, including none other than George Orwell, used to joke that 'Tomorrow we'll have coffee in Huesca'. They never got the chance.
SD Huesca got their chance to enact their destiny at home to Real Zaragoza in November 2017. Having lived forever in the shadow of the region's industrialised capital, little Huesca finally had the chance to make Aragon theirs. The Estadio el Alcaraz was bouncing. Real Zaragoza were beaten 3-1 on the night, with their fate being sealed by an absolute rocket by on loan Watford striker Cucho Hernández. Real Zaragoza's monarchacial grip over the Pyranees was beginning to slip.
Despite winning the return fixture at La Romareda 1-0, Zaragoza couldn't stop Huesca. The latter nipped them to second place and automatic promotion to La Liga. Zaragoza shored up in third and (inevitably) lost their play-off semi to Numancia. The power shift in Aragon was finally complete.
Now Huesca are flying high in the big leagues. They might have lost 8-2 to Barça t the Nou Camp a few weekends ago, but fuck it: who actually cares? Their team is a hodgepodge of loanees and players signed on free transfers. But they're living the dream. And though it might not last long, Huesca have already done the undoable.
Their rise to the top is the stuff of poetry. It's fitting that this spectacular journey took place in the fantasy land of Aragon, a place that you'd be forgiven for mistaking as the setting of Eragon.
SD Huesca's footballing odyssey is the latest entry into this region's vibrant mythology. Who cares if they lose their footing now; they've already reached out above the Pyrenees that surrond their little city.
Header Image Credit: SD Huesca Instagram