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Stories in history: Elche. And Racing Santander. (26th June, 2017)

It was the 31st of July, 2015, and Elche fans were outside the stadium. The season was long over but not for these fans. They had fireworks in their hand, but with every passing minute it looked like they would be unused.

Elche had come 13th but for the first time in their 92-year history - in fact for the first time for any club in La Liga history - had been relegated for non-sporting reasons. The team was relegated for not paying their debts on time.

So what were the fans waiting for?

Elche had until midnight to pay €4 million, otherwise they would be relegated to the Segunda B - Spain’s amateur, third tier where automatic promotion doesn’t exist, money is scarce and newly-relegated clubs can go out of business. If Elche were to be gone, they would be gone forever.

Many players tore their contracts and left the club, in effect waiving the unpaid wages Elche owed them. Some players delayed their payments. Fans were urged to buy season tickets and shirts and sponsors were desperately asked to pay.

And at 6 p.m. the announcement was made - Elche were in the second division. The fireworks came out and so did Carlos González, the mayor of Elche, calling it a "grand feat".

Yes, Elche were only allowed 18 professional players in the first team squad the following season. And yes, Elche could only sign free agents. And yes, those new signings would be paid minimum wage - a paltry €68,000 - but at least Elche wasn’t gone. The struggle continued, but at least there was a struggle and not nothing.

At least Elche would exist.



30th January, 2014. Two teams were on the pitch but when the whistle was first blown they weren’t playing against each other.

Men and women who had seen the club in 2008 reach sixth in La Liga, reach the semifinals of the Copa del Rey after beating Málaga, Real Zaragoza and Athletic Bilbao, qualify for the UEFA Cup for the first time in their history, defeat Manchester City 3-1 and hold PSG and Schalke to draws; men and women who had seen the club reach the semifinal of the Copa del Rey again in 2010; men and women who had seen the club suffer back-to-back relegations and plunge into financial chaos, men and women who had seen the club somehow reach the quarterfinal of the Copa del Rey whilst being a third tier club, defeating Sevilla and Almería on the way, men and women who had seen Racing de Santander lose 3-1 in the away leg against Sociedad, heard the whistle blow and the ball kicked.

And then they saw what they wanted to see. Every Racing player on the pitch and on the bench, every member of the coaching staff, came onto the center-circle of the El Sardinero and stood, arm-in-arm, united, determined.

Sociedad were playing against Racing but Racing were playing against their own board.

The same men and women who had, in the first leg against Almería, assaulted chairman Ángel Lavín for not paying players for several months, watched as the ball was kicked out, the match suspended, the club suspended from next season’s edition of the cup and the chairman sacked the very next day.




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