Zombies Calientes del Getafe
Whilst the giants of Madrid are out grabbing headlines with their extravagant spending, just outside of the Spanish capital at Getafe, there is a whole variety of weird and wonderful stories to be found. From the ups and down out on the field, to the unexpected events off it, there’s never a dull moment down at the Coliseum.
Behind Real and Atlético, Getafe have always been considered Madrid’s third club (though Rayo Vallecano fans may have something to say about that). However they, unlike neighbours Rayo, have been playing at the highest level of Spanish football since their promotion back in 2004. Ever since that promotion the club has been through five different managers, with current manager Luis García being number six.
The first man hired in Getafe’s top-flight era was Quique Sánchez Flores, who arrived having spent two successful years coaching various Real Madrid youth teams. Sánchez Flores not only managed to keep Getafe up, he also guided them to a very respectable 13th, despite being tipped for relegation. Quique’s reputation had grown rapidly, and at the end of his first season he was offered the Valencia job – an offer he could not refuse.
In need of a new coach, Getafe turned to then Levante coach Bernd Schuster. The German spent two years at the club, which turned out to be two of the most memorable years in the club’s entire history. In his first season he took them to 9th in the league, and did the same again the following year. Though it wasn’t the league that was the highlight of their season – it was their performance in the Copa del Rey. After losing 5-2 in the first leg of their semi-final against Barcelona, things were looking bad. They faced an almost impossible task. Almost. The second-leg saw an incredible turnaround, with Getafe winning 4-0 at the Coliseum in a game that will never be forgotten by the fans. It was an amazing result which propelled them into their first cup final ever, where they would take on Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Unfortunately for Getafe, though, they ran out of steam in the final, eventually losing 1-0 to a Sevilla team containing the likes of Daniel Alves, Antonio Puerta, Luis Fabiano and Fredi Kanouté. Due to Sevilla having already secured their place in the Champions League, it meant that Getafe were awarded a place in the UEFA Cup for the following season. However, they were dealt yet another managerial blow as Schuster left for Real Madrid at the end of the season.
Going into the new campaign the board were once again faced with the task of selecting a new head coach, this time opting for the popular Dane, Michael Laudrup. With a long season ahead Laudrup got to work on strengthening the squad in order to be able to compete both domestically and in Europe. In came the likes of Daniel Díaz, Oscar Ustari and Ikechukwu Uche. In what was probably his smartest idea, he also made great use of the loan system. Miguel Pallardo and Pablo Hernández both came in from Valencia, while two of Real Madrid’s most promising young players, Rubén de la Red and Esteban Granero, signed up to play for their cross city neighbours.
Getafe performed well throughout the season, playing a more expansive and exciting brand of football under the new coach. Although their league form ended up suffering, Laudrup’s men made it to the Copa del Rey final for the second year running (eventually losing to Valencia). They also excelled in Europe, managing to get as far as the quarter-finals, where a dramatic, high-octane clash took place against Bayern Munich. The second leg of the tie went all the way to the wire, but Bayern’s Luca Toni shattered Getafe’s dreams with a goal in the final minutes of extra time, sending the Spaniards crashing out.
For the likes of De la Red and Granero the season under Laudrup was their first real taste of regular, competitive, top level football, and both had breakthrough seasons away from their parent club. Granero spent most of his time on the left hand side of midfield, but adapted seamlessly to display his class and technique week in week out. De la Red’s season meant even more as he was called-up for the first time ever to the Spanish national team. He went on to be a part of the winning team at Euro 2008, scoring his first international goal along the way.
Laudrup left after just one season in charge, with Víctor Muñoz being appointed in his place. However, the board weren’t so successful this time. After a great run over the past few seasons, it was time for a huge downturn in their fortunes. And, put bluntly, Muñoz was a terrible appointment. He was sacked with five games to go before the end of the season, as Getafe narrowly avoided the plunge back to the Segunda División, finishing in 17th.
Former Spanish international Míchel took charge in the summer of 2009, leading Getafe back to the top. The team achieved its highest ever position in La Liga that year, ending up in 6th and qualifying for the newly re-named Europa League. But despite playing some of the best football the club has ever seen (particularly under Laudrup), and competing in European competition, there was still a major issue at hand – the supporters. Attendances were often still poor, and an empty Coliseum became an all too common sight. At one point barely 2000 (of a possible 20,000) showed up for one game – hardly surprising with ticket prices raised to €60, and that was just for club members. The president’s response? “Football costs what it costs.”
President Ángel Torres was coming under increasing pressure with the club stuggling for funds and lacking any substantial income other than from player sales. Finally, he made a decision. An unpopular one, but a decision nonetheless. In April 2011, Torres confirmed that the club would be sold to the Dubai-based Royal Emirates Group for a sum reported to be in the region of €70m – €90m. “The decision to sell the club is because, logically, the more years you are in the first division, the greater the risk of getting into debt. It is difficult to compete in this league,” commented Torres.
With the president seemingly optimistic about the club’s future, he recently set out to address the supporter issue. Getafe’s genius marketing department have come released a bizarre joke video urging fans to become sperm donors in order to create more season ticket holders. The short video also features ‘Zombies Calientes del Getafe’ – ‘Getafe’s Hot Zombies’. And according to Torres: “If the campaign is successful, we’ll have to build a bigger stadium.”
Where will Getafe go from here? Who knows. I just want to see the Coliseum full again.