This weekend saw Deportivo Alaves’ first game in the club’s main stadium, this is part of an effective club strategy that has seen them defy expectations, writes Martin Whiteley.
Many newly-promoted teams across top-flight women’s European football have struggled to adapt to their newfound status this season. One side bucking that trend is Deportivo Alaves.
This weekend, Alaves were able to come from behind to gain a 1-1 draw against Levante. On the heels of a 4-1 loss away to local rivals Athletic Bilbao, this was a much-needed point for the promoted side. The game had significance beyond the result however, as it was their first time playing at the club’s main Mendizorrotza stadium.
Alaves was established in its current form back in 2017, following a merger with the local second-tier club CD Gasteizko Neskak.
Unlike many teams who gain promotion — especially to the top division — Alaves resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes. Instead, they focused on keeping their leading scorer from the promotion campaign, and signed her up for a further two years.
Marta San Adrian Rocandio – known as Sanadri – joined ahead of the 2018-19 season from Anorga KKE in her home town of San Sebastian. During the two phases of last season, she scored 16 goals.
As well as being a proficient finisher, the pacy forward can play with her back to goal, as her strength allows her to bring others into the game. Her aptitude at producing penetrating passes to her colleagues is another quality for opponents to be wary of.
With Sanadri’s services secured, the club wanted to use every opportunity possible to promote that they were now a top-flight side.
An announcement was made in September that their home match against Levante on 19 December would take place at the Mendizorrotza stadium.
The news had the desired effect. Two days later, the club was thrilled to announce that they had sold out the number of season tickets available at their usual home ground – the Ciudad Deportiva Jose Luis Companon stadium.
In the week before the match, many publicity events took place involving the women’s team and promoting women’s football.
The itinerary for day one included a viewing of the trophy from their promotion campaign and a photographic look at their rise to the Primera Iberdrola, alongside insights from some of the players on their day-to-day routines.
The rest of the week included a technical conference on women’s football, involving representatives from Alaves alongside other Basque clubs. This focused on the current situation for teams located in the region, from the perspective of managers and players. This Friday saw the players giving autographs at the club store.
Activities on the field involved boys and girls between the ages of six and 12 having a midweek training session with the Alaves players.
The fans were also invited to their usual home ground to watch the team being put through their final paces a day ahead of the historic game.
As with all newly-promoted teams, there are bumps in the road to be negotiated in any season. However, the Basque side have shown how resilient they can be when faced with adversity. Nearing the midpoint of the season, they have registered 22 points and currently sit sixth in the table.
The key for any promoted team is to try and avoid long losing runs, and at the moment a brace of games are the most Alaves have lost consecutively. If they can maintain that record, then another top-flight season will be assured in no time and the focus can turn to putting future plans into motion.
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