I park the car by a block of flats in front of "La Cruz". As I make my way up to the main road, I can just make out the sound of pre-match music, late 70´s UK punk, (The Buzzcocks I think), wafting through the air via possibly the tinniest speakers in Spain.
This is Ceares, a suburb of Gijon (Asturias), it’s 1130 in the morning and I´ve left my travelling companions behind in their respective beds in Oviedo, each one a casualty of the excesses of the local cider and tacky disco bars.
We´re in Asturias for a football weekend principally to see our beloved Rayo Vallecano take on Sporting Gijon in the Spanish Primera division. However, in the past few months, since UC Ceares came onto my footballing radar, there's another fixture this same weekend that has been highlighted in the diary.
I can’t remember of how I stumbled across Ceares, but their media profile this season has certainly been impressive. Possibly via the new and highly recommended Spanish football magazine Panenka or one of the many articles that appear on the web about football teams across Europe being taken over by fans and being run in a more "human" capacity.
The club motto "Primeros en Corazón, Últimos en Dinero" which roughly translates as "Emotional Winners, Financial Losers", the painted club wall with the "Against Modern Football" proudly daubed, the club flags and scarves with the Northern Soul clenched fist and slogan in English "Keeping the Faith Since 1948", were sufficient to hook me in and make me want to see what exactly was happening at the club.
Today Ceares are at home to league leaders, Caudal de Mieres and nobody expects them to get anything from the game. In the forthcoming weeks the team will play three "finals" against direct rivals for survival in the Asturian zone of the Spanish third division.
Ceares start the game brightly and are duly rewarded after 25 minutes with a goal from an excellent diving header. The fans with a degree of incredulity of being one up against the league leaders become more vociferous with their support and start up relentless chanting that doesn't subside during the remainder of the match.
During the game I talk with Miguel Lozano, the clubs publicist and one of the board members. He tells me how Ceares were in danger of disappearing the previous year and with home gates averaging just 50 fans, they were in danger of having to join with another local team or even worse go out of business. Miguel details how, with some friends they came to take over the club and relates the story of the clubs ambitions with a balanced measure of realism and romanticism.
At half time I pop into the Cantina where the bar is decorated with scarves of many other local Asturian teams for the same division. Pride of place though is a Stockport County scarf! Apparently the bounty of a failed attempt by some Ceares fans to attend a FC United of Manchester match abandoned due snow in November. FCUM are certainly an influence and inspiration to Ceares with more than one spectator sporting a scarf and FC United patch on his parka.
Leaving the Cantina I meet three English Ceares fans, residents of Gijon for some time they talk about their connection with the club and how they were drawn to the club and its philosophy.
On the pitch, things have taken a turn for the worse. A Caudal goal just before the break has given the visitors the initiative and sure enough with 15 minutes remaining, they score again to secure the three points. Despite the adverse result there is no let-up from the Ceares fans as they persist with their repeated chant of "Vamos Ceares, somos el orgullo de Xixon" (Come on Ceares, We´re the pride of Gijon), trust me it works better in Spanish.
I´ve been to many lower league grounds in the UK & Ireland but never have I felt such a buzz at football at this level. The fans here are not only cheering on the local team but at the same celebrating the clubs stance against modern football. A sport that sadly in its transition into a macro world business has lost some of its core values along the way.
Before I go I take some snaps for the collection and leave Ceares with an incredible sensation of having taken part in something special, something almost intimate and since then the "spell" from that Sunday morning has certainly converted me into an ‘adopted Cearista’.
For more on UC Ceares, visit the website (in Spanish) www.ucceares.com or follow them on twitter @UCCeares. You can catch Paul on Twitter too @paulreidy67