Diego Pablo Simeone, the famous “Cholo” Simeone, charismatic coach of Atletico de Madrid, once said something that sums up many of the implications of football in society. “Cholo” declared, “Heart evens up the budget.” In other words, a modest second or third tier club, with little money and limited means compensates for its limitations with the passion and support of its supporters. Sporting de Gijón is an example of that powerful bond between football and city, of hearts that compensate for crises and budgets and over above that reveal the sporting spirit of a city which is passionate about sport.
A city in which football is represented by more than a dozen municipal pitches, in addition to others which are either private or belong to the Asturian Football Federation. Currently owned by the city, Mareo Football School has ten football pitches at its facilities and constitutes Sporting’s “alma mater”, where its youth and reserve teams are forged. But it is also the place drempt of by so many children who have enjoyed the successes of “their team” since they were born.
So Sporting is a symbol in itself, a standard for the city, but it is also a springboard encouraging the launching and initiation of an entire city dedicated to sport; not necessarily just football, but many others which nearly always count on widespread participation. These include fun runs in support of different causes, marathons and half-marathons, group activities for cyclists, two municipal golf courses, neighbourhood sports centres, swimming pools and so on.
Passion for football is only the tip of this huge iceberg that is love of sport in Gijón/Xixón. “El Molinón” municipal stadium, where Sporting plays its home games and Spain’s oldest pitch, has also become more than just at football field. It is already part of the city’s tourist attractions, constituting a “monument” that can be visited on a tour that allows you to get to know its entrails and the places that have forged many legends in the city’s sporting history.
In short, the “red and white heart” of the people of Gijón is much more than just a figure of speech that is evoked on heroic or sad afternoons of footballing emotions. It is a broader-reaching term that portrays the sporting soul of a city that this year has earned the title of European City of Sport 2016.