Spanish La Liga
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La Liga and El Clásico, a Spanish Tradition
The premier division of Spanish football is La Liga. La Liga BBVA was founded in 1929 and currently has 20 teams. The league has a long tradition and is one of the top leagues in Europe. Throughout the history of Spanish football La Liga has been traditionally in the top three teams for UEFA qualification. Spain currently sits at number two for the 2009-10 season after having held down the top spot for the 2008-09 season. This means that the top four teams from La Liga will play in the UEFA Champions league and compete for the Champion Clubs’ Cup, the most prestigious club award in all of European association football. How the La Liga came to the top and why they continue to stay there is an example of what many of the leagues around Europe aspire to be.
History and Rise to Prominence of La Liga
In the years leading up to the formation of La Liga Jose Maria Acha proposed the idea of forming a national Spanish football league. This sparked much debate over what teams and what format the league would be played in. Eventually a format that was amiable to all was decided on and the league began play. Of the original teams three have never been relegated to the second division. These teams have had success not only in the domestic league but in worldwide play as well. They are Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, and Athletic Bilbao. Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are two of the most famous football teams the world around and the history of those teams is well known by enthusiasts and avid fans alike.
The 1930s saw the play of the league upset by the Spanish Civil war. This did not however stop teams from competing as some teams opted to play in the Mediterranean League. The 1940s were equally as hard as World War II caused some serious disruptions in the league.
The 1950s saw La Liga begin to develop more into its current form with FC Barcelona and Real Madrid stepping to the forefront, with Real Madrid completely dominating the league from the 1960s through the early eighties. During this time Madrid won 14 championships and from 1961-1965 won an astounding five in a row. Real Madrid, along with FC Barcelona, are probably the two most successful teams in La Liga.
Famous Teams of La Liga
Real Madrid has been the most successful team in the league with 31 championships and 17 runners up awards. They are the current reigning champions of La Liga, having won consecutive titles in 2006-07 and 2007-08. Second behind them in total winners is FC Barcelona with 18 Championships and 22 second place finishes. They last held the trophy in 2005-06 and like Real Madrid claimed the award in consecutive years. Matches between these two teams are fierce and the rivalry is not only one between clubs but between cities as well. Matches between the two clubs are simply known as El Clásico, a term that came about rather recently.
This rivalry extends beyond mere football and is seen as a clash of Catalan and Spanish nationalism. These two teams list over half of all the football fans in Spain as their supporters and when they meet everyone football fan in Spain and around the world wants to watch. The teams have met 157 times with Real Madrid holding a slight advantage over Barcelona. Currently the matches stand at 68 wins for Real Madrid, 59 for FC Barcelona and 30 draws. The goals for is also as close with Real Madrid scoring 260 against Barcelona’s 236. These matches include not only league play but international competition as well. The two teams have met in the Champions League on occasion and the 2002 semi final match between them was called the Match of the Century by the majority of Spanish media. There is nothing that really sums up the play in La Liga like the matches between these two teams. They intertwine cultural, politics, and sport into a rivalry that is almost unmatched the world around.
While both Real Madrid and FC Barcelona dominate La Liga, there are many other teams of importance and relevance in the league. One of the teams that have run to recent prominence has been Valencia. They have won six La Liga titles as well as many international awards including a UEFA Cup. In addition to this they reached the finals of the Champions League twice in a row in 2000 and 2001, losing to Real Madrid in 2000 and Bayern Munich in 2001. The team was founded in 1919 but has enjoyed much success recently. The teams all time low probably came in the 1980s when they were relegated to the second division. It took them a while to get back into La Liga, but in the 87-88 season the made their return and have managed to stay in the top division ever since. They earned their first title since the 1970-71 campaign in 2001-02 and have fully re-established themselves as a top tier team in La Liga.
Once of the most notable and impressive things about La Liga is the number of Spanish stars the league has had over the years. While they like other European top tier leagues have gone to other countries for talent, the majority of the best players in the league come from Spain. This is a testament to not only the quality of the top league, but also to all of the supporting football leagues around the country. It is very rare that you will find a set of football fans more passionate and more talented then the fans of Spain. La Liga is the ultimate representation of this.