These cup-playing nights, in a single match on the field of the lower category team, rescued by the federation, can be as emotional as treacherous. Dog night for the big ones, party night for the modest ones. However, this irregular Atlético does not expect tonight in the Kingdom of León (21.00, Dazn and Cuatro) a stadium with wet dressing rooms, with extra stands to increase the capacity or a pitch in poor condition. The great obstacles that the team of Diego Pablo Simeone will have to face are the resistance that the historical Cultural, a rooster of group II of the Second Division B managed by the Qatari capital of the Aspire academy since 2015, the enthusiasm and drive of the 13,000 gorges that will fill the Kingdom of León and the cold, which is no small feat.
Four years after his arrival, the millionaire investors, based in Doha, have already lived the slide that involves moving to manage a football club. In the beginning they knew the reluctance and suspicion that money in Western Europe, Eastern Asia or the Middle East arouses in Western Europe. The fear of the fans, based on real examples, to a scam at the expense of the historical and economic heritage of the clubs. As they still send the ball and the results, the promotion to the Second Division in the 16-17 season, just two years after Aspire landed, largely dispelled doubts in the bar and street gatherings, which also retain their powerful share of influence in football from feelings.
“The adaptation was relatively easy. The soccer people brought in by Aspire were smart, they didn’t destroy everything, they kept what they believed to be valid. They did not enter like an elephant in a shop, ”recalls former ACB colleague Felipe Llamazares, now director general of the club. Aspire was implemented as part of a project by the Qatari authorities with a view to the World Cup that they will organize in 2022.
The year in Second A was significant in terms of modus operandi from Aspire. Rubén de la Barrera, the coach who achieved the promotion, was kept until the end. “Investors did not make a short-term project that depended on the results,” Llamazares said. However, Víctor Cea, recruited for his colorful football and his success with the Unión Adarve, was replaced in the middle of last season by José Manuel Aira, who failed to get the team into the play-off of ascent. Aira was fired, to be hired again before the start of this.
The ephemeral passage through the silver category, the return to Second B, and the failed attempt to ascend the last campaign, raised certain doubts and the rumors of abandonment after the march to Alcorcón by Iván Bravo, one of the strong men of Aspire in Spain. The project is still going on, although the budget has gone from four million euros last year to two this, still a respectable figure for a team of Second B. “When we descended, a powerful project was made, favored by the canon of aid to descent. This year the investment has been adjusted and it is normal ”, Llamazares continues. The doubts are whether once the Qatar World Cup is over, Aspire will leave. “You don’t have to think about the future, but about the present,” says Llamazares.
Since the arrival of Aspire, the social mass has increased from 1,800 to 6,800 members. The team is second in the table, three points behind Logroñés, and has not known defeat at home for a year and a half. It was Barcelona, on their visit copera in the 17-18 campaign, the last team that won the Kingdom of León. Before, Real Madrid had spent a year before (1-7) in the same competition. “The visits of Madrid and Barça and this now give visibility to León, to the project and, above all, generate illusion in children”, Llamazares concludes.
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