Mancha Real – La Juventud
The majority of football fans in the North East of Andalcia were glad to see the back of the 2015-16 season. Local Big-wigs, Real Jaén were beset with financial problems that brought into question their very existence, whilst Linares Deportivo fought a season-long relegation battle, only staying in Segunda B following victory in the Relegation Play-offs. One ray of light however, has been the rise of Atlético Mancha Real, who will debut in Segunda B in 2016-17.
Football was brought to this area of Andalucia by the British in the late 1890’s, thanks to their investment in the lead mining industry around Linares. The game soon reached Jaén, but took a further 25 years to travel the 12 miles to Mancha Real. Even then, the clubs were informal affairs, not registered with the local federation. It wasn’t until after the Civil War, when the Falange Española formed a youth team in 1942, that regular football became established in the town. The club, Imperio Azul Club de Fútbol del Frente de Juventudes, moved to a permanent home on 18 July 1944, when the Campo de Deportes Marqués de Villaverde opened to the north of town. Though greatly changed, this enclosure next to the municipal park, remains the home of football in Mancha Real. Imperio Azul CF continued to focus on youth football. They did set up a senior team and joined the Andalucian Federation in 1951, but that jaunt lasted for two seasons. They returned to senior football in 1965, but four further seasons of slim pickings saw the club fold in 1969.
Over the next 15 years, three separate clubs attempted, and failed, to establish senior football in the town. A new version of Imperio Azul Club de Fútbol ruled the very small roost from 1972-79, whilst the town had no senior team between 1979-81. Mancha Real Club de Fútbol was formed in the summer of 1981 and in 1983, a local works-team, Biondi Club de Fútbol, was formed. Both had folded by the summer of 1985. Disenchanted with the lack of success, a group of fans set up Atlético Mancha Real in the summer of 1984. Initially a youth team, it joined the local federation on 4 August 1984 and within a year it had a senior team competing in the Segunda Regional. Atlético first reached reached the Regional Primera in 1990, establishing themselves throughout the 1990’s before making the next step up to the Tercera in 1999. Whilst they returned to the Regional Primera for a four season spell in 2005, their return to the Tercera in 2009 was emphatic, securing their first Tercera title in May 2010. The play-offs were not so kind, with Atlético losing out to Badajoz & UD Extremadura. A second-placed finished was achieved in 2012-13, but Cultural Leonesa did for Atlético in the play-offs. No such problems in May 2016, when a second Tercera title was won and Zamora CF were convincingly beaten 5-1 on aggregate.
La Juventud has hosted football in Mancha Real for over 70 years. It’s original lay-out saw the pitch run from east to west, before being rotated 90 degrees in the 1950’s. The next major change came when the council built a sports centre along the eastern side of the stadium, essentially enclosing the ground and giving it its claustrophobic feel. The club’s return to the Tercera in 2009 saw the pitched moved 20 metres to the north, the building of a new main stand and the installation of a new artificial surface. La Juventud has a capacity of 1,500, the majority of which is housed on the Western side.