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Culture and Society: Sports


Sport forms a major part of the daily life of most Spaniards. Spain is one of the most powerful soccer countries in the world, home to legendary Real Madrid and Barcelona soccer clubs. Soccer is like a religion in Spain. In fact, many Spaniards would agree that they consider their religion to be as important as soccer. For some, visiting a Sunday night’s soccer match has become as important as going to church in the morning.

Golf, tennis, basketball, and skiing are sports that have been gaining popularity in recent years. Cycling has been an important sport in Spain since the 1940s. Motor racing is especially popular in Barcelona and Cadiz.

Bullfighting, an important traditional Spanish sport, is practiced even today in all major cities and quite a few smaller ones.

Individual Sport Participation

More than 60 percent of the Spanish population takes part in some kind of physical activity almost every day. Since Spain held the Olympic Games in 1992, interest in sports in the country has risen significantly.

There are many sports teams for kids, the most popular being soccer and basketball. Spaniards’ interest in water sports is evident by the number of water sports clubs in the country which provide facilities for water skiing, rowing, windsurfing, surfing and kite surfing, and canoeing. The number and quality of golf courses in the country has also been increasing. Many of the public spaces in Barcelona, such as squares, parks, and beaches, have become centers for sporting activities.

Private Sports Clubs

Most hotels in Spain have gymnasiums and fitness centers available for a monthly membership fee. Individual gyms and fitness centers are available in most Spanish towns, with membership fees ranging from 200 Euros annually to 75 Euros for a month.

Private Sports Clubs Listings:

Nova-Icària Sports Club
Vila Olimpica
Avenida Icària 167
The Nova-Icària Sports Club is owned by the city. It provides full facilities and services for weight lifting, aerobics, swimming, tennis, and basketball. The membership fee is €30,86 per month. Non-members may pay a daily fee whenever they visit the club.

La Manga Club
30385 Los Belones
La Manga provides facilities for a large variety of recreational sports and leisure activities. The club has one of the best golf courses in the world. Also, the La Manga Tennis Centre is one of the best European outdoor sports facilities. The fitness center, Spa La Manga Club, has an indoor swimming pool, saunas, steam rooms, and a special room for physiotherapy. The club also features jogging and hiking tracks, a scuba-diving school, volleyball court, and mountain biking facilities.

Real Club Náutico de Valencia
Real Club Náutico de Valencia is a yacht club with over a hundred years of history. The club has some of the most modern marine facilities and has a large fleet of cruisers. There is also a large social club, children’s park, a sports center, swimming pools up to Olympic standards, and tennis and squash courts with practice walls.

Sports Club SEK
Paseo de las Perdices 2
Urbanización Ciudalcampo
S.S. de los Reyes
The educational club of SEK has had its own sports club since 1987. The club is open to parents, teachers, students, former students, friends, and almost anyone related to the community. The club offers facilities for racket sports, horseback riding, swimming, and gymnasiums. Various tournaments like the Madrid Juniors Championship, Club SEK Tennis Tournament, SEK Tennis Open, Tennis Junior League, and Nike Clinics and Tournament are held here.

Sports Club La Finca
4 Pozuelo de Alarcón.
The Sports Club La Finca offers expert consultation in physical fitness and has programs that are personalized to its members’ needs. For outdoor sports, the club features ten tennis courts, four of which are grass courts and six are clay. Also, the club has twelve paddle tennis courts and a soccer field.

Club de Campo Villa de Madrid
Carretera Of Castile Km 2
28040 Madrid
Started in 1984, Club de Campo Villa de Madrid is among the largest sports clubs in Europe with over 10,000 members. Apart from the club’s equestrian center, the club has facilities for sports like hockey, tennis, and golf.

Herreria Golf Club
San Lorenzo del Escorial
Carretera de Robledo
Started in 1967, the Herreria Golf Club features an 18-hole golf course and facilities like a putting green, a club house, professional gear shop, a tennis court, swimming pool, cafeteria, and restaurant. The club also gives golf lessons.

La Finca Reebok Sports Club
Pasco Del Club Deportivo 4
This club offers several facilities like basketball and paddleball courts, swimming pools, tennis courts, a children’s club, hydrotherapy facilities, and a cafeteria.

Tennis Pineda Gavà
C-31 Km 184, 330 Sortida Gava
This club, established in 1968, features 14 tennis courts and two squash courts.

School Sports

The educational system in Spain makes it mandatory for schools to provide physical education classes with different courses for students of different age groups. This is applicable to public as well as private schools. The school curriculum treats physical education as one of the important divisions of education and all grades have physical education classes at least twice a week for an hour. Fees for P.E. classes are nominal and the classes are normally held immediately after school.

Although state schools do not have clubs or teams, sports clubs have teams for children and hold competitions between them. Parents and sports associations also organize student matches. Students from the age of four are picked for sporting activities like soccer, basketball, and track and field. Some schools make swimming compulsory for students between two to seven years of age.

Universities hold several sports championships and competitions. Teams are formed to participate in leagues specially formed for inter-school and inter-college tournaments. The PGE Tournament is a sporting event organized for parents, graduates, and employees for both individual and team sports. Most sports competitions held at school or college levels are for sports like soccer, chess, tennis, basketball, handball, badminton, squash, rugby, and volleyball.

Professional Sports

Soccer is the most popular sport in Spain. The country is home to some of the world’s strongest soccer clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. These clubs participate in the highest division of Spanish soccer, La Liga, which is one of the toughest soccer tournaments. During international soccer matches, the sport dominates conversation all over Spain.

Other sports that attract a crowd in Spain are horse racing, volleyball, and motor racing. Sports stars like the Formula One’s world champion, Fernando Alonso, are worshipped by Spaniards. Alonso is said to be one of the greatest drivers the sport has ever seen. His success as a Formula One racer has had a major impact on the popularity of Formula One in Spain. He broke Emerson Fittipaldi’s record as the youngest F1 champion when he won the World Driver’s Championship in 2005 at 24 years of age then became the youngest double champion after winning again in 2006.

There are countless sports personalities from Spain who have made their mark in the history of sports. Raúl González Blanco has played over 100 matches as part of the Spanish national soccer team and represented Spain in the FIFA World Cup of 1998, 2002, and 2006, and also the Euro Cup in 2000 and 2004. Often referred to as simply Raúl, he is the third highest all-time goal scorer for Real Madrid with 194 goals from 449 games. Carles Puyol Saforcada is another Spanish soccer player that has been a regular in the Spanish national team. He has appeared for Spain in the 2000 Olympics, the FIFA World Cup of 2002 and 2006, and the Euro Cup of 2004. He was awarded the "Defender of the Year" title in the UEFA Champions League, 2005-2006. Miguel Ángel Indurain Larraya is a retired cyclist from Spain, famous for having won the Tour de France five times, from 1991 to 1995, becoming the first to win the event five times in a row. Daniel "Dani" Pedrosa, is a Grand Prix motorcycle racer, the youngest among the world champions in 125cc and 250cc Grands Prix. Sergio García, a professional golfer, has played on both the United States PGA Tour and the European Tour. Nicknamed "El Niño," Garcia has been on the Top 10 list of the Official World Golf Rankings for most of his career.

Popular and Dominant Teams - Soccer
Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia are the strongest soccer clubs in Spain and are equally strong contenders in international soccer. Real Madrid Club de Fútbol is most popular for its soccer team based in Madrid and one of the most successful teams in the 20th century. It is the richest club in the world with an estimated revenue of 292.2 million Euros. The club is both loved and hated for the "galactico" system it follows every year, buying some of the best players in the world. The Spanish soccer club, Barcelona or more precisely Fútbol Club Barcelona, is based in Catalonia, Spain. The club has come a long way since 1899 when it was formed by a group of Swiss, English, and Catalan men, who were led by Joan Gamper. Today, it is a Catalan institution with the motto, Més que un club meaning "More than a club." FC Barcelona was declared the second richest club in the world during the 2006-07 season with an estimated revenue of 290.1 million Euros. Valencia Club de Fútbol, also known as Valencia FC or just Valencia, the club plays in La Liga and is the third most successful club in Spain. The club was formed in 1919 and since then has won many titles and cups like La Liga, the Copa del Rey trophy, and the UEFA Cup.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are the biggest rivals in Spain. In fact, the competition between the clubs is legendary. The two teams often challenge each other for the league championship.

In the sports field, Spanish women are quite famous for their achievements in field hockey. The Spanish women’s national field hockey team often represents Spain in international hockey tournaments. The team made it into the history books of Spain when it surprised the world by winning the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics, during their first Olympic appearance. The list of Spanish women who are famous for their achievements in sports is endless. Carmen Valero, a Spanish track and field athlete, won the Cross Country World Championship in 1976 and 1977. Her achievements inspired other female athletes like Maite Zúñiga, Marta Domínguez, and María Vasco. Blanca Fernández Ochoa is a famous skiing champion who won several World Ski Cup events and was followed by many other female skiers like Carolina Ruiz and María José Rienda. Even male skiers in Spain haven’t been able to match Ochoa’s achievements.

Major Spectator Sporting Events 

Liga de Fútbol (Soccer)
Date: August - September
Location: Venues throughout Spain
Description: Liga de Fútbol, also known as La liga or Primera División, is the Spanish professional soccer league. La Liga is considered one of the best soccer leagues in the world, along with the English Premier League and the Italian Serie A. Real Madrid and Barcelona have dominated the league since the 1950s.

Copa del Rey (Soccer)
: August
Location: Venues throughout Spain
Description: The Copa de Su Majestad El Rey Don Juan Carlos I is an annual soccer competition that was the national championship before La Liga. Only teams from the Primera Division, Segunda A, and a few teams from the Segunda B and the Tercera Division are allowed to play in this championship. The winner moves on to play in the UEFA Cup and the Supercopa de España the next season.

Tour of Spain (Cycling)
: September
Location: Malaga, Madrid
Description: Vuelta de España, meaning Tour of Spain, is one of the biggest cycling events in the whole of Europe. The race covers a distance of more than 3,000 kilometers and is divided into 21 stages, including 11 flat stages, 7 mountain stages, 2 individual time trial stages, and one team time trial stage.

F1 Spanish Grand Prix (Motor Racing)
: May
Location: Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona
Description: Otherwise known as Gran Premio de España, the Spanish Grand Prix is a Formula One (F1) racing competition held in the Catalunya circuit in Barcelona.

Valencian Moto GP (Motor Racing)
Date: November
Location: Circuito de la Comunidad Valenciana Ricardo Tormo
Description: The Valencian Moto GP is the final stage of the Road Racing World Championships. With races for both four wheelers and two wheelers in the region, Valencia has had a long tradition of motor sports.

Spanish Moto Grand Prix (Motor Racing)
Date: March
Location: Circuito De Jerez
Description: The Spanish Moto Grand Prix, which is held in the circuit at Jerez, is one of the leading events of the Moto GP season. This event attracts a huge crowd, many arriving a few days in advance to enjoy every aspect of the event.

ATP Masters Series: Madrid (Tennis)
Date: October
Location: Madrid Arena
Description: The ATP Masters Series is one of the leading tennis tournaments in the world. The top male tennis stars play in the Madrid Arena in the final stages of the Masters Series. The Masters Series was designed to streamline the abundance of tennis tournaments held by the ATP.

Barcelona Marathon
Date: March
Location: Barcelona
Description: Started in 1977, the Barcelona Marathon draws thousands of competitors that run across the city.

Seville Marathon
Date: February
Location: Seville
Description: This is another big marathon event in which thousands run through the 26.1 mile course. The course goes over four bridges across the Guadalquivir River across the city. Several other events like the traditional pasta lunch before the event, a closing party and a runner’s fair.