The historic city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda has over the centuries witnessed many ups and downs. From the highs of its base as a starting point for the exploration of the Americas and the rise of the House of Medina-Sidonia, to the lows of its near destruction following the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake and the current economic problems, that sees its citizens with the lowest per capita income in Spain. The city’s senior football club, Atlético Sanluqueño, has experienced much less defined peaks and troughs, bumping along in the lower reaches of the Spanish leagues for much of its history.
Life started back in 1948 for Atlético and home was a basic field a couple of kilometres to the south of town. They christened the enclosure El Palmar due to the proliferation of palm trees in the area, and set about playing friendly matches for the next few years. The club joined the Cadiz regional leagues in 1951 and thanks to contacts their manager had with Real Betis, they adopted the Béticos colours thanks to a set hand-me-down kit. The club reached the Tercera for a three-year spell in 1958 and returned again in the mid-1960’s. The whole of the 1970’s was spent back in the regional leagues, before the 1980’s saw the club embark on a run that would take them to Segunda B. It wasn’t all plain sailing, as the club received a reprieve from relegation at the end of the 1982-83 season. However, by 1987 the club had risen to a final placing of third, which earned a position in the newly expanded Segunda B.
There followed five seasons in the third tier, including an impressive third place finish in 1988-89, finishing above the likes of much bigger teams such as Granada CF, Hércules CF, Albacete & Villarreal CF. The fun couldn’t last and in 1992, Atlético dropped back to the Tercera. Visits to the over the next two decades were limited, but finally Atlético won promotion after winning their first ever Tercera title in 2011-12. That said, it was a torturous route that saw the club lose to Catalan champions AE Prat, before disposing of CD Montuiri and Extremadura UD to earn a place in Segunda B. An eleventh-placed finish was achieved in their first season back in the third tier, before dropping back to the Tercera in 2014. After a two season absence, Atlético return to Segunda B in 2016 for a season, and won promotion to the third once again in June 2018.
The area around El Palmar has lost much of the surrounding palm groves and is now bordered by industrial outlets and mid-rise housing. That said, any player from the 1950’s returning to the ground would recognise much of the lay-out. It has kept it basic two open terrace shape for all of its sixty-plus years and save for four floodlight pylons, portacabin-come-media booths and some bucket seats, it is a relic from a bygone age. That’s not to say it hasn’t hosted matches at a higher level. Back in 2001, Xerez CD played a number of second division matches at El Palmar whilst their own ground was undergoing redevelopment. Given the state of the local economy however, I don’t expect the local council to be splashing out on new facilities any time soon.