With a couple obvious exceptions, following reserve team football in Spain can be a lonely experience and the preserve of a few dedicated souls. Take for example Real Sporting de Gijón B, who play the majority of their fixtures in front of barely a hundred supporters. This is due in part to the fact that their home ground, the Escuela de Fútbol de Mareo, is located in the countryside, five miles south of the city centre.
As you may have guessed, the Escuela de Fútbol de Mareo is the home of the club’s training centre and academy and has played host to the reserves since it was officially opened on 28 March 1978. The B team has its roots set in local football and before the Civil War comprised of a number of affiliated clubs. An official, albeit separate reserve team, was originally set up in 1945, but this was disbanded in the fifties due to Sporting’s financial problems. The current club was founded in 1960 as Club Deportivo Gijón and originally played home matches at the Campo Los Fresno in the El Llano barrio. They reached the Tercera in 1974 and used El Molinón until El Mareo opened in 1978. A name change to Sporting Atlético Club de Fútbol in 1979 was accompanied by a debut in Segunda B. There then followed a decade of flitting between the third and fourth tier. Rule changes by the federation in 1991 saw the reserves become an official dependent of the parent club and adopt the full title Real Sporting de Gijón B. This coincided with its most successful period when consecutive Segunda B titles were won between 1995-97. However, Sporting B could not navigate the playoffs and by 2002 was back in the Tercera.
Sporting B is now back in Segunda B and with the exception of local derbies, where they decamp to El Molinón, Mareo plays host. Mareo comprises of a series of 8 pitches and training areas, the westernmost of which hosts the reserve team matches. It has a full length cantilevered cover running down the southern side, underneath which sit four rows of red & white bucket seats. Halfway towards the eastern end of this terrace once stood a rudimentary media booth, however, this was replaced when the stand was given a makeover at the start of the 2011-12 season. The remaining three sides are open, whilst six sets of floodlights, three on each side of the pitch, complete the scene. Reserve team football in Spain is a sort of twilight zone, where the lines between professional football and a kick about on the village green are just a little fuzzy. None more so than at Mareo.