Changing the green became brown: the continuity of the Unionistas de Salamanca in the Primera RFEF in 2022 depended on replacing the artificial turf of its football field with the natural turf required by the Federation. The bill: 300,000 euros plus 30,000 annual maintenance. The self-managed club had thrived on blades of plastic and seas of rubber when it ran into this requirement to continue in the bronze category. The money made the leaders and therefore the co-owners of the entity pale until they opened up fundraising to social financing. The success of the micro-sponsorship of subscribers and simple anonymous fans broke with the gloomy forecasts, made it possible to raise more money and provided the Unionistas with the grass that will face the boots of FC Barcelona this Thursday (7:30 p.m., Movistar ) after battling the winter cold.
The Copa del Rey last-16 rival’s pedigree demanded further pampering at Salamanca’s ever-kept Reina Sofía pitch, which is owned by the municipality. Alberto Matías, head of the Hermaflor company, hired by the Town Hall to take care of the installations, faces the match with confidence: “The first match after playing it, I thought I was dying, it was very tender but depending on the weather, the treatments and the work it’s strong.” “The winters in Salamanca are painful, the Unionistas and Monterrey play with it,” explains Matías, smiling at the difference in resources compared to the football elite: there are no carpets, nor giant lamps, thermal blankets or underfloor heating like those present in the big stadiums. Rake reigns here. The main enemy, beyond the aluminum crampons of the teams of the First RFEF Group I, is the ice caused by the negative temperatures of these dates. The triumphant meeting against Villarreal has already been played in hard areas next to the benches, where the shade prevents the thaw grass. “This is your land, these are your fields where you played when you were little. I played in the current Unionistas when I was at home with my friends and my father,” sighs the Salamanca remembering so many skinned knees and broken shoes.
The rural saviors helped by renewing their license for five or ten years, paying 1,500 or 3,000 euros, or donating the desired amount. This involvement explains the philosophy of the Unionistas, in the middle of the table in its division but at the top of popular football since in 2013, when the historic UD Salamanca disappeared, the supporters founded it and set up a model of assembly. Everything is consulted, everything is debated, everything is discussed among the more than 4,500 members, who never subscribe. They are partners, participants of the unionists. The visit of the Blaugrana brought the number to 4,800 members, the capacity of the stadium without additional stands. Miguel Ampuero, 27, has been collaborating with this model since he was 16. From putting up posters and managing social networks, he became vice-president and economic director, that is to say someone who values ”the great success” of Barça’s visit and the triumphs in cut. “The bastards” of the players also ask him for bonuses for their unexpected victories. These tours will bring in around 600,000 euros, the equivalent of the annual investment in the workforce, a potosí to relieve the coffers of an entity still in economic difficulty, a common scenario in modest football. The draw reunited them in 2020 with Real Madrid, ending with a 1-3 on the forgotten artificial turf. Then they also made a good profit from tickets, sponsorships and visibility of the opponent.
The total budget of the entity amounts to 1.5 million euros, a tip for the payroll of Lewandowski or De Jong. “The money generated goes to the club, to generate jobs and good staff, there are no private interests”, exalts Ampuero, to whom the episode on the field made him fear the evaporation of this football dream: “Employees were looking for work in InfoJobs. Two years ago we almost disappeared and now we are in the round of 16 of the Cup. The campaign ended with 416,000 euros of support, 360,000 coming from subscriptions and the rest of the altruistic donations from those who defend this philosophy. The man from Salamanca appreciates that the relationship with the City Hall (PP) has improved “with a constructive attitude”. “With the lights, there will be no no fear, the same night, they told us that there were problems in the neighborhood, something specific”, he affirms, in the face of the cuts which postponed the extension until the next day and the sanctions which are imposed. toppled Villarreal after beating Gernika and Sporting de Gijón in previous qualifiers.
The anxiety of 2022 with the turf did not frighten Ramiro Mayor, a defender accustomed to scarier scenes, like protecting the goal in away corners. “I was convinced that I was going to move forward, I know what it’s like, I’ve been here for four years and I know this feeling of belonging, it’s the partners’ child that they’ve seen grow up,” he argues. On Saturday they play against Rayo Majadahonda but the culés slip into conversations and messages that are a source of excitement for those who have dreamed of facing the best: “They are two different worlds.” Their sporting leverage, the strength of the “cauldron” of Reina Sofía and the desire to add to the history of the Unionistas, a “reference of popular football” fighting in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey: “Another way of managing is possible. “
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