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José Javier Azanza, Senior Associate Professor of History of Art
School of Philosophy
and Letters. University of Navarra
Author of the book "40 años del Sadar-Reyno de Navarra. Soccer and architecture: stadiums, the new Cathedrals of the 21st century".

Osasuna, its stadium and its fans: intangible values of a centenary club

Fri, 30 Oct 2020 12:38:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

Since his arrival in June 2017 as Osasuna's sporting director, Braulio Vázquez has alluded on numerous occasions as core topic of the success of an economically unattainable signing to the "intangibles", that set of factors that provide a plus to the club rojillo and that since its foundation have been transmitted from generation to generation, as if it were a rich immaterial bequest . And among these intangibles are its stadium and its fans, a binomial in which lies a good part of the success of osasunismo in its centenary history.

After its foundation in 1920, Osasuna became a true hallmark of Pamplona and Navarra. The stony and irregular fields of Ensanche and Hipódromo, where it played its first matches, were replaced by the San Juan Field, inaugurated on May 21, 1922. Its successive renovations (the project of a "Chamartín chiqui" on the Larraina esplanade in the 1950s did not prosper) transformed its appearance and raised its capacity from 4,000 to 20,000 fans, who, especially from "La Leonera", turned the stadium into a pressure cooker. Fans who would walk to the field after having their last coffee or drink in the bars of the old town and listening to the loudspeaker in the distance, recalls Jesús Riaño, in a scene that had something of a processional ritual, as if it were a civil pilgrimage to the "sanctuary" of soccer to enjoy the saves of Eizaguirre and Luquin, the play of Ignacio Zoco and Pedro Mari Zabalza and the goals of Julián Vergara and Sabino Andonegui, among so many names to remember.

But times change, and with them the urban planning of our city, so the time came to close the old San Juan and build a new stadium in the Soto del Sadar. Its architect, Tomás Arrarás, who had been responsible for the last expansion of San Juan a decade earlier, designed an enclosed stadium of subject English that largely maintained the spirit of San Juan, with stands that were markedly vertical and very close to the pitch so that the support of the public could be felt as strongly as possible.

El Sadar opened its doors on September 2, 1967 with the celebration of a triangular tournament between Zaragoza (ten years earlier Osasuna had inaugurated La Romareda), Vitória Setúbal (which replaced Espanyol at the last minute) and Osasuna. Since then, it has undergone numerous transformations to increase its capacity, modernize its Structures and adapt to safety regulations: gone are the protective fences around the field, where "Chiquilín" climbed to launch his famous battle cry and Enrique Martín to celebrate goals with the fans. And the new Tribuna de Preferencia, testimony, like Tajonar, of the silent and efficient work of Fermín Ezcurra, an exemplary president. But always without losing its signs of identity, in that necessary communion of team and fans that makes it one of the most uncomfortable fields for visiting teams.

A stadium where the volume of decibels in matches core topic carries the local player on his shoulders, in which not only the big clubs of the national competition but also some European transatlantics such as Glasgow Rangers, Stuttgart, Girondins Bordeaux or Bayer Leverkusen have taken a knee. And even Hamburg, although it was not to be, and the dream of playing in the Champions League narrowly faded away on that memorable night of August 22, 2006.

Fifty years after its construction, El Sadar has a new suit for the centenary with a remodeling that could not ignore the intangibles that the Red Wall, project winner designed by OFS Architects and VDR-FS Structures, describes as "a real fortress" the stadium that emerged from the renovation.

El Sadar is synonymous with tradition, feeling and passion, a sort of second home where the osasunista family gathers and breathes life into an enclosure that only thus acquires its plenary session of the Executive Council meaning and raison d'être. "El Sadar: a new version, the spirit of always". Heritage and deep-rooted tradition that is passed down from father to son, as Serafín Zubiri sings in La voz de una afición, the osasunista centenary hymn that thrills from beginning to end. Intangible values of a club with its own signs of identity. Congratulations to the club and its fans. Hopefully very soon we can all celebrate together the centenary in the remodeled stadium.