FACED with a payment which must be met this week in order to stop their club being wound up, the fans are rallying like never before.
Passion for the club they love is going before everything else. Working-class supporters are ploughing all their disposable – and, in some cases, indisposable – income into buying shares. They’re snapping up tickets and packing out the stadium to show their support. Ex-players are coming forward to plough in cash as their plight makes headlines all across the country.
This isn’t Hearts we’re talking about, though. It’s Real Oviedo, the Spanish club whose desperate plight bears uncanny similarities to that of the financially-crippled Tynecastle outfit.
While Hearts may have earned a stay of execution from HMRC, Oviedo – currently operating in the Spanish third tier after a grim slide from La Liga – are at death’s door. To survive, this proud 86-year-old club from northern Spain needs to raise ¤2m by this Saturday in order to stave off legal writs which will see them go to the wall.
A last-ditch money-making initiative was launched at the start of the month, with fans given the chance to purchase a shareholding in their stricken club for a mere ¤10.75. Like Hearts, their share scheme was effectively asking fans to donate to the club they loved in order to help them survive their perilous predicament.
The rallying message on the club’s website read: “The club and supporters are crying out for financial help and this plea is extended to anyone who would like to contribute to keep this legendary club alive. By taking part in this recapitalization, you would also become a Real Oviedo shareholder.”
And the Oviedo fans certainly haven’t been found wanting. Bearing in mind the dire financial situation all across Spain and the fact Oviedo has a one in four unemployment rate, it is to the eternal credit of the public that they have been able to back their club. At the last count, around ¤1.3m had been raised, with the aid of a donation from Real Madrid in the region of ¤100,000.
It remains to be seen whether they will get over the line but, nonetheless, the way those who care about the club have mobilised has been quite staggering. Their status as a club in arguably the top footballing nation in the world has, admittedly, aided their cause. After all, for those with no real link to either club, the prospect of becoming a Real Oviedo shareholder for a mere tenner is likely to be seen as more attractive than ploughing their hard-earned into Hearts.
Twitter is awash with the hashtag ‘SOSREALOVIEDO’, as the campaign to aid the club goes global. While Hearts’ ex-players have rallied to the Tynecastle club’s cause, the same has been the case at Oviedo with the likes of Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata and Michu pledging to help the club that set them on their way to the riches of the English Premier League.
Michu, now of Swansea City, was with Oviedo from the age of five to 21. “Myself, Mata and Cazorla all bought shares,” he said. “We just wanted to try and help save the club we all played for. It’s my local club, a club I love, so I hope it will be enough.”
Over 20,000 fans attended Oviedo v Real Madrid C on Sunday. For a third-tier match. If this club goes under, it won’t be due to lack of effort. As in Edinburgh, the potential demise of a footballing institution in northern Spain is showing the value of people power.