It’s been a long time coming. 89 years to be precise, but in September 2014, Sociedad Deportiva Leioa will become the latest, in what seems to be a never-ending line of small Basque clubs to reach Segunda B. Founded in 1925, SD Leioa didn’t even reach the Tercera until 2008. However, the club made steady progress in the succeeding six seasons, culminating in a first Tercera title in May 2014. Promotion to Spain’s third tier was secured thanks to a crushing 7-1 aggregate play-off victory over CD Varea.
SD Leioa joined the Federación Vizcaína de Fútbol in 1925, winning the second division crown in 1935. The senior team fell into decline after the Civil War and was disbanded in the early 1950’s. Left to concentrate on youth football and the wide variety of other sports practiced at the club, it would take another 20 years before it would field a senior team. When senior football did return, the club played at a variety of locations including the Campo de San Ignacio and a dirt pitch at the Universidad del País Vasco. Finally, in 1979, the club moved to Sarriena, a municipal sports development just to the north of Leoia. This also featured a dirt surface until 1988, when the first grass pitch was laid down and Athletic Club’s reserves played SD Leioa in a pre-season friendly.
Sarriena has 4 football pitches, with SD Leioa playing its home matches on the only one with natural turf. A simple 40 metre-long cover that dates from the early 1990’s stands on the west side of the ground. Its short cantilevered roof hangs over a couple of rows of red bucket seats. Far more interesting is the east side which features the former pavilion, which sits atop a grass bank, halfway between the centre-circle and the southern end of the enclosure. This has been superseded by an altogether more impressive structure on the halfway line. In 2010, the club & municipality built a two-tiered club house that includes changing facilities and club rooms. It also features a viewing gallery on its upper floor, underneath which stands a narrow terrace. Floodlights were also added as part of the 2010 improvements.
Despite its semi-rural setting, Sarriena has become a bit of a fortress, with SD Leoia losing just a solitary home fixture in each of the past two seasons. With crowds that rarely exceed a few hundred, Sarriena’s capacity of 1,000 is unlikely to be tested too severely when it debuts in Segunda B.