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The match-to-watch: A fallen giant against an attacking minnow

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In a new "match-to-watch" series, Sarthak Kumar previews a match between two clubs - one with a proud history, another with a proud philosophy.

Victor Fraile/Getty Images

Racing de Santander: 30th January, 2014. Two teams were on the pitch but when the whistle was first blown they weren’t playing against each other.


Men and women who had seen the club in 2008 reach sixth in La Liga, reach the semifinals of the Copa del Rey after beating Málaga, Real Zaragoza and Athletic Bilbao, qualify for the UEFA Cup for the first time in their history, defeat Manchester City 3-1 and hold PSG and Schalke to draws; men and women who had seen the club reach the semifinal of the Copa del Rey again in 2010; men and women who had seen the club suffer back-to-back relegations and plunge into financial chaos, men and women who had seen the club somehow reach the quarterfinal of the Copa del Rey whilst being a third tier club, defeating Sevilla and Almería on the way, men and women who had seen Racing de Santander lose 3-1 in the away leg against Sociedad, heard the whistle blow and the ball kicked.


And then they saw what they wanted to see. Every Racing player on the pitch and on the bench, every member of the coaching staff, came onto the center-circle of the El Sardinero and stood, arm-in-arm, united, determined.


Sociedad were playing against Racing but Racing were playing against their own board.


The same men and women who had, in the first leg against Almería, assaulted chairman Ángel Lavín for not paying players for several months, watched as the ball was kicked out, the match suspended, the club suspended from next season’s edition of the cup and the chairman sacked the very next day.


Racing immediately bounced back to the second tier in 2014, but are back in the third tier this season and with a completely new squad are fighting for promotion. They occupy the last promotion playoff spot, but have a mixed away record - they have won just three of their eight away games.


Compostela: Jimmy, a 28-year-old left-back, will once again take to the field, will once again push up the pitch almost like a winger and will once again see his team concede shots and, possibly, goals.


Born and raised within the attacking mentality of SD Compostela, Jimmy doesn’t care about the result. He cares about good, attacking, ferocious football.


It is this brand of play that has seen Compostela rise and fall on the ladder of Spanish football.


Till 1986, Compostela were a stable mid-table third tier club representing the small regional town of Compostela in Galicia. However, that very summer they were relegated. They had attacked and attacked and fought with all their might, kicking and screaming, but went down - with the joint-worst defense in the league.


But giving up their attacking philosophy was out of the question.


It was that philosophy that saw them promoted to the third tier in 1990, promoted to the second tier the year after, and reach the top division in 1994. It was that philosophy that saw them lose the relegation playoff against Villarreal in 1998. It was that philosophy that saw them reach the quarterfinals of the 1999-00 Copa del Rey, defeating the likes of Numancia, Tenerife and Villarreal on the way - all while battling against relegation to the third tier. It was that belief that saw them relegated in 2001 by a solitary point and promoted back in 2002.


Financial problems crept into the club - and sporting success could have saved them. But giving up their attacking philosophy was out of the question.


Even when they were relegated in 2003 despite finishing ninth, even when they were demoted to the fifth tier the very next season, even when it took four seasons to exit the regional leagues, even when a successive promotion in 2009 was dampened by a second demotion to the fifth tier the very next season for not paying players, even when the club went through the whole process of coming back to the fourth tier in 2012 and to the third tier in 2013, even when the club lost fourteen players this summer, and even now as they sit in the relegation zone four points from safety and an almost tragically certain demotion to the regional leagues looming over the club, that singular belief in going for the jugular has kept the club together in turbulent times.


On the 13th of December, two teams sitting on opposite ends of Group 1 of the third-tier Segunda B shall face off. At 4 PM, Compostela host Racing, and what a spectacle of football it promises to be.


Because, for the club residing in the 14,000-seater San Lázaro, giving up their attacking philosophy is still out of the question.