‘Intruder’ in Spanish football, Andorra (owned by Pique) wins unprecedented access to the premiership

Starting next season, the second division of the Spanish championship will have a team from outside the country. FC Andorra, as its name suggests, is located in the vicinity and has been part of the structures of the Spanish Federation since the club’s founding in 1942. Over these eight decades, Andorra has not done much in the league and has never crossed the third place division – far from being the “Monaco of Spain” . However, bought by Gerard Pique in 2018, the tricolor has gained new investment and increased its political power behind the scenes – no matter what conflicts of interest revolve around the guns. Since then, they have jumped three divisions and will be able to debut in the premiership in 2022/23. This season’s inclusion was celebrated over the weekend, with their regional group foraying into the third division. Pique was in the stands to celebrate.

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Andorra is the oldest football club in Andorra. The association was founded by local students in 1942, five decades before the emergence of the Andorran League and the local federation. Thus, the tricolor’s only competitive path was to join the Catalan federation and participate in the access sections of the Spanish Championship – as the Welshman does in the English Championship, for example. Despite the gap, Andorra has never been of much importance in La Liga. It remained in regional divisions until the 1970s. As of 1980, the team had a long run through the third division that lasted 17 years practically without a break. At most, he would be second in his regional group in 1988/89 and was five points away from getting there.

During the 1990s, Andorra was still in the third division, and would witness its greatest achievement of the century. The club won the Catalan Cup in 1994 and would reach 16th place in the Copa del Rey final in 1995/96. However, the decline began with a third-place drop in 1997/98. The Trio would make three more touchdowns in a short space of time and ended up in the seventh division in 2004/05. On the verge of bankruptcy, the club was bailed out by a group of local businessmen and, from the past decade, has diversified into its fifth and sixth divisions. That was until the arrival of Pique in 2018.

Piqué has acquired 90% of the shares of FC Andorra through his company, Kosmos Sports. And the Barcelona player promised a huge project, to put Andorra not only in the Spanish first division. “People who know me know that I am ambitious and I am one of those who say that the Champions League anthem needs to be played in Andorra. But to reach this goal, which today looks like a utopia, it is necessary to go step by step,” Pique said. One of the promises was to invest in Andorran football and build a new stadium. “This club represents the hope of an entire country. Our commitment is to create a country project and for Andorra to monitor the results of its team every weekend.”

One of Pique’s first steps was to get new supporters sponsored by a local bank. It was enough for Andorra to reach the fifth division immediately, in 2018/19. Then came the political impact: Instead of playing in the fourth division, the tricolor jumped straight to the third division in 2019/20. Ríos suffered relegation for administrative reasons and Andorra began to fill the vacancy. The Spanish Federation required that certain financial requirements be fulfilled, as well as membership in the local federation of Catalonia. Andorra and L’Hospitalte fulfilled these requirements, but only Andorra was willing to pay the 450,000 euros of debt left by Ríos. The close relationship between Pique and Luis Rubiales, president of the federation, also influenced the proceedings. Apparently, the “acronym” drew criticism at the time.

Andorra took some time to establish itself in the third division. She finished ninth in her regional group in 2019/20, which at least made it worthwhile to return to the King’s Cup after 24 years, and then finished third in the 2020/21 campaign, which marked a rework of the access divisions. Despite Pique’s requests to Rubiales, the tricolor did not fail to integrate the regional group of the Catalans in the third year after this championship transformation. However, they managed to rise in 2021/22, after competition from teams such as Barcelona B, Real Madrid Castilla, Albacete and Al Quiano.

In the regular season of the third tier of the Spanish championship, only the champions of each of the two regional groups were promoted. Racing de Santander achieved this in the first set. Now, Andorra has triumphed in Group B and has been promoted by a choppy tour, opening four points clear of Villarreal B and Albacete. The team achieved 21 victories in 37 participations. He will also have a chance to win his third title, in the final match against Racing scheduled for June 3.

Andorra’s current coach has even worked with Pique at Barcelona: it’s Eder Sarabia, the former assistant to Quique Setién at the Blaugranas. Gabri, the former Barcelona player, also passed through the dugout from 2018 to 2020. The current squad includes defender Roger Riera, who trained at La Masia and who defended Barcelona B last season. He shares the defense with Adria Vilanova, son of Tito Vilanova. Also among the veteran players are Marc Pedraza, who was part of the famous generation of Barcelona 1987, despite turning pro at Espanyol, and Marti Riverola, who played 11 minutes in the 2011/12 Champions League with Barcelona. However, not all of the highlights were beyond Blaugrana. The team’s top scorer was winger Marc Fernandez, who trained in Zaragoza. Veteran striker Carlos Martins, from Hercules, also made the difference.

The truth is that Pique’s relationship with the club will be different for Andorra. He is a character who can bring players together and also open doors in the corridors of the Federation, due to his crossing in this aspect, as the organizer of competitions. As for its design, the three colors want to be better remembered because they represent a distinct country and also have a special feel about them in this context. But it is not a country of 80,000 people that will necessarily guarantee all the conditions for Andorra to jump into the Champions League. No wonder the association did not pass the third year until the arrival of its famous owner.

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