Friday, 4 July 2008

The New Industrialists

It was in the 19th century that the first wave of English industrialists, aristocrats and entrepreneurs introduced the game of football to Europe and South America. Since then the game has exploded all over the world and is recognised on every continent. It seems that a second wave of English migrants have decided to involve themselves in the game and carry on the work of their ancestors, writes Jake Hall.

This has happened on the Costa Blanca in Spain, where a bunch of ex-pats have taken a Fourth Division club called CD Javea (CD as in Club Deportivo) in the province of Alicante under their wing. The club president is Mark Catlin and the manager is Ken Brown - the same Ken Brown who played for West Ham in the 80s - and they are both thoroughly committed to continuing the steady progress they have made at the club over the past season.

“When Kenny and I joined the club it was at rock bottom, on the verge of relegation and close to bankruptcy,” explained Catlin. “Long term we believe we should be in the Third Division. If we could get the right club to invest in us as a feeder club then I firmly believe we can go to even greater heights,” he added. With a ground capacity of only 4,000 it is a long-term goal, but optimism is high when you consider there is a catchment area of about 12,000 ex-Brits in the province, and that figure is rising annually.

At the moment around 400 ex-pats go to the games, 250 of them being hardcore fans who travel to away games. There is also a strong Spanish support for the club and every player at the club is Spanish. Through their former player, CD Javea have strong links with West Ham and they play a youth team fixture each year, which is all part of their youth policy. At the moment they have 300 members in their youth scheme, which is quite remarkable for a small fishing town, even though they are only 40 kilometres or so from Britain’s favourite holiday hot spot, Benidorm.

“With the right funding I would love to establish a real academy here with living accommodation and full-time coaches to develop the children,” explained Mark, who admits to finding it difficult to balance his voluntary efforts at the club with his other work commitments. “I would love to put all my energy into the club and get them into the Primera Liga but I’m afraid that fairytales don’t happen without money,” he smiled.

But he is proud of his working relationship with the former Hammer and is deeply impressed with the work Kenny has done at the club so far. Catlin is a very passionate man with a burning ambition for the club. It may well be that CD Javea get the investment they need to take them to the next level.

Let us all hope that this wave of football enthusiasm from the Brits will provide the platform for future success.

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