Football Islands – Tenerife

Today, amongst the many diverse islands spread across Europe, the Spanish island of Tenerife is visited by many thousands each year. Rugged and volcanic the face of the islands have been sculpted by the many who have visited the islands over hundreds of years. Travellers adventured to the Canaries long before the modern tourists who adventure into it today.  In size, location and form the island has also been shaped by successive volcanic eruptions that have occurred throughout its history – the most recent eruption coming in 1909.

Despite enjoying a warm climate and all year round sunshine this is a diverse place with a rich mountainous northern region; an area huge in contrasts to the southern tourist regions where flat man made golf courses and hotel resorts often dominant.

During the winter months it is possible to enjoy the warm sunshine on the southern coast and experience snow in the higher northern peaks.  Bus trips in the north often adventure through winding mountainous areas where small streams trickle down to the sun kissed coastlines.

Tenerife is not alone in this part of the world but it is the largest and most populous island of the seven Canary Islands. It is also the most populated island of those that belong to Spain with nearly 900,000 inhabitants.  Closer to the coastline of Africa rather than the Iberian Peninsula, this is where Spain’s highest point is located Mount Teide, a peak that has an elevation of 3,718m (13,000 ft) above sea level.

The High Price of Remoteness

As in much of the rest of Spain, football is the sport most practiced and followed by all Canary Island inhabitants. But football in Tenerife, like in the neighbouring islands, once paid a price for its inaccessibility.  The island marks a location that before 1945 was hugely challenging to reach and enter due to a remote geographical location and the immediate mountainous landscape from the north.

But even in its early years match friendly match games were being played  by local teams. Thanks to the strategic position of the island, clubs from South America and the main Spanish peninsula adventured to Tenerife as a stop off point from the southern hemisphere.

It was only after World War II, when commercial aircraft aviation grew rapidly, that CD Tenerife the main club, could dream of playing the giants of Spanish football in the main Spanish league.  Founded in 1912 CD Tenerife paid a high price for this insularity with it being many years before it made a breakthrough to the mainland league.  The club consumed nearly half a century of footballing existence before it could reach Spanish national level competitions in 1953.

It would be 1961 before the team would play in the top Spanish division.

Until these post war years Tenerife immersed itself in smaller local and regional level football where football become highly developed.   Even back then teams from this landscape proved themselves able to compete and participate. Such is the close proximity of the different Canary Islands match ups could be played against leading teams from the main neighbouring islands of Lanzarote and Gran Canaria.

Perhaps it is this early sense of footballing remoteness that has allowed the fierce inner island football rivalries to flourish.  The Tenerife v Las Palmas match attracts great passion but both teams are currently as far apart as ever with the latter in La Liga and CD Tenerife playing in the second tier.

Outside the big two there are around 303 football teams from the Canary Islands competing in the different Spanish leagues.  Football stadiums from the large to the very small are spread throughout these island territories.  One of the biggest stadiums is that of CD Tenerife – the Estadio Heliodoro Rodriguez Lopez or Estadio de Tenerife located in Santa Cruz.

Back in 2013 I spent a week in Tenerife. I saw football played in the 4th level Tercera División and CD Tenerife play in the Segunda Division against Recreativo.

You can see some images here.