“I started following you when I was little and gradually fell in love with you. I’ll always be by your side whenever you play. Don’t let me down, Valencia, I’ve never let you down.”
Few football chants contain lines that are as descriptive of the relationship between a fan base and a team as these for Valencia CF and the Che (a term used in the local region which could be translated as ‘hey’) faithful. A rendition of “don’t let me down, Valencia” epitomises the fans’ well-documented demanding nature, while their reputation for being loyal, passionate and tireless can also be heard through the “I’ll always be by your side” and “I’ve never let you down” snippets.
This demanding spirit goes hand in hand with how proud the fans are of the illustrious history of a club that has responded to those demands by dethroning plenty of European giants along the way. National and European trophies have seen Valencia set the benchmark in global football on several occasions, which is nothing less than the supporters expect. If your face is a reflection of your soul, Mestalla is the reflection of the Che feeling. Very few fan bases can claim that their team play at one of the top stadiums in Europe and it is certainly not just the Valencia faithful who rank the ground so highly.
In 2016, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph published a list of the 20 greatest stadiums in Europe, with Mestalla sitting proudly in second place. The prestigious daily paper defined Valencia’s supporters as “the most demanding in Spain who have the most atmospheric arena in which to showcase their partisan backing.” The article also singled out how “the steepest stands of any major ground in Europe still take the breath away, even if you have seen them a thousand times.”
As if being the second-best stadium in Europe was not enough, Mestalla is also the oldest ground in Spain’s top flight. Valencia’s wonderful home, which was inaugurated in 1923, took its name from one of the irrigation canals that ran through the Horta de Valencia (the fertile region of Valencia) and now has over 95 years of history to look back on. The club’s latest stadium revamp turned it into a white, orange and black temple which fits perfectly with the local streets that are teeming with Valencia fans on matchday, with supporters and players alike always giving their all.
The way that the Mestalla faithful welcomes their charges on to the pitch is capable of awakening the bat (a term for Valencia fans inspired by the club crest) and planting a seed of doubt in the opponents’ minds as they discover that they will have to contend with over 40,000 vocal home supporters before the match has even kicked off. The white, orange and black colosseum always gives everything throughout the 90 minutes. What starts out as a festive vibe thanks to the music usually played to liven up the pre-match atmosphere turns into passion and pressure emanating from the terraces. The Che fanbase are certainly loud and make themselves heard in every game, making it easy to understand why the stadium is considered one of the fieriest cauldrons in LaLiga. The level of intensity is sure to win over any football aficionado that pays it a visit on matchday.
Mestalla is an example of how it is not necessary to have the biggest or most state-of-the-art stadium for it to be one of the best places to soak up the beautiful game. A magical atmosphere is created by the fans and the stories that have unravelled there, which is why the ground simply has no comparison in this regard.