One city, 21 days and three climbs. The eyes of elite sport are directed towards A Coruña. The successes of Dépor, back in professional football after a long night of four years in Primera RFEF, Leyma Básquet Coruña, champion of the LEB Oro and which will debut in the ACB next season, and Dépor Abanca, team blue and white women’s team that will return to League F, they have once again put a city on the map that is also fashionable in the business field due to the impact of two large corporations: Inditex and Estrella Galicia.

“I had never seen anything like it. Not even when we won the League or played in the Champions League,” remembers a fan. A week before the 24th anniversary of the Dépor League (May 19, 2000), the entire city took to the streets to celebrate promotion to the Second Division. After four seasons in the mud, from the delayed relegation against Fuenlabrada to last Sunday’s victory against Barça Atlètic, with five coaches and two failed playoffs, the fans were thirsty for joy.

“Being one of those who win is very easy, being from Deportivo seems better to me,” sings the Riazor fans, a separate phenomenon, which broke the Primera RFEF attendance record several times up to 31,833 spectators who filled the stadium against the reserve team. blaugrana. With an average attendance of 22,056 people, only nine First Division teams surpass it. Sportsmanship has taken root among the younger public, the so-called mud generation. He did not live the glory years, but the greatest of them have passed on the inheritance with care and passion.

Lucas Pérez, hero of the promotion, went down into the mud with the free-kick goal against Barça B. From the Coruña neighborhood of Monelos, in January 2023 he put almost half a million euros out of his pocket to pay the termination clause and lowered his claims to leave Cádiz, in the First Division, for the team of its life, immersed in the worst crisis in its history. “I don’t come to Primera RFEF, I come to Dépor,” he said then. “They called me crazy, but it has given me a lot of happiness and I had a debt when I left in the last descent,” he admits now.

O Neno’s dream took a while to come true. At his formative age he did not find a place in the blue and white youth team. He went through the youth ranks of Alavés, Atlético and Rayo, with whom he debuted in the Second Division, before emigrating, like a good Galician. He played for the Ukrainian Karpaty, the Greek PAOK Thessaloniki and, in 2014, he finally signed for Dépor. In the second season he scored 18 goals and his explosion led him to Arsenal. Without success, a year later he returned on loan in a season that ended with relegation to the Second Division.

He left through the back door and wandered around West Ham, Alavés, Elche and Cádiz before returning once again. In his third stage, now 35 years old, the prodigal son has led the return of the team of his life to professional football (12 goals and 17 assists this season), a group above all, in which the two jewels also stand out. from Abegondo: David Mella (18 years old, Teo), a cannon on the right wing, son of a former soccer player and in Dépor since youth, and Yeremay Hernández (21, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria), a fine playmaker who arrived in Coruña in cadets rebounded by Real Madrid. Saving the distance, they are the heirs of Fran and Valerón.

The promotion campaign almost took down Imanol Idiakez, the fifth coach since the descent to hell and the fifteenth in ten years. With only one victory in the first eight matches, he saved several match-balls until he found the right system and eleven. “I left two suitcases at home, one for Christmas and one with everything,” he admitted then. The last delicate moment was the defeat against Cultural, on matchday 19 of the first round, which left Dépor out of the playoffs and ten points behind the leader. Since then they have gone 17 days without losing (14 wins and three draws), an almost perfect second round, an unquestionable streak.

After the long-awaited return to professional football, the challenge is to return to First Division. The property – the largest shareholder is Abanca, the large Galician bank that forgave the debt and removed all the club’s echelons last summer – is finalizing the exit from the bankruptcy proceedings and foresees a powerful injection in the Second Division, but in the midst of the celebration it has faced to the A Coruña City Council for the agreement, with the exploitation of Riazor as a backdrop. Dépor is no longer a company of feelings, but of numbers. Paradoxically, it has hooked the fans like never before. For example, the 29,000 subscribers and 6,300 on the waiting list to occupy a seat.

With Diego Epifanio at the controls, a coach who already took Burgos and Breogán to the elite; Goran Huskic, the poor man’s Jokic, as the main generator; Beqa Burjanadze, another beautiful story of the prodigal son who returns home to triumph; the experience of Alejandro Galán, Olle Lundqvist or Álex Hernández and two streak scorers, Yunio Barrueta and Ingus Jakovics, Básquet Coruña earned promotion with the best attack in the league: averages of 89.5 points – setting the limit of the category with 119 in a game–, 19.7 assists and 100.4 rating.

Just as important as the sporting level has been social consolidation, with more than 2,000 subscribers and two full houses at the Riazor Sports Palace. It is precisely the pavilion that is one of the main unknowns for landing at the ACB: the ancient municipal premises does not meet the minimum requirements. The other option is the Coliseum, which was already the venue for the Copa del Rey in 2016. It is not the only headache for the board, which will have to undertake a profound renovation of the squad to adapt to the demands of the best European league.

The pandemic and the flight of talent – ​​in addition to Abelleira, others who are international today left: Misa, María Méndez and Athenea – ended with Dépor Abanca’s relegation. Three years later it has returned to the elite with a single survivor from the original team, captain Cris Martínez, and two figures, Millene Cabral and Ainhoa ​​Marín. With only two defeats in 26 games, Irene Ferreras’ group closed the promotion on April 21 before 14,057 people in Riazor, a record for a game for the women’s team and also in the category.