Pedro Nistal, Oviedo, 8.25.15
Photo courtesy of Pedro Nistal

From the Stands: The deep connection between fans of Real Oviedo and the Portland Timbers

According to Pedro Nistal, a lifelong Real Oviedo fan and recent Portland Timbers convert, the two clubs have a special connection.

To understand how Timbers fans developed such a unique bond with the Spanish club, you must first understand the nightmare that Oviedo fans like Nistal endured, as over 10 years he watched his beloved club sink to the lowest point in its long history.

In 2001, Oviedo lost away at Mallorca, resulting in the club's relegation to the Spanish second division. Sadly, relegation was only the beginning of Real Oviedo's problems.

Soon, the club found itself deep in debt and only two years after getting relegated from La Liga, Oviedo was relegated again, this time to Spain's third division. Adding insult to injury, shortly after that disastrous second relegation, Oviedo's players formally denounced the club to the players' union for failure to fulfill contractual payments.

Things had gotten so bad that in 2003, the local government shifted its attention to another third-division club, Astur. It soon looked as if Real Oviedo, the storied club that had spent 38 seasons in La Liga, was finished.

By then, however, the fans had had enough.

Fan groups began quickly organizing against the local government and raising money to help the cash-strapped club.

In 2012, over a decade since all of the club's troubles had started, Real Oviedo was in dire financial straits. Fans and former Oviedo players began soliciting donations from all around the world and, with the added financial help of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, Real Oviedo staved off bankruptcy and lived to fight another day.

A strong contingent of Timbers fans, hundreds of them according to Nistal, bought shares in the club to help the team survive those dark days in 2012.

As Nistal explains it, the efforts and donations of those Timbers fans only deepened his connection to the American club.

“The love that many Oviedo fans have for the Timbers is incredible,” Nistal said via translation. “In some games you see Timbers scarves and flags at the Carlos Tartiere [stadium]. Some fans have traveled from the USA to see a game in Oviedo.”

But Nistal had already started following the Timbers in 2011, even before the generous outpouring of support from Timbers fans for his favorite club.

“Another fan of Real Oviedo brought the Portland Timbers to my attention and since then I started to follow some games online and become a bit interested in what they call 'soccer' over there,” he recalled. “From time to time I’d follow a game and see how the Timbers were doing in the standings.”

Nistal says that despite the time difference and the difficulties he's faced trying to find Timbers matches to watch, he's still managed to catch several games and has been impressed by what he's seen.

“Honestly it’s been a pleasant surprise to see this level and what I’ve enjoyed the most is witnessing the existence of a large, loyal fan base like Portland’s,” he said. “The stadium is always full, there are lots of big Timbers Army tifos and fantastic traveling support as well."

Through all of Oviedo's many high and lows – the team is currently on a high, having recently won promotion back to the Spanish second division – Nistal believes that both Oviedo and Timbers fans have developed a long-lasting bond and one that he hopes soon manifests itself on the soccer pitch.

“If you were to ask other Oviedistas [Oviedo fans], believe me that many of us follow the Timbers and that we’ve forged a beautiful friendship that has no limits,” Nistal said. “We all want for Real Oviedo and the Timbers to play a friendly match someday…it would be awesome!”