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Why Villarreal are known as the Yellow Submarine

The Beatles' Yellow Submarine launched from Liverpool in 1966 and within a year it had found its way to an industrial town just north of Valencia. So how did the Spanish side get the nautical nickname?

A Yellow Submarine, yesterday
A Yellow Submarine, yesterday ©Getty Images

As Villarreal have navigated their way through to the UEFA Europa League final, battening down the hatches to weather the occasional storm and sinking all before them, media with pretentions of grandeur have plunged the depths for nautical themes. It got us wondering: why are Villarreal known as the Yellow Submarine?

For starters, Villarreal isn't actually on the coast. The small industrial town an hour's drive north-east of Valencia is a few kilometres inland on the Mijares River. Secondly, submarines aren't their thing; Villarreal is famous for manufacturing ceramics – Spain's Stoke City, if you like. It's why they play at the Estadio de la Cerámica.

So not on the coast, no submarines; but they do play in yellow (more on that to come) and, according to the club's website, that was inspiration enough for their adoption of The Beatles' song. The moniker dates back to 1967/68, when Villarreal were vying for promotion to Spain's third division (they did not grace the top flight until 1998/99).

Villarreal's supporters are responsible for the club's nickname
Villarreal's supporters are responsible for the club's nickname©Getty Images

In one match a group of supporters behind one of the goals started playing The Beatles' song on a record player and, looking out at their team's yellow shirts, started chanting to the tune of the song "Amarillo es el Villarreal/amarillo es/amarillo es" (Villarreal are yellow, they are yellow).

That the nickname came about by accident seems appropriate for a club whose distinctive shirt colour also owes much to happenstance. Back in 1947, with the new season fast approaching, the son of the Villarreal president was dispatched to Valencia to purchase replacements for the club's white shirts.

The shop did not have them in stock. In fact, there was just one available colour for the number of shirts required: yellow. The choice made waves but the players, refusing to be down in the doldrums, quickly got on board with it.

And the Red Devils?

Manchester United were The Heathens (they came from the Newton Heath area of Manchester and played on Sundays) but in the 1960s Sir Matt Busby reputedly took a liking to the Red Devils. That was the moniker the nearby Salford rugby league team had held since being dubbed "Les Diables Rouges" by a French journalist in 1934. If you're going to be a heathen, you may as well go all the way.