Behind the badge: what the bat means to Valencia and its history

Behind the badge: what the bat means to Valencia and its history

Behind The Badge is a series by COPA90 exploring football’s unique crests. These Football Times teamed up with their COPA Collective partners to tell the story behind each one.


Like meddling criminals in Gotham City, it’s pretty difficult to escape bats if you happen to be in and around Valencia. The image of the nocturnal animal is everywhere, from manhole covers to street corners, from bus stops to official council buildings. You might even bump into a real one if you’re out at night.

The biggest one in the entire city is rarely sighted, hidden by thousands of football fans on the Mestalla’s East Stand. You might have spotted it in March during a Champions League game being played behind closed doors. There’s also one perched above Los Che’s club crest.

The bat has been a resident of the city and Comunitat of Valencia for hundreds of years, long before people first settled there. The city itself was built on a swamp, nearby to the Albufera lake, which was and still is a massive breeding ground for mosquitos – one of the bats’ favourite foods. It’s estimated that bats keep two-thirds of the local mosquitos from entering the city itself.

The winged mammal is first thought to have become a symbol of the city before James I of Aragon led the Christians to victory over the Moors as part of the 13th -century Reconquista. A bat landed on his flag – or tent depending on which history book you’re reading – before he entered the city to battle and he interpreted it as a good sign.

Today, the bat still sits proudly atop the city of Valencia’s coat of arms and, when Valencia Club de Fútbol was formed in the Bar Torino in the now Plaza de Ayuntamiento in 1919, the founders took inspiration from it. They incorporated the bat, along with James’ crown and the yellow and red colours of the Senyera flag of the Comunitat de Valencia all into their first logo.

Similar to Barcelona up the coast, Valencia are very proud of these particular colours and often dedicate an away strip to them. It’s not clear as to whether the letter ‘C’ refers to the Comunitat or Ciudad (city) of Valencia, but I think you can hazard a pretty good guess as to what the ‘V’ stands for. The whole thing was contained in football of the time.

A couple of years later, that football was shrunk and slapped in the centre of the Senyera shield, which had changed shape from the original square in a new design by Francisco Aguar Tarín. The club’s name was included for the first time in a blue strip above the shield and below the bat, which remained.

The blue can also be traced back to the colours on the Comunitat flag and is usually the shade for the shorts and socks of those yellow and red away strips. In 1941, the badge was given a facelift, with the bat now standing on the top of the shield. I’m sure the chiropterologists out there would point out an anatomy problem there somewhere.

This new badge coincided with the club’s glory years, with Valencia winning their inaugural Copa del Generalísimo that same year and being crowned LaLiga champions for the first time the season after. More silverware followed later in the 1940s in the form of two further league titles and another Copa.

The only difference between that crest and the ones stitched on the kits for the 2000 Champions League final was that the bat was once more suspended over the shield, feet hovering in the air again. Maybe there was a darker shade of red, too. With another Champions League final, and another defeat, following a year later, Valencia became endeared themselves to a new generation of fans.

 

Alterations were made to the bat again, giving it a few more artistic features and different shading to make it stand out a little more. Those were reverted back to just plain black in 2009 when the latest version was rolled out. But it came with complications.

The likeness in shape to the Batman logo drew talk of legal action from DC Comics in 2013 and again in 2019 when the club drew up a special bat to celebrate their centenary year. On both occasions, the EU’s Intellectual Property Office was called in to settle disputes which ultimately weren’t followed through on. Anyway, Valencia’s badge is 17 years older than Batman’s.

Something as simple as a bat on a football badge may seem so trivial at first but, in the city of Valencia’s case, it represents so much more. It’s a symbol of victory that’s not only seen on the crests of both the city’s top football clubs – Valencia and Levante – but across the world every weekend.

By Billy Munday @billymunday08
Art by Tom Griffiths @ARTomGriffiths

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