Thursday, September 29, 2011

History of the Spanish football (IV): 1911-1915, the creation of RFEF, Athletic dominance and first idols

Previous chapter: History of the Spanish football (III): 1905-1910, the years of crisis and division

During this decade, the most important event was the creation of the RFEF, which allowed the Spanish football to enter in FIFA. This event was not exempt from problems and divisions in the Spanish football. In these years, Athletic Club was the most important club of the country and their regional dominance was extended to the Copa del Rey. These years were also times of crisis for Madrid FC and FC Barcelona, who saw how clubs that have disappeared, like Gimnástica de Madrid or FC España became powers in their zone. At the same time, the first idols appear, like "Pichichi" in Athletic Club or Paulino Alcántara in FC Barcelona.


Campionat de Catalunya

In this new edition of the Catalan tournament, there were five clubs and the problems with club withdrawing from games persisted, but FC Barcelona kept having no rival on the pitch. Some things started to change in football and the first signals of the future professionalism started to appear, since some players of Barcelona started to request for money. In one way or another, FC Barcelona won their 3rd consecutive title, the 4th in their history. As anecdote, during this season, the Board of Español decided to introduce the blue and white colors in their shirt to honor Roger de Llúria.

Source: RSSSF Archives

Campeonato de Madrid

As this tournament was played in a two leg round between Madrid FC and Gimnástica. Since Athletic Madrid and Español de Madrid acted as feeders of the Athletic Club Bilbao and CD Español de Barcelona, they were not part of the competition. Madrid FC won the first game against Gimnástica, who were defeated 3-0. In the second round, Gimástica won the game (2-0) against the madridistas. The rules at that time forced a replay to decide the winner. Gimnástica won the tie-breaker (2-1) and got the ticket to the Copa.

Copa del Rey

What it was supposed to be the Copa of peace turned to be the Copa of the conflicts. As it was agreed the tournament was played in Bizkaia, specifically in Getxo, a town near Bilbao were Athletic had a football stadium. Also, as a consequence of the initial peace, the participation was the most important until that moment and, aside some regional champions, all the members of the FECF were invited. Initially, there were 13 teams in the roster: Athletic Club, Bilbao FC, Sociedad de San Sebastian, Santander FC, Gimnástica de Madrid, FC Barcelona, CD Español, Deportivo de La Coruña, Fortuna Vigo plus four teams of the different militar academies: Academia de Artilleria (Segovia), Academia de Infanteria (Toledo), Academia de Caballería (Valladolid) and Academia de Ingenieros (Guadalajara).

The problems started very soon when Deportivo de La Coruña and the Academia de Ingenieros withdrew in protest for the presence of non-available foreigners in some of their rivals. The rules specified that the club could play with foreigners as long as they had been living in Spain for at least two years.

The previous round were played by the local clubs. In the first game, Bilbao FC faced the Academia de Infantería. The local team won the game (2-1) and advanced to the quarter finals. The second game of the previous round created a huge mess. Athletic Club played against Fortuna Vigo and the Basques defeated their rivals (2-0), but Sociedad de San Sebastián appealed the result of the game, since they considered that three players of Athletic Club did not accomplish with the foreigners rule, and requested the replay. The FECF did not accept the complaints and Sociedad de San Sebastián withdrew in protest before they played their first game.

The quarter finals were not exempt of problems either. On April 10, CD Español trashed their military rivals of the Academia de Infantería (6-0) and advanced to the semifinals. The same day, the Academia de Caballería surprised Santander FC (1-0) and got their tickets to the semifinals too. Two days later, there was a local derby between Athletic Club and Bilbao FC. Athletic Club, this time without their "strange" English players (it was known that they were players that had only joined Athletic for this tournament), showed their superiority defeating their neighbors easily (4-1). But the problems continued with the last game of this round. FC Barcelona and Gimnástica de Madrid faced each other for a place in the semifinals. FC Barcelona, the big favorites of this game, accomplished with the expectations and defeated the team of Madrid (4-0). However, Gimnástica appealed the game, since they considered that the goalkeeper of Barcelona, Reñé, was a French that did not accompish with the foreigner rule. The FECF decided to accept the complaints and forced the replay. The Catalan team defended that Reñé had been living in Barcelona for more than two years and, in any case, they considered that it could only be considered an affront compared with the Athletic Club case. As a consequence, FC Barcelona also decided to leave the tournament.

If that was not enough, the events got more ugly. Considering all the previous situations, the Academia de Caballería and CD Español decided to withdraw from the tournament too. In the other semifinal, the chaos continued and, when Athletic Club was defeating Gimnástica at half time (2-0), the team of Madrid decided to withdraw, since they considered that the referee had been too permissive with the rudeness of their rivals.

At the end, with the Academia de Caballería out of the tournament, CD Español reconsidered their position and decided to stay in the tournament. Their decision was applauded by the local fans in the hotel were the Catalans had stayed, the Hotel Arana. The game was played one day before the initial schedule, but Athletic Club showed their superiority. The Basques dominated the whole game and were already leading the score at half time (2-0) with goals scored by Veiych and Belaunde. Things did not change much in the 2nd half and Athletic scored the third and decisive goal Garnica. The Catalan Neira could only score the goal of the honor for Español. Athletic won the Copa of the shame and the problems, their 5th in history.

Source: Wikipedia


Campionat de Catalunya

It was an important year for Español. During this season, CD Español were given the Real honor title by the King Alfonso XIII, who had a good personal relationship with Josep Ciudad, one of the members of the Board of the club. Since that moment, the club's name was Real Club Deportivo Español. 

On the other hand, in FC Barcelona, the club lives moments of tension. Quirante, a player of the club, leads a rebellion to request money from the tickets. The club presided by Hans Gamper denies it, considering that this is a step towards professionalism. After some debates, the club backs the president Gamper and fires Quirante, but several players joined his teammate and leave the club, which had serious consequences in a team that had won several titles during the recent years.

In this new edition, RCD Español won the Campionat de Catalunya for the first time since 1904 (not counting on the victories of SC X). A new club was added to the rise of Español and the decline of FC Barcelona, FC España, who had been playing constantly in the tournament and finally appeared as an alternative.

As anecdote, this 1912 was the bomb that made explode the rivalry between FC Barcelona and RCD Español. The pericos promoted a local unofficial tournament, called Copa Ciudad-La Riva. The trophy had to be played in 2 rounds. The first game was played in FC Barcelona's home. It was a tense and violent game, that ended up with the victory of Español (0-1). The second game was played in Español's home the following day. The incidents of the previous game were too near and the events went in the wrong direction. Español was superior and won the game (4-0), but the Catalan goalkeeper Reñé was attacked and the game ended up with a massive brawl involving players and also fans. The Board of each club decided to break relationships. Even though the winning nature of the two clubs had provoked incidents very often, the seriousness of this last fight was historical. These two clubs did not face each other in more than one year.

Source: RSSSF Archives
Campeonato de Madrid

There is not information about this tournament aside the winner, Gimástica. However, it was an important year for the development of football in Madrid. In the case of Madrid FC, the club was struggling to survive. After the initial years of curiosity on the new sport, the club had lost socios and the poor economic and financial situation was affecting the club. The madridista president Adolfo Meléndez was focusing in his personal businesses in Morocco and was constantly asking to be replaced. In 1912, the members of the club, which included founders like Padrós or a young enthusiastic Santiago Bernabéu, realized that the future of the club depending on the increase of the social mass, which had a direct link with the necessity of having a new stadium. Madrid FC rented lands in the O'Donnell street to build a new stadium. It was the first stadium that had fences, which gave the club the possibility to sell tickets to watch the games. These fences and the preparation of the pitch was done by the own associates.

Project of Madrid FC's O'Donnell stadium in 1912
Copa del Rey

As a consequence of the agreements of 1910, FC Barcelona had to organize the tournament in this new edition in their stadium at the Indústria Steet, in L'Escopidora. It was the first time that the tournament was played in Barcelona. The participants that registered were FC Barcelona as organizer, FC España (since RCD Español declined to participate due to the bad relationships with FC Barcelona and the FECF), Gimásntica de Madrid, Irún Sporting, Athletic Club and Academia de Infantería. At the end, Athletic and Academia de Infantería withdrew from the tournament.

The tournament had a lower participation this year, but it did not have the problems of the previous edition. In the first semifinal, the two Catalan clubs faced each other and FC Barcelona did not have any problems to defeat their neighbors of FC España. The second semifinal was played between the Basques, Sporting Irún, and the winners of Madrid, Gimnástica, who ended up winning the game (2-1).

The final was played between FC Barcelona, the home team, and Gimnástica de Madrid in a game that was the revenge of the incidents of the previous year. The Catalans did not have much problems to defeat Gimnástica and won 2-0 with a goal in each half, scored by Massana and Rodriguez. This title was the 2nd Copa del Rey for the blaugranas.

Source: Wikipedia


It was an important year for the Spanish football in terms of administrative organization. After the agreements of the crisis of 1910 to organize the Copa finals in Bilbao and Barcelona in the two following editions, the clubs of the FECF started to discuss the host city of the finals again. The discussions were the reflection of the lack of union and the rupture was a fact. FC Barcelona led the separation of several Catalan clubs, not including RCD Español or FC España though, while Real Sociedad, Sporting Irun and Vasconia, led the rupture from Gipuzkoa. Later on, Pamplona SC and Deportivo de La Coruña joined them. 

All these clubs created an organized structure called Unión Española de Clubes de Foot-ball (UEC), which was also given the Real title by the King of Spain Alfonso XIII. The division of the Spanish football was a fact and affected all the competitions, from the regional tournaments (which had separated leagues) to the Copa del Rey, that also had parallel editions. 

The FECF requested the entrance to the international governing body FIFA, but this organism denied it because they did not admit countries that had two different structures. As a consequence of it, FECF and UEC started new negotiations to save football in Spain. As a result of these discussions, the current Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF) was created, putting to an end to the divisions in the Spanish football. The RFEF was finally accepted as FIFA member during their Oslo meeting in 1914.

Campionat de Catalunya

The Catalan regional tournament suffered the consequences of the division. The old FCCF, loyal to the FECF, kept their league alive, including important clubs like RCD Español, FC España, SC Universitari, FC Numància and the professional FC Barcelona dissidents of Casual FC. 

FC España was a rising power in the Catalan football and confirmed their progression with the victory in this tournament. FC España dominated the tournament and only RCD Español showed some opposition. 

Source: RSSSF Archives
FC Barcelona and the clubs loyal to the newly created UEC created the FAC (Football Associació de Catalunya) and a new league. Aside the blaugranas, the league included the historical SC Català and FC Badalona, but given the lack of members, the league was completed with FC Barcelona youth teams. The league was a total failure and was abandoned after 4 games. The organization gave the league to FC Barcelona, who were leading the standings at that point, and was officially recognized after the posterior union, but the league itself was a joke.

Campeonato de Madrid

Athletic Madrid were a growing club in the capital and, at the end of the year, with the creation of the RFEF registered as an independent club, after all these years being a branch of Bilbao's Athletic Club. The year was also important because Athletic Madrid built their first stadium, also located in the O'Donnell street, very near Madrid FC's. The stadium could host 10,000 fans and was also closed by fences.

All the clubs of the capital were loyal to the FECF and the tournament had no problems to be played. The tournament was played by Madrid FC, Athletic Madrid, Español and Gimnástica in a one round league. The two first clubs would play a final to decide the club who had to represent Madrid in the FECF Copa del Rey.

The madridistas triumphed in the tournament, not losing a single game, Gimnástica lost their crown and Athletic Madrid appeared as rising power in the capital.

Source: RSSSF Archives
Madrid FC and Athletic Madrid played a game to decide the representative in the Copa and Madrid FC won  the tie-breaker 3-2.

Copa del Rey


The Copa del Rey organized by the FECF was played in Madrid (O'Donnell's stadium) from March 16 to March 23. Five clubs registered for this competition: FC España, Madrid FC, Fortuna de Vigo, Athletic Club and Racing Irún. Since there were 5 clubs, the organizers set a previous round that was played by Fortuna de Vigo and FC España. The Catalan champions won the previous round by a short 1-0.

The semfinals were a Basque festival. In the first semifinal, Racing Irún defeated FC España (1-0) to get the ticket to the final. In the 2nd semifinal, a superior Athletic Club did not have problems (0-3) to beat the home team, Madrid FC.

The final was played between the representatives of the Basque football on March 22. Racing Irún surprised Athletic in the first minutes of the game and scored two early goals (Patricio and Retegui). Near half time, Athletic could reduce the big advantage of Racing Irún, thanks to the goal scored by "Pichichi". In the 2nd half, the goal of Belauste II tied the game (2-2). The two teams played an extra time, but the game was finally stopped due to the lack of light.

The replay was played the following day. This time, the game was as tight as it was the day before. However, Athletic was forced to play all the 2nd half with 10 men, since the forward Pinillos got injured. The superiority of Racing Irún was evident and, 20 minutes before the end of the game, Retegui became Racing's hero when he scored the winning and decisive goal (1-0).

Source: Wikipedia

Copa UEC

Even though the UEC counted on the support of the monarchy, who donated the trophy for the tournament, and the initial predictions of a great participation, the desertion was massive. At the end, only 4 clubs applied: FC Barcelona, Pontevedra, Real Sociedad and Sporting Irún. The two Basque teams played a previous round in Gipuzkoa to decide who would travel to Barcelona, where the finals were played. Real Sociedad and Sporting Irún played a 4 game tournament and the donostiarras won 3 out of these 4 games, getting the pass to these finals.

In the last moment, Pontevedra withdrew, since several players of the team suffered some illness. At the end, the tournament was just a final between the local team, FC Barcelona, and Real Sociedad. The final was played on Sunday, March 16, the fans packed the stadium. An early goal by Arrillaga surprised the local team in the first minutes of the game. However, the goals of Forns and Apolinario overcame the result before half time. In the last minutes of the game, a goal by Artola tied the game for a final 2-2.

The replay was the following game, with similar expectation but less attendance since it was a labor day. The match was disappointing and both teams tied 0-0. The 2nd replay was played on March 23 in a packed stadium of L'Indústria. As it happened in the first game, Real Sociedad got the lead in the first minutes of the game. It was not exempt from polemics. A handball of Massana in the limits of the box was awarded with a penalty for the away team. The home team protested and the Barcelona fans invaded the pitch, stopping the game for several minutes. The Board of Barcelona calm the fans and the game could continue and Rezola scored the penalty. The polemics and the goal excited Barcelona who closed Real Sociedad in their box and in a matter of two minutes, the Catalans overcame the result with the goals of Berdié and Apolinario. The 2-1 was the result at half time. The away team dominated the second half and the tie was very near several times, but FC Barcelona could resist and ended up winning the title, in front of their enthusiastic fans.


This is the season of peace, FECF and UEC merged to create the current Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF), which requested the entrance in FIFA, which was accepted during 1914. The RFEF recognized the competition of the previous organizations as official. At the same time, football in Spain was divided in 4 different regions which help to promote different competitions all around Spain, since the game was more developed in the most industrial and rich areas.

During this season, the most important tournaments were played in Barcelona and Madrid as it used to happen until this date. The North Federation also created a tournament which gathered several Basque teams (3 from Bizkaia: Athletic Club, Arenas de Getxo, Deportivo Bilbao; and 3 from Gipuzkoa: Real Sociedad, Racing Irun and Sporting Irun).

The RFEF decided that only the winners of the regional tournaments would play the Copa del Rey, aside some exceptions via invitations. Since this point, we will focus in the Copa del Rey, only making short references to the regional tournaments.

Copa del Rey

Four clubs played the first Copa del Rey organized by the RFEF: FC España, Gimnástica de Madrid, Athletic Club and Sporting Vigo.

FC España was already a power in Catalonia and reached the Copa del Rey after their impressive title in the Campionat de Catalunya. In this tournament, their main rival was Universitari, while Español and Barcelona struggled during the season. Gimnástica de Madrid won the tournament of the central region, defeating Madrid FC and Athletic Madrid in their way to this tournament. At the same time, Athletic Club won the first North federation league starting a long dominance in the Basque football. Sporting Vigo won the title in Galicia. Sevilla FC was invited, since they were the winners of their city (the regional tournament started some years later), but they did not applied in the last moment.

The tournament had a new format. All the games would be played on two legs, one game in the home of each team, except the final that would be played in one game. The goals did not count, but the victories in the games. So the first leg of the semifinals were played on March 29. In Bilbao, Athletic Club recieved the visit of Sporting Vigo in their new (and current) stadium, San Mamés. This stadium had an initial capacity for 3,500 fans. Athletic crushed their rivals without mercy and achieved the biggest result in the history of the Copa (11-0). At the same time, in Barcelona, the winners of Madrid and Catalonia, Gimnástica and FC España met. The Catalans won the game by a short 1-0.

On May 3 were played the games to decide the finalists. In Vigo, the local team Sporting and Athletic played a beautiful game and, considering that the goals of the first leg did not matter (if the teams had tied, there would have been a replay), the home team was near to force the 3rd game. Athletic resisted and got the ticket to the final. In Madrid, Gimnástica and FC España fought for a place in the final. The game was tight, but the result did not change in the 90 minutes and the 0-0 was enough for the Catalans to reach the final.

Source: Wikipedia

The first RFEF Copa final was played in Irún, in the Costorbe stadium, the home of Racing Irún, the winner of the last FECF final. The reports of the newspapers of those years say that the game was played at 4:30 PM. In the early minutes of the game, Athletic dominated without much intensity and España FC had their chances, which were stopped by the Basques again and again. However, Athletic started to feel more comfortable on the pitch and the initial result changed in the minute 20, when Zuazo advanced the Basques heading a crossed ball by Belauste. Only 9 minutes later, after a messy action inside the Catalan box fell in the feet of Zuazo, who scored his second goal, which was also the second of his team.

The second half did not have the intensity of the first half, although FC España missed a penalty, which could have changed the game. The result did not move until very late, when Villena scored the only goal of the Catalans. Despite this goal, the Catalans did not enjoy much time to tie the game and the result did not change anymore. This 2-1 gave Athletic their 5th Copa title in history.



In the Campionat de Catalunya, RCD Español recovered the crown 3 years later. It was a very close fight with FC Barcelona, who started to enjoy the goals of Paulino Alcantara, who still is the top scorer in the history of the club (counting unofficial games). FC España was in the race for the title too, but could not follow the 2 classic clubs of the city. Español and Barça tied in points and the winner was decided in a final, which was easily won by Español (4-0).

In the Campeonato de Madrid, a new club made the debut in the competition: Racing Madrid. This club, located in the Chamberí district, surprised everyone and dominated the competition. The classics Madrid FC, Athletic Madrid and Gimnástica were not even near the rookie club. However, according to the statutes of the Copa del Rey, the club was not old enough to participate and Gimástica was the representative of Madrid in the competition.

In the North federation, Athletic continued with their dominance and their victory gave them the ticket to the Copa del Rey. In the tournament of Galicia, RC Fortuna de Vigo were the winners and the representatives of their region in the Copa.

Copa del Rey

The first semifinal was played by the representatives of Madrid and Catalonia. The organization decided that this semifinal had to be played in only one game in the home of Español. Gimnástica de Madrid traveled to Barcelona to play the game on April 15, although the game was postponed 4 days due to the heavy rain. The Catalans ended up winning the game at home (3-2) and reached the final for the 2nd time in their history.

The second semifinal was played on two legs. Once again, the winners of Euskadi and Galicia, Athletic Club and RC Fortuna de Vigo met. As it happened the previous year, the Basques were able to tie away (0-0). In San Mamés, the story was different and Athletic Club showed supremacy at home with a very important victory (5-1), which gave them the right to play a final for the 3rd time in a row.

Source: Wikipedia
The final was played in the stadium of Amute, in Irún, as it had happened the previous year. The game, as it was reported in El Mundo Deportivo, had no story. Athletic scored an early goal, in the minute 4, in a penalty forced by the legendary "Pichichi", which was scored by himself. The reports say that, during the first half, the match was balanced and competed. However, Athletic were able to score the 2nd goal, right before half time: "Pichichi" scored the second goal of the afternoon after a corner kick. 2-0 was the result at half time.

In the second half, Español looked for the goal in the early minutes, but wasted their chances to do it. The 3rd goal of Athletic, scored by Zubizarreta (60') was decisive. The reports informed about the poor game of Español since the third goal of their rivals. Athletic ended up scoring two more goals, scored by Germán and Zubizarreta again. The final 5-0 was the biggest victory in the history of Copa until this date and for lots of decades. It was the 6th Copa title for Athletic Club, who extended their dominance and clearly was the most important club in these times.


List of winners

Campionat de Catalunya

1911 - FC Barcelona
1912 - RCD Español
1913 - FC España (FCF) and FC Barcelona (FAC)
1914 - FC España
1915 - RCD Español

Campeonato de Madrid

1911 - Gimnástica de Madrid
1912 - Gimnástica de Madrid
1913 - Madrid FC
1914 - Gimnástica de Madrid
1915 - Racing Club Madrid

Campeonato Norte

1914 - Athletic Club
1915 - Athletic Club

Campeonato Galicia

1914 - Fortuna Vigo
1915 - Sporting Vigo

Copa del Rey

1911 - Athletic Club
1912 - FC Barcelona
1913 - Racing Club Irun (FECF) and FC Barcelona (UEC)
1914 - Athletic Club
1915 - Athletic Club

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guardiola to close the circle

It was a night of the Spring of 1988, April 28 to be precise. It was FC Barcelona's Night of Long Knives. It is important to set the context. La Quinta del Buitre's Real Madrid is the dictator of La Liga. The madridistas have won two Ligas in a row and the third is in their hands. At the same time, FC Barcelona live moments of total frustration, the memories of the defeat in the European Cup final at Seville against Steaua Bucarest are a heavy weight for a club that feels cursed. The club has just won 2 Ligas since 1960 and the future does not look brilliant. The season is terrible, out of the race for the title, the team sink in La Liga and the coach who took the team to the last Liga title and the European Cup final, Terry Venables, is fired due to the bad results. Luis Aragonés, his replacement, saves the season with a Copa del Rey title which does not hide the big problems of a broken team. In this situation, the night of April 28 1988 the players call the press to expose their disagreement with the club due to a situation created in the trial of Schuster and the club, which exposed the payments of salaries using the image rights, which caused a problem with the tax administration about the nature of these payments. The whole squad, represented by important players like Alexanko, Victor and Gerardo does not accept to assume the costs of the problems of the club with the tax administration and demand the resignation of the president of the club, Josep Lluís Núñez. Only 3 players of the 25 men squad do not sign the manifesto: Gary Lineker, who is travelling with his national team; Bernd Schuster, who is out of the squad and preparing his exit to Real Madrid; and López López.

The president Núñez faces the situation and prepares the revolution. The first step was to sack the coach, who supported the players. The next was to fire 13 players of the team: Amarilla, Calderé, Clos, Cristóbal, Gerardo, Linde, López López, Manolo, Moratalla, Nayim, Pedraza, Schuster and Victor, more than the 50% of the team. The remaining players were Alexanko, Carrasco, Julio Alberto, Lineker, Migueli, Roberto, Salva, Urbano and Zubizarreta. In a matter of two years, only Alexanko and Zubizarreta continued in the club. The president Núñez had "cut the head of the traitors", but the atmosphere in the Camp Nou was very hostile against his management and he needed a big impact to change the negative trend against him. It could only be one person, the last big idol of the club: Johan Cruyff.

Johan Cruyff
In these years of frustration, the figure of Johan Cruyff was important. As it happened in 1973, Johan Cruyff appeared to save the club, a reason (probably the only one) to feel illusion. The Dutch icon started his revolution. The club brought several important players making a huge economic effort to build a new team. Players like Bakero, Begirisitain, López Rekarte, Serna, Unzúe, Julio Salinas, Eusebio, Soler, Aloisio, Valverde and Manolo Hierro join the club.

Since the very first moment, Cruyff does not hesitate one bit to impose his model (or Ajax's model) in Barcelona. Cruyff bets on a revolutionary system in La Liga, a radical and, for some, suicidal 3-4-3 and style based on the ball possession, passing football and always opening the field with wingers. If this was not enough, Cruyff demands that every single team of the football section, since the youngest kids to the B team play under the same model and system. The whole system turned around the figure of the #4, the central midfielder, an anchor man designed to create and not to destroy. For this task, Johan Cruyff made a strong bet for Luis Milla, a player of La Masia who had the required skills to do the job and impressed everyone. The beginnings were not easy. The team struggles during the first season, adapting to such a revolutionary and unknown system. If this was not enough, Real Madrid continues with their dictatorship... adding the former blaugrana idol, Bernd Schuster, to the formula. Despite the difficult moments, the team ends up winning the Cup Winners' Cup at the end of the season.

Luis Milla

The 1989-1990 season had to be decisive. The club satisfies the demands of Cruyff and bring two of his petitions: Ronald Koeman, a central back with talent to play the ball from the back signed from PSV Eindhoven, and Michael Laudrup, a Danish forward who had been considered one of the most important talents of the continent, but had failed in Juventus FC. Johan Cruyff did not move a centimeter from the line he had drawn the previous season and kept insisting in the attacking 3-4-3 and the ball possession. The team keeps suffering to follow an unbeatable Real Madrid and the criticism of the press is furious. Besides, Johan Cruyff decided to separate Luis Milla due to the high salary petitions, which break the new wages structure of the club. With the head of Johan Cruyff in real danger, the victory in Copa del Rey final of 1990 against the powerful Real Madrid saved the season of the team and the position of the coach.

The 3rd season of Johan Cruyff was definitive for him. It was all or none. Hristo Stoichkov signed for the club to reinforce the attack, but the press kept insisting about Luis Milla, who had been essential in the style and the formation of the team on the pitch. Charly Rexach, Cruyff's assistant, made an already mythical comment: "Forget about Milla, we have a kid in the B team who is much better". The new #4 was a 20 year old thin kid: Josep Guardiola. And everything started to work smoothly: Barcelona started to play like the angels, all the criticism disappeared and everyone started to praise the beauty and the style of football of Cruyff's Barcelona. It was the beginning of the most golden era of the club in its history: 4 Ligas and 1 European Cup in 4 years, not forgetting another Cup Winners' Cup and Champions League final in these years. The success and the legendary status of this team changed everything in Barcelona. The club got rid of the nostalgic and cursed feeling to become a self-assured community with a recognizable style. Since 1990, Barcelona had ups and downs, but the club never gave a step back towards the past.

Barcelona's Dream Team at Wembley
There was only one thing that got lost in the way. The 3-4-3 system used in the times of Johan Cruyff by his Dream Team was the only thing that belonged to the past. Even in the most successful moments of Louis Van Gaal and Frank Rijkaard, who also come from the Ajax school, the team never played with this system and "only" kept the ball possession and attacking style. Even during the first three seasons of Pep Guardiola as coach, the 3-4-3 was not even considered a possibility except for eventual and exceptional moments.

But something changed this year. Pep Guardiola insists in one technical aspect: "We must reinvent ourselves year by year". A phrase that easily belongs to Cruyff too. And it is true that last year's Barcelona was similar to the one of his first season, but not exactly the same. New variants have been introduced, like moving Leo Messi from his limited wing to the fake striker position, as Laudrup had done in the early 90s many times, but the basic 4-3-3 was not under question. While everyone was doubting about the way to manage players like Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fàbregas and Thiago Alcántara for only two positions, Pep Guardiola had a plan. The reinvention is here: Barcelona goes 20 years backwards and introduces a modernized 3-4-3 system to give these players the space they needed. The message is clear, Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc can play together and Thiago joins the party rotating one of the stars, but getting the minutes he was demanding in his progression. Probably, the arrival of Cesc, who added a more direct style to his Masia DNA, gave Guardiola the solution to reintroduce the 3-4-3 in Barcelona's football.

The players are different (probably even better) to those who were part of the Dream Team and some details difer, but the idea is the same. Villa and Pedro are the modernized version of Stoichkov and Goikoetxea; Messi is as fake striker as Laudrup once was; Cesc is an elitist version of Bakero; Xavi and Iniesta highlight the new gravity point of the team, just where Amor and Eusebio were the diesel engine of Cruyff's Dream Team; and "don't worry about Toure Yaya, we have someone better in the B-team" Sergi Busquets is a more muscular but equally intelligent Guardiola of nowadays.

Josep Guardiola did not forget the 3-4-3, he had never forgotten this system. It was somewhere stored in his memorable mind, in a brain that, since the first day, learnt everything from every single coach he had. Josep Guardiola is not a copy of Johan Cruyff, there are details of every coach who has managed him in his football.  But, Guardiola owes Cruyff a lot and, as good barcelonista and member of the Dream Team, the seed of the master was in the pupil. The circle took 20 years to get almost completed. This Barcelona of records has still one to reach: the 4 consecutive Ligas of the Dream Team.

The frenetic game of Barcelona in Mestalla made everyone see Cruyff's Barcelona again, this infinite search of the goal by the blaugranas mixed with sudden heart-attacking counters of a rival exploding the spaces left by a 3 men back line. This is the reinvention, the tribute to the master and only the victory with the 3-4-3 would definitely close the circle.

Johan Cruyff & Josep Guardiola

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Assemblies of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid: Flock of Sheep

This weekend, the Assemblies of socios of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF had their ordinary annual meeting. In each case, some important social or economic issues, which have a direct effect on the future of these clubs, were on the table. But it was also interesting to listen to the messages of the presidents of the two most important clubs of Spain, if not the World nowadays.

In the case of FC Barcelona, there were two major issues on the table: the sponsorship of Qatar Foundation and the approval of the new young stand, Fanàtics. The controversial sponsorship of Qatar Foundation has been under discussion in the blaugrana atmosphere since it was announced. The deal with the Qatari foundation is the most important in the World of football nowadays. The sponsorship started last year when Barcelona already received 15 million euros and now the socis had to decide to extend the 171 million euros deal until the year 2016. Several social platforms questioned this agreement, given the origin of this money. Qatar is an Arab emirate that is questioned by the situation of the women, the homosexuals, the rights of foreign workers or the religious freedom. The anti-Qatar platform asked for the "no" for the sponsorship based on the lack of respect on human rights in the Emirate. However, it was remarkable the strong support of Pep Guardiola on Qatar: "Qatar is the most open and democratic Islamic country that is willing to open themselves to the Western World, where the most established democracies are". Probably, someone should tell Pep Guardiola about the existence of countries like Turkey, for example, but aside this aspect, it is evident that some of the things that happen in Qatar would never be accepted in the Catalan society. Probably, it is also important to know that each country must make their own process towards freedom and democracy, which is not the perfect system, but probably the best humanity has ever found, and never forget the own particular sins of the Western society, but in one way or another, all this defense of Qatar was as excessive as ridiculous.

The reality about the sponsorship of Qatar Foundation is way more simple: money. The club consider that is necessary to generate money to keep the club on top and the Board put all the marketing and media resources to defend their position. Qatar Foundation offered the highest amount of money. As I said, it is ridiculous and excessive to claim that Qatar is what is not. It is a fact that Qatar does not respect elemental human rights, just as Nike or Adidas set factories in states where the labor norms are minimum and hire minors to elaborate the expensive sport clothes we wear in the Western World, or just as other clubs wear sponsors that set their base in tax havens, promoting harmful activities like gambling. Things must be put in the right terms: it is all about the money in a very competitive environment, so probably the discussion goes beyond Barcelona or football itself: it is the whole economic system what is under question. But things must be called by their own name. In that sense, the big majority of the socis decided to vote for the sponsorship deal with Qatar, accepting the money while looking at somewhere else and closing their nose. As sad as it sounds.

The other important issue of the blaugrana Assembly was the approval of the "youth stands" called Fanàtics. It was evident since long ago that the Camp Nou's atmosphere was like the opera. The high prices and the difficulties to have access to season tickets have as a consequence to have usual attendances of people that are not particularly young, but usual cigar smoker fans (by the way, smoking in the Camp Nou has been forbidden in this Assembly too) who did not create a noisy atmosphere to support the team. The project aim to attract 14,000 young socis to the Camp Nou in order to create a more noisy and spectacular atmosphere in the stadium.

But a report of the Catalan police denounced the existence of former members of the ultra group Boixos Nois and people with penal antecedents in the initial list. Back in 2003, the president Joan Laporta took an important and brave decision in the Spanish football, kicking out the ultras from the Camp Nou. Important, since it was an example in La Liga, assuring that the Camp Nou would be a place for the families and not for the violent people. Brave, since he put in danger his own life and the life of his family and it is important to recall that there was a conspiracy of members of Boixos Nois and security members of the club itself to threaten his life, which ended up with these radicals in jail. Now, the disgusting shadow of the Boixos Nois was flying over the Camp Nou.

The club assure that the violent ultras will not be back in the stadium. Given the polemics in the press, the club approved the new young sector in the stadium, but it does not have an initial date to be implemented, since they want to guarantee the security and expect the approval of the police. In one way or another, the club should have put more effort in this task, since nearly 200 people of the initial list had been involved in violent issues and the club should know their names at this point. The barcelonisme must keep an eye on this particular issue. The idea is good, but the club must be careful with these issues, since the violent ultras should never be accepted in the stadium.

In the Assembly of Real Madrid, the most important institutional aspect, aside the approval of the budgets, was the renewal project of the Santiago Bernabéu stadium. As we presented in a past entry, not knowing the final aspect of the project, Florentino Pérez is working to assure the economic and financial future of the club. As always in the past, from the construction of the O'Donnell stadium by the own socios of the club in the year 1912 to the initial project of the Nuevo Chamartín stadium back in the 1940s, the home of Real Madrid has always played a very important role to assure the future of the institution and, this time, it could not be different. The revolutionary project gather the construction of a mall and a hotel within a new and spectacular cover for the stadium. The initial budget assures a cost of 120 million euros in the construction, but also incomes of 200 million euros per year. This ambitious project will definitely change the shape of one of the symbols of the club.

But, at the same time, it was also important to pay attention to some messages from the presidency of the club. In this sense, there will be several interpretation about these words, but the president made a clear and strong defense of the controversial coach José Mourinho. If the club had supported their coach in several occasions, today the president of Real Madrid gave the words of their coach the level of institutional policy. It is clear that, at this point, the coach has a strong position among the madridismo, despite (or maybe thanks to) the external criticism. In the own words of the president Florentino Pérez: "We believe in this team and in the best coach of the World: José Mourinho. [...] The experience of the previous season showed the necessity of reform in the club: to give more autonomy to the figure of the coach and to add more competences to his position in the club as a sport manager that will only depend on José Ángel Sánchez (general director)". It was already clear that Florentino Pérez had given José Mourinho full powers in the sport level and gave him the head of Jorge Valdano, known for having personal issues with the coach and a different (and moderate) approach to the events of football.

At the same time, the president Pérez added: "Two seasons ago, we were not a seeded team in the Champions League and last year we reached the semifinals.  The search of the victory is one of the identity signals and we want to make the dream of the Décima (10th Champions League title) soon. Last year, if we lost the Champions League, it was not our fault". Probably, there are many ways to understand this last statement, but it suggests the approval of one of the strongest messages of José Mourinho: an external more or less recognizable enemy that prevented the triumph of Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Champions League. In a first thought, someone could say that the red card for Pepe was a fair or unfair advantage for Barcelona, but definitely the absence of the red card would not have assured an automatic pass to the final for Real Madrid, since the game was 0-0 and there was a second leg to be played in Barcelona too. As Mourinho suggested in the press conference after the match, it could be Unicef, Villar or UEFA, but there was a boycott on Real Madrid to avoid their presence in the final of Wembley. With these words, Florentino Pérez takes the words out of the conference press to make it official policy of Real Madrid with all its consequences. The club has adopted the criticism on the referees and the football institution as part of the values, as it also was suggested by the president Pérez not so long ago: "The nobility (señorío) of Real Madrid is to defend the club and Mourinho does it". Definitely, the president Pérez has done a good work adapting the traditional values to the club to a new context, even if this change is a contradiction by itself. If señorío means elegance, education and behavior as quality of a noble sir, it does not look like José Mourinho and its flaming messages fit very well in the definition.

As conclussion, in both cases, the Assemblies of Barcelona and Real Madrid acted as usual, like a flock of sheep. The blaugranas got carried by the message of fear sent by Rossell's terror campaign of losing territory against the rivals, throwing the clean shirt (or Unicef shirt) and the defense of democracy and freedom to the garbage for lots of Qatari millions. And in the club of Chamartín, the president and the socios of Real Madrid sold their soul to the devil José Mourinho, considering that he is the only one that can finish with the dominance of Guardiola's Barcelona on the pitch. In this case, the madridistas threw their señorío to the garbage (whatever the new marketing message says) and accepted that the end justify the means. In both cases, a flock of sheep.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The History of the Spanish football (III): 1905-1910, the years of crisis and division

Previous chapter: History of the Spanish football (II): 1900-1905, The first tournaments

In these years, football struggled to survive. The economic crisis in some regions affected the clubs and the tournaments created in the first half of the decade. At the same time, the divisions inside Spanish football started to appear and it had consequences in the newly created tournaments. Still, the game was able to survive and the first steps towards more solid structures were done too.


Campionat de Catalunya

The football in Catalonia fell in deep crisis due to a crisis in the city. Some clubs disappeared and the most important clubs, FC Barcelona and Club Espanyol, struggled to survive. Club Espanyol stop functioning as football club. Miró-Trepat, who was the leader of Club Español, suffered a serious illness and some of their players, who were university students, left the club. As a consequence Español stopped applying to the tournaments. Some of the most important players joined X Sporting Club, a club that was the successor of the already disappeared Irish FC.

In FC Barcelona, the situation was quite similar, although the club did not stop playing games. The amount of members started to decrease for the first time in the history of the club and the team paid the consequences. For the first time, FC Barcelona traveled to Bilbao to play a friendly game against Athletic Club. The Catalans lost the game, 10-1, and the press mocked the blaugranas, current Catalan champions.

Only four clubs applied to the Campionat de Catalunya: FC Barcelona, who defended their crown, FC Internacional, X SC and Català FC. X SC, formed by ex-Español Club players, won the title easily and FC Barcelona was not even a rival for them.

Source: RSSSF Archives

Campeonato de Madrid

The situation in Madrid was not much better. The clubs were struggling to survive and only two clubs played the tournament. Madrid FC faced Internacional del Madrid and won comfortably: 7-0.

Copa del Rey

One more year, the chosen format was a triangular league. Madrid FC were the current winners and represented Madrid and their two rivals were Athletic Club and, for the first time, Recreativo de Huelva, the oldest club of Spain. The Catalans X SC refused to play the tournament due to the economic crisis.

There was some expectation about the presence of Recreativo, since their team was formed by lots of British players, who had some prestige due to their nationality.  The first game was a Madrid FC-Recreativo and the madridistas showed clear superiority, winning 3-0. In the second round, Madrid FC faced Athletic Club, but this time the Basques were not a rival for the madridistas, who beat their rivals (4-1).  Madrid were the winners of this edition and they did not have to wait for the result of the last game, where the Basques of Athletic also beat Recreativo (3-0), who disappointed in this tournament.

Madrid FC, the best team of Spain in 1906


Campionat de Catalunya

The crisis of the Catalan football was evident and only three teams played the competition: X SC, FC Barcelona and Català SC. Internacional FC disappeared too. Some sources consider that this tournament were the roots of the rivalry between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol. As it has been already said, X SC was formed by several former Club Español players. The tournament was a close fight for the title between X SC and FC Barcelona.

Both teams had to decide the title in the last game of the tournament. X SC were winning the game (3-2), but the referee decided to add some injury time, since a fight involving two players (Torras, X SC; and Duran, FC Barcelona) ended up in a massive brawl and the police had to intervene, stopping the game for a while. When the final whistle was near, the referee awarded a dangerous foul for the blaugranas. FC Barcelona scored the foul and tied the game, which gave them the title. X SC protested and, the following day, when the referee wrote his report, he decided to revoke his decision, since he considered the protests of X SC, who defended that the injury time was completed when the blaugranas scored their goal. The organization decided to replay the game some days later. This time, X SC won the game (3-1) and, as a consequence, the title.

Source: RSSSF Archives

Campeonato de Madrid

If the Catalan tournament was a mess, the Campeonato de Madrid was not any better. Four teams played the tournament: Madrid FC, Athletic Madrid (current Atlético Madrid), Moncloa FC and Iris FC. This tournament had the first derby between Athletic Madrid and Madrid FC, but all the results were cancelled, since the football pitch did not accomplish with the rules. Madrid FC won the tournament, but the Federation decided to leave a vacant, since the tournament was cancelled.

Copa del Rey

After the failures of the previous editions, the tournament, still organized by Madrid FC, wanted to gather the best clubs of all Spain. Several clubs were invited: X SC, FC Barcelona, Moderno de Guadalajara, Recreativo de Huelva, San Sebastián Recreation Club, Athletic Club, Excelsior Madrid, Hispania de Madrid, Vizcaya Club (gathering players of Athletic and Union Atlética Vizcaína), Hamilton FC from Salamanca and Vigo FC (predecessor of Celta Vigo).

However, the Catalan clubs and San Sebastian Recreation declined the invitation due to their crisis and Moderno de Guadalajara was disqualified by the organization. The clubs of Madrid played among themselves to decide the representative of Madrid and the contest was won by Madrid FC. At the end, only five clubs participated in a league system: Madrid FC; Vizcaya Club, Recreativo Huelva, Hamilton FC and Vigo FC. The teams of Vigo had lots of British players, while Hamilton FC was a team of an Irish school located in Salamanca. All the games were played in five days in the Hipódromo de Madrid.

As Madrid FC and Vizcaya Club (who had the players of Athletic Club) were the main favourites, their clash was supposed to be decisive. The Basque team defeated the madridistas (2-3) in a decisive game, but a couple of days later, Vizcaya Club got surprised by Vigo FC (2-1), who helped the madridistas to tie with the favorites. At the end, Madrid FC and Vizcaya tied in the standings.

Source: RSSSF Archives

Since Madrid FC and Vizcaya Club had tied, there was a replay to decide the winner. The expectations on this game were huge, since the matches between Basques and madridistas were already a classic. 6,000 people showed up at the Hipódromo de Madrid in a record attendance for the tournament. The Basques, who looked more tired, according to the sources, paid the consequences in the second half of the game and their goalkeeper got injured. Madrid FC won the game 1-0 with a goal scored by Prast in the 80'.

The Basques protested to the organization, due to the behavior of the fans, who were very hostile with them. The complaints were not accepted and Madrid FC was declared winner of the tournament. The Basque club declined the invitation the following year as a consequence of this issue.


Campionat de Catalunya

The tournament got a new life this season. Five clubs applied to the competition: X SC, FC Barcelona, Català SC, España FC and AC Galeno (former players of Universitari). At the end, AC Galeno did not play any game. At the same time, for the first time a junior tournament appeared, the Campionat de Juniors.

Despite FC Barcelona reached an all time bottom in terms of amount of socios (only 65 when they had more than 250 before the crisis), the blaugranas were the main rivals of the main favorites, X SC. The tournament was a close fight between the two favorites, which was decided by external events, which made the rivalry of the players of both clubs reach new limits. FC Barcelona was the leader after beating X SC and led the standings until the last game. In the last matchday, España FC and Català SC had to face each other. But España FC did not show up in protest, since they were angry with a federation mainly controlled by X SC. As a consequence of it, all their results should have been cancelled, which would have given the title to FC Barcelona, independently of the result between the blaugranas and X SC. However, Català SC, historical big rivals of the blaugranas protested and the federation only cancelled this last game. As a consequence, the victory of X SC against Barcelona in the last game gave the former players of Español the title for the third time in a row... and the rivalry only kept growing.

Source: RSSSF Archives

Campeonato de Madrid

After the mess of the previous season, for the first time, the Campeonato de Madrid started to work in a more serious way. Madrid FC, Athletic Madrid, Sociedad Gimnástica Española (born from the ashes of Moncloa FC, Hispania de Madrid and Iris FC) and Español de Madrid played a league, following the Catalan model.

The tournament saw a close fight for the title between Madrid FC, Gimnástica and Athletic Madrid. Despite the madridistas defeated Gimnástica in the first game of the tournament, their advantage disappeared when Madrid FC did not show up in their game against Athletic Madrid, who got the victory as a consequence of it. In the return game, Madrid FC won the derby against Athletic Madrid, in what it was the beginning of an eternal rivalry. A draw between Athletic and Gimnástica made the last game decisive. Madrid FC had to visit the home of Gimnástica and the draw was enough for the madridistas (3-3) to win the title, the 3rd for them.

RSSSF Archives

Copa del Rey

The tournament reached an all time low. Madrid FC kept organizing the tournament, but most of the clubs declined the invitation. The Catalans still were in economic crisis and focusing in their own tournament, while Athletic Club did not inscribe in protest for the events of the previous edition. Only Vigo FC, who had won an unofficial tournament in Galicia, accepted the invitation.

The Copa was just a single game between both clubs, played on the muddy pitch of the new stadium of O'Donnell. Madrid FC won the game (2-1), winning the fourth Copa in a row, which was record that has only been matched by Athletic 25 years later.


Campionat de Catalunya

During the summer of 1908, FC Barcelona was about to disappear and Hans Gamper returned in order to rescue the club from the crisis. Gamper started to recover all socios and looked for new members. At the same time, Gamper decided to make a strong bet on the future of the club and projected the first own stadium of the club, L'Estadi del Carrer Indústria, popularly known as L'Escopidora, which eventually held 9,000 fans and was the first stadium to have artificial light. As anecdote, the nickname culés appeared at that time, since from outside the stadium people could see the asses of the fans sitting on the walls of the stadium when the team was playing. At the same time, Julià Claperà and Emili Sampere refunded Club Español as Club Deportivo Español, while X SC, the club that had gathered their players during the 3 years of crisis, disappeared.

In this new edition of the Campionat de Catalunya, there were five clubs: FC Barcelona, CD Español, FC España, Català SC and FC Galeno (formed Universitari). After 3 years of dominance of X SC and their Español players, FC Barcelona went back on track and won the title without having a rival, not losing a single game in the entire tournament, which gave them the ticket to play the Copa del Rey.

Source: RSSSF and Wikipedia

Campeonato de Madrid

The Campeonato de Madrid kept growing and the four clubs that had played the previous edition repeated their participation this year again. This time it was a league, but only one round played in a neutral stadium. After years of dominance of Madrid FC, there was a change in the hierarchy of the competition. Español de Madrid found no rival in the competition and won the title dominating all their rivals.

Source: RSSSF Archives

Copa del Rey

Madrid FC kept organizing the tournament before the mess that was about to start around this competition, but, since the madridistas did not win the Campeonato de Madrid, they did not play in this competition, although they offered their stadium in the O'Donnell street.

Five different clubs applied to the tournament: Español de Madrid, as winners of Madrid; FC Barcelona, which meant the return of the Catalans of this competition after years of absence; Athletic Club from Bizkaia; Club Ciclista San Sebastián, which was the name of the newly created Sociedad de San Sebastián (who did not play under this name since they did not have the licence to play yet) and Galicia FC, which was a selection of teams of Vigo.

There was a previous round between the two Basque teams and, surprisingly, Club Ciclista defeated Athletic Club (4-2), leaving one of the main favorites out of the competition. In the semifinals, Español de Madrid also surprised everyone by defeating FC Barcelona, the Catalan champions (3-2), and Club Ciclista made their way to the final beating Galicia FC in the 2nd semifinal (2-0).

The final was played under heavy rain between Español de Madrid and Club Ciclista. The reports say that Español de Madrid carried the weight of the team and were the most attacking team, but they clashed against the defense of Club Ciclista. At half time, the result was a 0-1 for the Basques, who extended their advantage in the early minutes of the second half. Despite Español could reduce the advantage of the donostiarras and enjoyed a penalty to tie the game (although it was missed), Club Ciclista scored a goal with 10 minutes to go and won the first title in their history.

Source: RSSSF Archives


Campionat de Catalunya

The Campionat de Catalunya counted on the participation of some new clubs, like Star FC or FC Central, but the second part of the tournament was a complete mess, since several games were not played and there were several administrative solutions to decide the results. In one way or another, FC Barcelona was the owner of the competition without any kind of opposition, winning every single game they played. The blaugranas were back on track thanks to the good management of Hans Gamper, who made possible the future of the club with the construction of the new stadium and his "marketing" skills. Gamper used to finish his speeches with an already classic "Visca FC Barcelona i Visca Catalunya", which made possible to get the attraction of the popular working-class and the industrial middle-class around the club.

Source: Wikipedia + El Mundo Deportivo

Campeonato de Madrid

There is not much information about this edition. The sources claim that the title was won by Madrid FC in a league of 3 clubs, where they faced Gimástica and Español de Madrid. This situation was provoked by the division of the Spanish football in two different factions (more about it in the Copa del Rey part). The winner of the Campeonato de Madrid did not give the ticket for the Copa del Rey, as in previous editions. So there was a game between Español de Madrid and Gimnástica to decide the representative of Madrid. Español won (2-0).

Copa del Rey

1909 was the year of the division. In January 1909 some of the most important clubs of Spain created the Federación Española de Clubes de Fútbol (FECF), which was the direct precedent of the current Spanish FA. The founding clubs were Madrid FC, Vigo Sporting, Deportivo de La Coruña, Cartagena, Circulo Industrial y de Sport de Avilés, Athletic Club, Recreativo de Huelva, Gimnástica and Español de Madrid. Until 1909, the competition had been organized by Madrid FC, aside a couple the exception of the years of the Federación Madrileña de Foot-ball.

But in 1909, Club Ciclista de San Sebastián had won the Copa and made a request to host the games in San Sebastián. Most of the clubs of the FEF rejected this request, since they considered that Madrid was the right place to play the games, given the geographical centrality of the capital of Spain, which saved them costs.

As a consequence, Club Ciclista did not join the FECF and decided to create a tournament by themselves in San Sebastián. Initially, they counted on the participation of 11 clubs that had not joined the FECF, but most of them declined the invitation later on. Finally, two of the members of the FECF decided to travel to San Sebastián. One of them was Athletic Club, who had always defended the petition made by the donostiarras: the finals had to be played in the home of the previous winner. The other club was Madrid FC. In this case, it seems that the decision was influenced by José Berraondo, one of the vice-presidents of the club, who used to live in San Sebastián. In one way or another, Madrid FC had not qualified for the Copa and the club was struggling to survive (some of the players they used in this tournament were players of Gimnástica).


Despite the initial strength of the FECF, the absences were remarkable and only 3 clubs decided to travel to play the tournament in Madrid: Español de Madrid, FC Barcelona and Deportivo de La Coruña. The organization decided to use a 3 team league in one round. All the games were played in the Tiro de Pichón.

The initial game was played between FC Barcelona and Deportivo. The Catalans, as it had happened in the Catalan tournament, found no opposition and easily defeated the galegos (5-0). The second game was played between Deportivo and the winners of Madrid, Español, who ended up winning the game (1-3).

The last game was a "final" between FC Barcelona and Español de Madrid. The españolistas surprised the blaugranas with two early goals scored by Buylla. It was only the 12' and Español de Madrid were 2 goals up, an advantage they kept until the half time. However, the reaction of the Catalans in the second half was impressive. In only 20 minutes, Rodriguez and Comanala tied the game. With 5 minutes to go, Charles Wallace decided the game for FC Barcelona, who won their first Copa title.

FC Barcelona 1910

Torneo de San Sebastián

Ironically, the tournament that had been promoted by Club Ciclista did not count with this club, which had been dismantled after the title of 1909. The football players of this cycling club decided to create an exclusive football club, Sociedad de San Sebastián, but according to the statutes of the Copa, the club was not old enough to play the competition, so they joined a local club called Vasconia Sporting Club to play the competition. Given the importance participants the popular name of the tournament was Torneo de Campeones.

The first game was played by Athletic Club and Madrid FC, a classic already. Athletic won the game against the weakened madridistas. The second game was decisive at the end. The two Basque clubs faced each other. The donostiarras, former players of Club Ciclista, hidden under the Vasconia name, could not stopped their neighbors. Athletic won 2-0 and grabbed the third Copa title of their history. The last game was a meaningless Vasconia SC-Madrid FC, which was won by the local team (2-0).

Athletic Club 1910
Even though some sources claim that this second tournament was organized by a federation called Unión Española de Clubes (UEC), the sources prove that it was not an official tournament. However, the members of the FECF and the dissident clubs signed the peace. The FECF accepted to play the finals out of Madrid in order to keep the union, but this situation was just the beginning of years of tensions.

List of winners

Campionat de Catalunya
1906 - X SC
1907 - X SC
1908 - X SC
1909 - FC Barcelona
1910 - FC Barcelona

Campeonato de Madrid
1906 - Madrid FC
1907 - Cancelled
1908 - Madrid FC
1909 - Club Español Madrid
1910 - Madrid FC

Copa del Rey
1906 - Madrid FC
1907 - Madrid FC
1908 - Madrid FC
1909 - Club Ciclista de San Sebastián
1910 - FC Barcelona (FECF) and Athletic Club (Torneo San Sebastián)

Friday, September 23, 2011

David Silva, Del Bosque and Luis Aragonés.

June 16 2010, Spain made their debut in the World Cup they ended up winning against Switzerland. The coach of the team, Vicente Del Bosque bets on a system that is similar (but not the same) to Luis Aragonés' lineups in the previous Euro 2008. But the result could not have been worse and Spain lost 0-1 against the Swiss team. There was a victim of this game: David Silva. Since then, the player of Manchester City did not count for Vicente Del Bosque, who has been calling him, but always for a very secondary role. Last week, David Silva exploded and targeted Del Bosque: "He does not trust in me". The words of someone who feels strong after the memorable games Silva is playing in the Premier League. But behind these words there is a debate that has been hidden under the success of the Spanish NT.

There is a remarkable difference between Luis Aragonés and Vicente Del Bosque, a difference that is not irrelevant: Silva or Xabi Alonso. After the World Cup 2006 and the failure in Northern Ireland in the qualifying round of the Euro 2008, Luis Aragonés made a bet for the rupture. Since the World Cup 1998, Spain had been walking on the shoulders of Raúl, icon of the Spanish NT and Real Madrid. Raúl defined the style. Raúl was not a classic striker, but a forward that always played with a striker along him. Since then until 2006, Spain had been using a system with two forwads, two wingers and a double midfield. However, Luis Aragonés thought that the change was needed and there was a radical change in the model and the point of gravity. The team would not turn around Raúl, but a new figure: Xavi. This change was not just a change of names, but a change of style. The huge personality of Raúl swallowed everything, while the new model around Xavi focused on the system. Xavi defines the style as long as he has partners that speak his language.


In this idea of football, Xavi was the center and it was necessary to create the appropriate atmosphere for him. Since then, Spain basically played with a defensive midfielder (Senna), two central midfielders (Xavi and Iniesta) and two open players cutting in (Villa or Silva) plus a striker (Torres). The system admitted some changes, as in the semifinals and the final of the Euro, when Villa got injured. Then Cesc was the 12th player instead of David Villa. Using this system, Luis Aragonés took the best of the Spanish team, in terms of success and brilliance.

Vicente Del Bosque, during the qualifiers for the World Cup 2010 did not fix what was not broken, but the rivals were not important enough to know his intentions. Besides, some injuries, especially in the case of Iniesta, the main victim, made not possible to know his real intentions. And, in this situation, we go back to June 16 2010. Spain lose against Switzerland and Del Bosque points the guilty: David Silva. Silva disappeared from the lineups and Del Bosque made a cautious approach. The idea was the same, ball possession and attacking football.... but with the handbrake on. Del Bosque made a very strong bet on a double defensive midfield, untouchable until these days, with Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso. While Sergio Busquets may fit in the shoes of Marcos Senna, since both were used to play in a system with only one anchor man, the main difference was Xabi Alonso. If everything had to turn around Xavi Hernández, the Catalan midfielder lost a partner upfront to get one at his back.

Alonso & Busquets

Spain won the World Cup, showing good moments of football, but never reaching the brilliance of the Euro 2008. Since the knock-out rounds, Spain won all the games with a short 1-0. Spain was the best team, probably because they had the best players on the pitch, but the new system killed some of the beauty shown in the Euro 2008. The difference was Xabi Alonso instead of Silva. Last week, Silva talked to the media and said that "before the game against Switzerland, I had confidence. I played regularly and I had a place in the team, but everything started to change with the defeat. Because of this reason, with the pass of time, I believe I was the victim of the bad debut in the World Cup. The only thing I say is that Luis (Aragones) trust in me... Del Bosque thinks in a different way. I am going to work to keep the level I am showing in this first games, however, I doubt that I can have a protagonist role in the Euro. I feel I played in a high level and it was not enough to have a place in the starting XI. There are lots of good midfielders, not good, really good! Nothing to say about them to be chosen. I do not discuss the lineups: I analyze my situation and I am not happy. And I do not see that anything is going to change. Not playing for Barça or Madrid damages me".

Probably David Silva is right in his thoughts. The problem is not his good or bad performances, but Del Bosque's concept of football. Del Bosque sacrificed an attacking player to introduce a defensive midfielder to cover his back. Del Bosque is not Luis Aragonés, who created the circle around Xavi, nor Guardiola, who is the flag of La Masia's style. Del Bosque always trusted in the double defensive midfield, call it Makelele-Helguera or Busquets-Alonso. But, definitely, it is out of question that Del Bosque belong to a more conservative school in terms of lineup design. Del Bosque probably believes that it is better to keep the back well covered, since the talent in attack will solve the games anyway. It is logical to think that, at some point, Xavi or Iniesta will find Villa, Torres or whoever to win a game... but everything starts by keeping the order in defense. It is not that Luis Aragonés does not trust in defensive balance, he surely did, since his motto was "compete, compete, compete". But Luis Aragonés thought that the balance was assured with only one defensive midfielder... this is not possible for Del Bosque's idea.

David Silva

The consequence is that Spain waste two magnificent attacking midfielders like David Silva and Cesc Fàbregas, relegated to a secondary role, to hype Alonso and Busquets. The gravity of Spain's football is 20 meters backwards and this is not irrelevant. At the same time, Xavi will probably keep doing well, since his talent is out of question. However, when he raises his head, he will miss references that he usually has in Barcelona or used to have in Luis Aragonés' Spain. So far, both systems triumphed, but Spain's brilliance got lost in the way and the results started to walk on a thin line of 1-0's.

The debate was hidden by the success, but I am glad that David Silva put it on the table and it will mark the future of Spain. Personally, I believe it is a tragedy to punish Silva and/or Cesc in order to play with Alonso, when Busquets has shown to be capable of doing the task by himself. Why punish the attack with such a defensive and (why not) coward approach? Why? Del Bosque may win the Euro again, but I doubt Spain will find the excellence of the Euro 2008 again... and the absence of David Silva explains the difference.