Saturday, October 15, 2011

History of the Spanish football (VI): 1921-1925, Basque-Catalan dominance, the Real Madrid-Athletic Madrid rivalry and first steps of professionalism

Previous chapter:  History of the Spanish football (V): 1916-1920, the Basque power, the Madrid-Barça rivalry and the "furia roja"

The silver medal of Spain in Antwerp had an extraordinary effect on the game, whose popularity reached unknown levels. New, modern and bigger stadiums were built, like Les Corts, Sarrià, Stadium Metropolitano, Chamartín or Mestalla and others increased their size, like San Mamés in Bilbao. These years were times of domination of the Catalan and Basque football, since their clubs won all the Copa titles. In Madrid, the most important event was the rise of Athletic Madrid as main rival of Real Madrid, setting the base of an eternal rivalry. New regional tournaments appeared, the pressure of professionalism grew and the political powers started to make the first political interventions on the game.


After the Olympic triumph, football gained more popularity among the Spanish fans and the attendances in the stadiums did not stop growing. But this good news went along with internal fights in the Spanish football.

In the Campionat de Catalunya, FC Barcelona showed why they were the favorites to win the title. The team of Samitier, Zamora and Alcántara only lost one game in the whole tournament and won the title easily. In this edition, CE Europa appears as main rival of the Catalans, although not being a real threat. As main event, the relegation of FC España to the Catalan second division. With this relegation and the economic crisis of the club, FC España, who had been a power of the Catalan football in the previous decade, disappeared just a couple of years later.

In Madrid, the King Alfonso XIII gave Madrid FC the "Real" title, so the club started to be called Real Madrid FC since then. But this historical date for the madridismo did not go along with the sport success and the team completes one of their worst seasons in a long time. As a consequence of it, the league was a fight between Racing Madrid and Athletic Madrid. The colchoneros ended up winning the title for the first time in their history and finally appearing as a powerful club in the capital of Spain. It was also remarkable the announcement of a new project: the construction of the Estadio Metropolitano, which was promoted by the real estate departments of the underground train company, which was supposed to be the home of all the teams of the city.

Madrid FC gets Real

In the Basque Country, Athletic Club won the title in Bizkaia, showing the superiority of "Pichichi", Belauste, Acedo and the rest. At the same time, Real Unión Irún wins the title of Gipuzkoa in their fight with Real Sociedad.

The rest of regional champions were Sevilla FC in the Copa del Andalucía, Fortuna de Vigo in Galicia, SR Levante (from Murcia) in the Levante tournament and Sporting de Gijón in Asturias. All these winners got the ticket to play in the Copa del Rey.

This post-Olympics Copa del Rey edition had a sad incident that lowered the level of the competition. Initially, the RFEF gave the final to the city of Seville for the first time ever, but this decision was later revoked  to change the venue of the final from Seville to San Mamés (Bilbao) under the protests of the federations of Catalonia, Levante and Andalusia. These protests were not accepted by the RFEF and, as a consequence of it, the federation of clubs of Catalonia decided not to participate in the competition, which meant that the current champion and one of the main favorites to win the title, FC Barcelona, would not participate.

The first game of the Quarter finals were played in Galicia between Fortuna Vigo and Real Unión. In the first leg, the galegos surprised Real Unión and defeated the Basques easily (5-1). In the stadium of Amaute (Irún), the Basques were forced to win the game to force the replay. In the first half, the good football of Real Unión gave them a (2-0) lead at half time, but the galegos reacted in the second half with a goal that left the game open. Everything seemed closed with a third goal by Real Unión, but Fortuna were able to score the 3-2 with 10 minutes to go. At the end, the result did not change and everything had to be decided in a tie-breaker played in Madrid one week later. In the replay, the game started with the huge impulse of the galegos, who were able to take the lead in the scoreboard, but this domination was balanced by Real Unión in a penalty scored by René Petit before half time (1-1). In the second half, the game did not have a clear owner and, despite Real Unión took the advantage twice, Fortuna were able to tie the game in both occasions. But in the last moments of the game, in the minute 87, the stars of Real Unión met and René Petit gave an assist to the striker Patricio to score the final 4-3.

As a consequence of the protest of the Catalan federation, Athletic Madrid was exempt to play this round. In the other two games, there were two clear favorites who did not disappoint. Athletic Club defeated Sporting in both games, although they were more tight than it was predicted (2-1 and 0-1). At the same time, Sevilla FC were clearly superior to RC Levante and the sevillistas won the game at home (2-0) and in Murcia (0-3).

In the semifinals, Athletic and Sevilla had to face each other. Everything was a farce since the very beginning and these semifinals did not exist. In Seville, the decision of the RFEF to change the venue of the final from Seville to Bilbao was still criticized and the sevillistas gave automatically the pass to Athletic to the final. Both games were played, but they do not count as official games, because the sevillistas went to play to Madrid with some recent signings from Betis that were not allowed to play the competition. Surprisingly for everyone, Sevilla FC was very superior to Athletic winning one of the games (4-2) and drawing in the second one (1-1). The press (this time the one of Madrid) took advantage of the situation to keep criticizing the decision of the RFEF, especially, watching the high level of the sevillistas. The press of Madrid labeled the decision of the RFEF as meddling and applauded the Catalan federation for withdrawing from the competition.

Athletic's lineup in 1921

The other semifinal was for real. The first leg was played in Amaute and Athletic Madrid surprised the Basques in a fantastic first half. The athleticos took a 0-2 lead before half time with both goals scored by Tudiri. The goal of Patricio for Real Unión in the second half was not enough and Athletic Madrid won the game (1-2). In the second leg, in the packed stadium of O'Donnell, Real Unión was a storm of football in the first half and the nerves of the situation betrayed the home team. Despite missing René Petit, the star of Real Unión, Patricio was unstoppable for Athletic Madrid and his two goals, one of them in a penalty, made the local fans fear the worst (0-2, half time). The second half was a totally different story. Athletic Madrid changed their style and started to play combinations on the ground. Still, the result did not change for 25 minutes. This is when Athletic Madrid was a hurricane and the veteran age of the Real Unión players had consequences. Olalquiaga scored the (1-2) for Athletic Madrid in a penalty and only a few minutes later missed another one. Despite this lost occasion, the athleticos were able to tie the game in a goal scored by Triana (2-2). In the last minutes of the game, Real Unión was a joke on the pitch and Triana scored two more goals, while Olalquiaga closed the historical beating on the Basques (5-2) in a magnificent second half. This was the first participation of Athletic Madrid in the Copa and they had reached the final.


The final was played for the first and only chance in history in San Mamés (Bilbao). This final was an event in the Basque city and the stands of San Mamés were packed by 15,000 (other sources say 20,000!) local fans, while the supposed capacity of the stadium was 9,000. This final was also a special even, the rivals were Athletic Club de Bilbao, the father, and Athletic Club de Madrid, the son, since the team of Madrid was founded by Basque Athletic fans in the city of Madrid and was a feeder club of the Basque one for almost a decade. It was the first time they met in an official tournament ever. Athletic Club wore their red and white colors, while Athletic Madrid used their second uniform (blue and white).

In the early minutes, Athletic Club had the initiative of the game and Sabino Bilbao enjoyed the first chance of the game. In these early minutes, the local team was superior, although Athletic Madrid looked dangerous in the counters. When the match was about to reach half an hour, Pichichi connected with Acedo who passed the ball to Laca to score the first for the Basque team (1-0). Both teams kept enjoying chances, but it was Triana who balanced the game for the visitors (1-1) in a long distance shot. But the happiness of the away team was short, since a messy action inside their box was awarded with a penalty for Athletic Club by the referee Berraondo. Acedo scored the penalty for the 2-1 at half time.

In the early minutes of the second half, the visitors looked affected by the result, but Athletic Club did not took advantage of it. Soon, Athletic Madrid reacted and, when they were enjoying their best minutes, Acedo kicked the ball from out of the box to score the decisive 3-1 for the locals in the minute 68. This goal was a shock for the visitors and this time Athletic did not miss their chance to close the game. Only 5 minutes later, after two shots to the posts by Allende and "Pichichi", the ball fell in Laca's first for the fourth goal of the Basques. The rest of the game had no story and Athletic won their 9th Copa title in their history.

This title was celebrated by thousands of Athletic Club fans in the streets of Bilbao until really late at night, but the press did not miss the chance to make some ironies with the polemic events, recalling the name of Sevilla FC the day after.

This game was also the last one of the mythical "Pichichi" (click to read about his story). The legendary Athletic player was not in his best moments and, despite he was just 29, he decided to retire as a consequence of the constant criticism of the local crowd. Only one year later,  "Pichichi" died as due to the typhus illness he suffered to become an icon of the Basque and Spanish football. Athletic placed a bust in the VIP box of San Mamés and, still nowadays, any club that visits the stadium for the first time leaves a bouquet of flowers in it.


With the new season, the Spanish football returned to peaceful manners, closing the polemics of the previous edition. As always, the winners of the regional tournaments were the teams that had the right to play the Copa del Rey. This time, the RFEF chose the Estadio de Coia in Vigo to host the final of the tournament.

In Catalonia, the rise and rise of FC Barcelona did not seem to see the end. The powerful Catalan squad was the big favorite and the results ended up confirming the predictions. The blaugranas won the league, winning 9 of the 10 games, only drawing one. Besides, it was a very important year for the club, who started the construction of their new stadium, Les Corts. The attractive football of the culés used to pack their stadium in La Industria and the club considered it was necessary to build a bigger stadium. At the same time, their biggest rivals, RCD Español were struggling to survive due to the economic crisis of the club and the departure of some players, who were drafted to go to war in Morocco. The españolista president Genaro De la Riva saves the club with his new policies, which include the construction of a new stadium in Sarrià. The crisis of Español is evident and the team lost 10-0 and 0-9 in their clashes against FC Barcelona.

In Madrid, there was an internal crisis in the regional federation, which caused the delay in the beginning of the competition. The league was a close fight between Real Madrid and Athletic Madrid. The tournament was decided in the final clash between madridistas and athleticos, won by the merengues in their visit to Athletic Madrid's home with one game to go.

In Euskadi, Athletic closed a page of their history, with the retirement and posterior death of "Pichichi" and the decline of players like Belauste or Acedo, the team needs a transformation. This transition time in Athletic made the tournament fall in the hands of Arenas Club, who recovered the regional crown three years later. At the same time, in the province of Guipuzkoa, the Real Unión of Petit, Patricio, Emery and Gamborena keeps dominating the league over Real Sociedad.

Real Unión's Patricio Arabolaza

The remaining regional tournaments had some classic winners, like Sevilla FC, Fortuna de Vigo, Sporting Gijón and a new champion in Levante, the Español FC de Valencia.

In the Quarter finals of the Copa del Rey, the most important clash was the one of Arenas Club and Real Madrid, who saw each other's faces again in this competition. In the first leg, played in Getxo, Arenas Club was very superior as the final 4-0 shows. In the second leg, played in O'Donnell, Real Madrid imposed the home factor to force the replay with a clear 5-2. At the end, both teams had to play three replays. The two first tie-breakers ended up with a 1-1 result, but the third was easily won by Real Madrid (3-0) who got the ticket to the semifinals.

FC Barcelona's Ricardo Zamora

Another interesting clash was the FC Barcelona-Sevilla FC. In the previous edition of the tournament, Sevilla FC showed a good image and there was interest to see the sevillistas against the stars of Barcelona. In the first leg, played in the Estadio Reina Victoria in Seville, was balanced  but the barcelonistas ended up winning the game (0-1). However, the Catalans showed no mercy in the second leg, destroying the sevillistas with a clear 7-1. The other two Quarter final clashes had a similar outcome. Real Unión crushed Fortuna de Vigo (4-0, 0-5), leaving the host city of the final without their team in the competition. At the same time, Sporting Gijón showed their superiority over the still developing Valencian football. Sporting clearly beated Español de Valencia (6-0, 0-7).

In the semifinals, the most interesting clash was the one of Real Unión and Real Madrid. Without a clear favorite, Real Unión visited Real Madrid's O'Donnell. The game was tight and the madridistas won the first game with a short 2-1. In the return leg, Real Unión was very superior and the madridistas had no option (4-1). It was necessary to play a replay, which was hosted in San Sebastián. This time the madridistas could not make it to the so wished final and Real Unión were clearly superior (4-0). Four years later, Real Unión was in a Copa final.


The final was played in the Estadio de Coia in Vigo, gathering 12,000 fans in the stands. Before the game, there was a favorite, FC Barcelona, but the challengers of Real Unión claimed that, given that the match was in neutral ground, they would have their chances. The Catalans were the favorites, given their amazing record of victories, based on the safety of Ricardo Zamora as goalkeeper, the natural talent of Josep Samitier and Sancho in midfield and the attacking power of Paulino Alcántara and the young Sagi-Barba, who had successfully replaced Sesúmaga. In Real Unión, the main weapons were the famous striker Patricio, the veteran quality midfielder René Petit and the solid young defender Patxi Gamborena.

In the early minutes of the first half, Real Unión planned a high intensity game that surprised the blaugranas. The Basque team were able to dominate the match, while the favorites looked nervous and unable to control the game. But when this initial impulse got reduced, the Catalan midfielder Torralba found a hole in the defense of Real Unión to score the first for Barcelona in the minute 22. The goal of Barcelona had its reaction in Real Unión, who looked for the draw. Only 8 minutes after the Catalan goal, Real Unión enjoyed a corner kick, which was headed by Patricio to the net to draw the game (1-1). After this goal, Real Unión kept proving Zamora, who saved Barcelona in this stage. But, once more, after a corner kick, Josep Samitier advanced the Catalans again (2-1). This goal made Real Unión feel anxious and their attacks were clumsy and inefficient. Right before half time, Paulino Alcántara dribbled several players and connected a shot that surpassed the Basque goalie Muguruza to score the third goal of the blaugranas. The 3-1 was the result at half time.

Josep Samitier

In the second half, Real Unión knew about the difficulties to overcome the result, but they gave everything to do it. However, the good attacks of the Basques and the difficulties of Barcelona to control the game did not change the result. Ricardo Zamora emerged as the star he was considered to stop Real Union's chances again and again. When the game was about to finish, with 8 minutes to go, Patricio was able to dribble the barcelonista Martínez-Surroca and the defender ended up tackling the Basque to stop the attack of Real Unión. Patricio reacted punching Martínez-Surroca and this event causes a massive brawl and the invasion of the pitch by the fans. The Basques asked for the expulsion of Martínez-Surroca for the tackle, but the French referee Balway (who had replaced Bertrán de Lis as a request of both teams) rejects to send off the Catalan. The irundarras decided to leave the pitch in a mix of anger for the action and frustration for the result. After 15 minutes of discussions, Real Unión returned to the pitch, but they had lost the concentration. In the last 7 minutes, Barcelona score two more goals (85' Gràcia and 90' Alcántara) to round the 5-1 beating.

Zamora and Patricio were considered the best players of the final. The goalkeeper saved his team in their worst moments and was essential to keep the advantage in many occasions. Patricio, the Real Unión striker, was the best Basque player on the pitch, who missed the football of a dark Petit. The post-final had some sad events, when some Real Unión fans appeared in the celebration of Barcelona to insult the players, which caused the intervention of the police. In one way or another, FC Barcelona had won their 5th Copa title and was probably enjoying one of their best teams ever.


The pressure of professionalism was growing. Football still was an amateur sport, but it was a growing business for the clubs, which started to collect high amounts of money via tickets, while the newspapers filled their football pages with advertisements. The debate grew when Ricardo Zamora requested a contract to FC Barcelona, which was denied by Hans Gamper. As a consequence of it, the Español president De la Riva offered a 20,000 pesetas (120 euros) per year contract to the goalkeeper, a very relevant figure back in those times. The RFEF and the Catalan federation reacted and banned Ricardo Zamora during a one year period for breaking his contract without the permission of FC Barcelona. This event raised the debate about professionalism, which was adopted just a few years later.

This event has its consequences in the Campionat de Catalunya. The departure of Ricardo Zamora plus the problems of Sancho and Alcántara to appear in the lineups due to injuries or personal problems had a very negative effect on FC Barcelona. Still the blaugranas fought for the title with their main rival those years, CE Europa. Both teams tied in points after a fantastic season by both sides, but CE Europa won the tie-breaker played in Girona. It was the first and only title of CE Europa in their history, driven by the historical coach Ralph Kirby. This failure made the legendary coach Jack Greenwell resign from his position as coach. Not everything was sad for FC Barcelona, who opened their new stadium, Les Corts, in the summer of 1922, with an initial capacity for 30,000 fans, although the construction did not finish until 1926, reaching a 45,000 fan capacity. Already this season, many Catalan clubs used to rent Les Corts in order to collect more money via tickets.

Les Corts
At the same time, in RCD Español, Genaro De la Riva kept trying to save the club with important investments for the future of the club. Aside the already mentioned signing of Ricardo Zamora, the club approved the construction of a 40,000 capacity stadium, Sarrià. Sadly for the club, during the construction process, the company that was supposed to build the stadium broke and Sarrià opened during the season with a short capacity for 10,000 spectators. Despite the 3rd position of Español in the regional tournament (very far from Europa and Barcelona), the club realize that they collect more money with the unofficial and friendly games of Ricardo Zamora than with the official ones.

RCD Español's new home, Sarrià in 1923
There were also good news in Madrid. The real estate department of the underground train company finished the construction of Stadium Metropolitano, with an initial capacity for 25,000 fans, although it was not officially used until the following season. The initial idea was to build a stadium for all the clubs of Madrid, an idea that was accepted by Athletic Madrid, Gimnástica and Racing Madrid. However, Real Madrid decline the invitation since the club decided to build their own stadium. The madridistas bought lands in Chamartín de la Rosa, back then a town in the North of the city (nowadays a district of the city), where the new stadium would be located one year later.

When it comes to the regional tournament, Real Madrid kept their crown one more year. The athleticos paid their bad results in the early games of the competition and the madridistas recovered the crown in the regional tournament.

Stadium Metropolitano 
In Euskadi, Athletic celebrated their 25th anniversary recovering the regional tournament and confirming their superiority in this level. This triumph was also based on the signing of a new coach, the Englishman Frederick Pentland, the man in the bowler hat, to replace the legendary coach Billy Barnes. Pentland had been an international English player, who started his career as coach with Germany in the previous decade. In 1920, he had also managed the French NT that reached the semifinals in the Olympic Games of Antwerp. After the Olympics, he had signed for Racing Santander, a rival in the regional tournament. Pentland introduced a new style in Athletic, less physical and more technical, with more ground football. Pentland still is the coach with more titles in the history of Athletic. At the same time, in Gipuzkoa, Real Sociedad finished with the 3 consecutive title run of Real Unión in a surprising result.

The rest of regional winners were Sevilla FC in the Copa del Andalucía, Sporting Gijón in Asturias, Real Vigo SC in Galicia and Valencia FC in Levante, the first official title of the ché club. Valencia FC had been founded in the year 1919 in the Bar Torino. The club was founded as a tribute to a football player of the already disappeared Español de Valencia. At that time, there were five clubs in the metropolitan area: Gimnástico, Levante FC (these two clubs, which were located near the harbor, in mariner areas, ended up merging to create Levante UD), Sangunto and Valencia FC. This title was the first of a Valencian team in the Levante tournament, which also gathered clubs from Castellón, Alicante and Murcia. The fame the club got with this title and the support of the middle class allowed them to build a new stadium, according to their new size: Mestalla.


The Copa del Rey was played by all the regional champions, except the winners of the recently created tournaments of Aragón, won by Iberia SD, and Cantabria, won by Patrick O'Connell's Racing Santander, since they had not been officially recognized yet. The RFEF chose Barcelona as venue of the final and the modern stadium of FC Barcelona, Les Corts, to host it.

The luck of the draw made two giants meet in the first round: Real Madrid and Athletic Club. The madridistas were a team in growth, but they were not the team they had been in the previous decades. On the other hand, the arrival of Fred Pentland was an impulse for a renovated Athletic. The Basques demonstrated their superiority at Madrid's home, winning with a clear 1-3. The second leg was much easier for Athletic, who did not have any problems to beat Real Madrid (5-0).

Fred Pentland with Belauste and Iraragorri

It was also interesting to see the debut of CE Europa in the competition against Sevilla FC. CE Europa had defeated the title holders, FC Barcelona, in the regional tournament and they showed why they did. The Catalans crushed Sevilla in Barcelona with an easy 4-0 and got the ticket to the semis winning away too (1-2).

In the other two clashes, Real Sociedad was superior to Sporting Vigo. The Basques lost in Vigo (3-1), but were able to force the replay in the 2nd leg (3-0). The tie-breaker, also played in San Sebastián, was won by the local team too (4-1). The debut of Valencia FC in the competition was good and the Valencians defeated Sporting under the rain at home (1-0). However, Sporting was way superior in Asturias, showing their bigger football tradition (6-1). The replay was played in Oviedo and Sporting eliminated Valencia thanks to the 2-0 result.

In the semis, there was a Basque derby between Real Sociedad and Athletic Club for a place in the final of Barcelona. In Atotxa, the game was tight, but the result did not change in the entire 90 minutes of the match. In San Mamés, the local team was superior and Athletic reached another final, the second in a row. In the second semifinal, CE Europa had to sweat to defeat Sporting Gijón at home (3-2), but the Catalans confirmed the superiority of their football over the Asturians, also winning away (1-2).


The final was played the pack stadium of Les Corts in Barcelona. 30,000 fans, mostly CE Europa supporters, beat a record of attendance in a Copa final. At this point of history, a final between the Basque and Catalan champions only reflected the superiority of football in the country. In the early minutes, the game had a great intensity by both sides, although the Europa striker, Manuel Cros, enjoyed the best chance of these minutes. While the game advanced, the intensity decreased and, in the minute 37, the Athletic forward, "Travieso", took advantage of a huge defensive error of the Europa players Vidal and Atisús, to steal the ball, face the Europa goalie and score the first for Athletic (0-1). This was the result at half time.

In the second half, the new goalkeeper of Athletic, the 22 years old Arturo Vidal, raised as the star of the Basques. CE Europa was a storm on Athletic's goal and the Catalans enjoyed lots of chances to score the tie. In some occasions, the bad luck and, in some others, Vidal stopped the brilliant attack of CE Europa, led by Manuel Cros. Despite the clear superiority on the pitch, CE Europa was unable to find the way to score their goal, while Athletic looked dangerous in the counter with Germán. At the end, the 0-1 was the final result, which gave Athletic their 10th Copa title and Arturo Vidal a place in history. This was the first title of Fred Pentland with Athletic. Also Félix Sesúmaga, who had joined Athletic after a short stage in Cantabria, was the first player to win 3 Copa titles in 3 different teams.


In the autumn of 1923, as a consequence of a political crisis related with the economic problems of the Spain and the war in the colonies in the North of Morocco, the aristocrat and military official Primo de Rivera makes a coup d'etat against the weak liberal democracy with the support of the King of Spain Alfonso XIII,  army, the Catholic Church, the industrial middle-class and diverse conservative elements and established a military dictatorship which had influences of the Italian fascism, with a unique party, suspending the activities of anarchist and working-class parties and unions and setting a centralist state, cancelling the administrative government of Catalonia. This state of political crisis ended up having its effects in football too.

In the Campionat de Catalunya, after the long stage of Jack Greenwell in FC Barcelona, the Hungarian coach of Krakow, Jesza Poszony, who had won the Polish league in 1921 with his previous team, takes the direction of the team. At the same time, the also Hungarian Franz Platko signs for the team after a friendly game between the Catalans and MTK. FC Barcelona crushed all their rivals and recovered the Catalan crown, winning all the games of the league. The previous winners and Copa runner-ups CE Europa ended up in second position, while RCD Español was 3rd, more distracted in their friendly tours showing the legendary Ricardo Zamora than focusing in the official games.

In Madrid, there was also a clear champion that did not find any opposition: Juanito Cárcer's Real Madrid CF, who also remained unbeaten in all the league games. It was also the year of the opening of the Estadio de Chamartín. Real Madrid CF did not want to join the rest of the clubs of Madrid in the Metropolitano and ended up building their own stadium in the North of Madrid. In the league, from distance, Gimnástica was the runner-up, while Athletic Madrid was 3rd. The president Julián Ruete, who had achieved the first title for the club, left the presidency.

Real Madrid's Estadio de Chamartín

In Euskadi, Fred Pentland's Athletic keeps making history with another title in Bizkaia. In Guipuzcoa, Real Unión de Irún won the title again, showing that the defeat of the previous year was just an anecdote in their dominance during this period of time.

In the rest of regional tournaments the winners and participants of the following Copa del Rey were: RC Celta Vigo (club created when Fortuna Vigo and Sporting Vigo, the two giants of the city, merged) in Galicia; Real Sporting Gijón in Asturias; Sevilla FC in the Copa de Andalucía; CN Alicante in Levante; Racing Santander in Cantabria; and RSA Stadium Zaragoza in Aragón.

Real Unión in the Copa final 1924

In this edition, the RFEF chose San Sebastián to play the final, in Real Sociedad's home: Atotxa. As a consequence of the appearance of two new regional winners, the format had to change to introduce a previous round with the clubs who made their debut and two "veterans". In this previous round, the veterans won easily. FC Barcelona crushed RSA Stadium in both games (8-1 in Barcelona, 0-9 in Zaragoza), while Sporting Gijón also defeated Racing Santander (7-0 in Gijón, 2-3 in Santander).

In the Quarter finals, the supremacy of the Basque, Catalan and Madrid teams was evident. Real Madrid did not have any problem to defeat the representative of the Levante regional tournament, CN Alicante, winning both games, 4-0 in Madrid and 2-3 in Alicante. At the same time, Real Unión tied in the first leg played at Sevilla FC's home (1-1) to impose their superiority in Amaute (2-0). In a similar way, the current champions, Athletic Club achieved a draw in Vigo against Celta (1-1) to get their ticket to the semifinals at home (6-1). Finally, FC Barcelona had more problems to defeat Sporting Gijón. The Catalans won their game at home (2-0) to be defeated in Gijón (2-0) in the second leg. The replay was played in neutral ground, in Madrid. This time, Sporting retired from the game after the 3rd goal of the Catalans (the result was 3-1 for FC Barcelona when it was abandoned by Sporting), complaining about the performance of the referee.

In the semifinals, all the four favorites met. In both cases, the replay was needed. In the first semifinal, Athletic showed their strength at home, defeating the madridistas with a clear 3-1. But the madridistas responded in their new stadium Chamartín with the same result (3-1). The tie-breaker was played in Madrid too and the madridistas were able to defeat the giant Athletic with a tight 1-0, getting their place in a Copa final for the first time since 1918.

The second semifinal started with the vist of Barcelona to Amaute. The Basque team were superior at home, getting the advantage in this first leg (1-0). In Les Corts, FC Barcelona was superior though, winning 2-0 and forcing the replay. This last game was played in Atotxa (San Sebastián) and broke the supposed balanced results of the semifinals. Real Unión humilliated FC Barcelona with a fantastic 6-1. This result was a shock for the culés and lots of socis (members) sent letters of anger to the club to fire the players "who did not fight". At the end of the season, Hans Gamper returns to the presidency of the club for the 25th anniversary of the club.


The final was played in the stadium of Atotxa in San Sebastián, very near Irún, the town in the border with France and Real Unión's home. As a consequence of it, thousands of irundarras travel to the capital of Gipuzkoa to support their team. The expectation is high and the small stadium of San Sebastián shows to be too little for the event. Despite their prestige, Real Unión and Real Madrid were not labeled as favorites to win the competition, but they were the executors of Barcelona and Athletic respectively.

The game was brilliant in the first half, without a clear owner, both teams enjoyed several chances to take the lead. In this way, in the minute 10, Juan Errazquin (Real Unión) is denied a goal since he was in offside position. Real Madrid responded with a clear chance missed by Monjardín. In these minutes, Real Unión's football is more physical and powerful, while Real Madrid tried with more combinations. In the last 15 minutes of the first half, Real Madrid's attacks start to be continuous, although the defense of Real Unión, formed by Berges and Eguiazabal, who couted with the help of René Petit and Gamborena, was efficient in their task. The game reached the half time with the 0-0 in the scoreboard, although the press suggested that Real Unión suffered to keep this result, something they did due to their great attitude, while Madrid excelled in the technical aspect.

In the first minutes of the second half, everything seemed to follow a similar path, but it was an anecdote. The brilliant midfielder (and former madridista) René Petit started to appear in the game and Real Unión started to dominate the game. This domination only grew and the madridista goalie Candido Martínez saved his team in this part of the game. And it was in the minute 13, when Juan Echeveste found a hole in the defense of Real Madrid faced and dribbled the goalie to push the ball into the net. It was 1-0 for Real Unión, a goal which was extraordinarily celebrated in the stands of Atotxa, full of irundarras. This goal made react Real Madrid for some minutes, but Real Unión kept dominating the game with a giant René Petit in midfield and a good collective effort to eclipse a hopeless Real Madrid. The madridistas never found their best football in the second half of the game and regretted the missed chances in the first half. The final result was the 1-0 and Real Unión won their 3rd Copa title.

Olympic Games 1924 - Paris

After the silver medal in Paris, there was some expectation to see the performance in the Olympic Games held in Paris. At that time, the World Cup did not exist yet and this tournament was the most important international competition. However, the Spanish team did not show a good level and they were eliminated by Italy in the first round of the competition. The game was played in Colombes, the Olympic stadium, and Spain played with one man less since the minute 54, when Larraza was sent off. An own goal scored by Vallana in the minute 87, costed Spain the elimination.

The gold medal was for Uruguay, who showed an extraordinary superiority during all the tournament. Players like Petrone, Scarone, Cea or Romano got fame thanks to their performance in the Olympics. The silver medal was for Switzerland, while the bronze medal went to Sweden.


In this new season, the Spanish football continued in expansion. New regional tournaments and a record of participation in the Copa del Rey. The game was a very popular game and the new stadiums were a reflection of the good health of sport in general.

In the Campionat de Catalunya, after some years of easy domination of FC Barcelona, Ricardo Zamora's RCD Español presented some serious opposition. Since the very first moment the fight was very tight and the main example of it were the sad incidents in Les Corts, on November 23, 1924. In the derby, at some point of the first half, Saprissa, an Español defended, hit Alcántara with violence (lost a teeth) and the consequence of it was a massive brawl, where Josep Samitier ended up punching Caicedo too. The Basque referee Pelayo Serrano sent off Samitier and the angry local fans started to throw coins to the pitch (this is why this derby was known as the La Calderilla, The coins derby). Given the violence in the pitch and the stands of Les Corts, the referee decides to suspend the match and both clubs used the press to attack and blame the other side. If the relationships between both clubs was quite tense, this event only got things worse. The Catalan federation decided to postpone the game to January, but in closed doors. Before that game, the culé coach Jesza Poszony leaves the club missing his native Hungary, where he signed for Ujpest. As a consequence of it, FC Barcelona signed CE Europa's coach, Ralph Kirby. In the doors closed derby played in Les Corts, RCD Español defeats FC Barcelona at home, but despite this result the blaugranas could overcome the problems to end up winning yet another regional title. In this season, FC Barcelona celebrated their 25th anniversary.

FC Barcelona-RCD Español in 1924: El derbi de la Calderilla
In the Campeonato de Madrid, Athletic Madrid already was the main rival of Real Madrid in the city, in a growing rivalry. The colchoneros, thanks to their new president Juan de Estefanía, were able to get the use of the Stadium Metropolitano in exclusive and this stadium became their home for decades. The athleticos were very superior in the league and Real Madrid could not be a rival for them. Athletic Madrid won their 2nd regional tournament, confirming their new powerful status and getting a place in the Copa del Rey.

Athletic Madrid in the 1924/1925 season

In Euskadi, Arenas Club won their 4th regional title and assured the participation in the Copa del Rey over Pentland's Athletic, still in building process. In Gipuzkoa, Real Sociedad and Real Unión continued with their eternal battle, but this time Real Sociedad won the tournament and Real Unión could not defend their title in the Copa del Rey.

The rest of champions in their regional tournaments were RC Celta Vigo in Galicia, Sevilla FC in the Copa de Andalucía, RSC Ovetense in Asturias, breaking the 8 title run of Sporting Gijón; Valencia FC in the Valencian regional tournament (now without clubs from Murcia), Racing Santander in Cantabria, RSA Stadium Zaragoza in Aragón and CD Español of Valladolid in the new tournament of Castilla-León. Also Real Murcia won the regional tournament of Murcia, but this competition had not been recognized by the RFEF yet and this club could not participate in the Copa del Rey.

In the Copa del Rey, the growth in participants, a record for the tournament, forced the RFEF to change the knock-out format of the competition. The new system divided the 11 participant clubs in 4 different groups (3 of them with 3 teams and 1 of them with only 2) in a league system of two rounds. Then the winners of each group would get their place in the semifinals.

The teams in the Group I were FC Barcelona, as main favorite, Valencia FC and RSA Stadium Zaragoza. The blaugranas were very superior in their group, as it was predicted, and they did not have problems to advance to the semifinals. The decisive games were played between culés and chés, and the blaugranas showed their superiority in Les Corts and achieved a decisive draw in Mestalla to confirm their position. As it was expected RSA Stadium were too weak.
The Group II was only formed by Athletic Madrid and Sevilla FC, so it was in fact a two leg clash between them. Each team imposed the home factor in order to beat the rival and it was necessary to play a tie-breaker in neutral ground, in Valencia. In Mestalla, Athletic Madrid suffered to beat Sevilla (3-2), but advanced to the semifinals.

The most balanced and attractive on paper: Arenas Club, Real Sociedad and Patrick O'Connell's Racing Santander. The games confirmed that this group was going to be a battle between the clubs of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa. There were lots of draws in this group, but in the decisive moments, Arenas Club was the most efficient team. In a game that was a final of Arenas, the team of Getxo survived to the group defeating Real Sociedad without options in the group. Everything had to be decided between Racing Santander and Arenas Club in Santander, in what it was a perfect scenario for the team of Santander. Despite the surprise was near, O'Connell's team failed to win at home and the point of the draw was enough for Arenas Club to advance.

In the Group IV, RC Celta Vigo did not have a rival and rolled over their two weak rivals, RSC Ovetense and CD Español of Valladolid, winning every single game they played and reaching the semifinals of the competition.
In the semifinals, the champions of Catalonia and Madrid, FC Barcelona and Athletic Madrid, met in the competition. In the first leg, played in Les Corts, FC Barcelona were superior and got closer to the final (3-2), but Athletic Madrid responded in the Stadium Metropolitano (2-1) to force the tie-breaker in neutral ground. This replay was played in Zaragoza and FC Barcelona closed Athletic Madrid the doors to the final with the 2-1 victory on the colchoneros.

In the second semifinal, as tight as the previous one, Arenas Club were able to impose the importance of the home factor, defeating RC Celta Vigo at home (1-0). However, the galegos failed to do it in the Estadio de Coia and the 1-1 gave the getxotarras the chance to play another Copa del Rey final in their history.


This final was played in the small Estadio Reina Victoria (Seville) in front of 6,000 fans. The press showed their disappointment with the city of Seville, where people showed that there was less football tradition than in other zones of Spain. The short attendance was an example of it, when the reality was that this game between the Basque and Catalan champions was a unique chance to see high level football in the city. Besides, the long distances and the poor communications between Getxo and Barcelona with Seville, made almost impossible to travel from the cities of the finalists to the venue of the game. On the pitch, once more, two different styles. El Mundo Deportivo defined the style of Arenas Club as "enthusiastic and impulsive football", while Barcelona's style was "mediterranean, precise, fast and scientific".

FC Barcelona started to win the final in the early minutes of the game. After 9 minutes, in what had been a balanced game so far, the quality of the Catalan forwards made the difference. The skilled Segi-Barba crossed the ball to Sancho, who left the ball to Paulino Alcántara who scored the first for Barcelona in a volley. In the first half, despite some chances of Arenas, the game was owned by a fantastic Barcelona, who forced the Arenas' goalie Jauregui to appear in several moments. In the minute 34, the Catalan midfielder Sancho connected a long distance shot that meant the second for Barcelona. The 2-0 was the result in half time. Barcelona had been superior in their football against the impulsive Arenas.

FC Barcelona, Copa winner 1925

Things changed in the second half, when Arenas Club got decided to recover what was lost. Unlike Barcelona in the first half, who had been better but hardly dominant, Arenas were able to close the Catalans in their own field, forcing the blaugranas to make big efforts in defense. As a consequence of it, the Hungarian goalkeeper Platko made a penalty on Mateo. This penalty could have changed the game, but Platko himself saved the penalty shot by Urresti. The missed chance did not make the areneros surrender, but definitely reinforced the confidence of the blaugranas. The last minutes of the game were a constant attack of Arenas, while Barcelona rejected to attack anymore, just defending accumulating people in defense and kicking balls out, a fact that provoked the anger of the fans. In one way or another, the defensive system was efficient and enough to save the good result achieved in the first half. FC Barcelona won 2-0 and their 6th Copa title of their history in a memorable season for the blaugranas.

The happiness in Barcelona was evident, the club was celebrating their 25th anniversary with a new title and the club had more than 11,000 members, a record in Spain. In Catalonia, FC Barcelona was a club of masses already and Gamper's slogan "Visca el Barça i Visca Catalunya" got popular. But it is necessary to recall the state of dictatorship in Spain. During a football tribute to the music society Orfeó Català against an English team in Les Corts. The Spanish anthem, the Marcha Real, was received by whistles, while the "God Save the King" was heavily applauded, in a way to criticize the suspension of the admnistrative government of Catalonia. The reaction of the dictatorship was fast and harsh, closing Les Corts for 6 months (at the end, it was only 3 months) and the president and founder of FC Barcelona, Hans Gamper, was sent to the exile, forcing his to return to Switzerland. Some time later, Gamper was allowed to return only under one condition: not to be the president of the club anymore.

Summary of titles

Copa del Rey

10 - Athletic Club (1902, 1903, 1904, 1910, 1911, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1921, 1923)
6 - FC Barcelona (1910, 1912, 1913, 1920, 1922, 1925)
5 - Real Madrid (1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1917)
3 - Real Unión Irún (1913, 1918, 1924)
1 - Real Sociedad (1909)
1 - Arenas Club (1919)

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