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

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