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La Liga Chronicles: Real Union and a First World War prisoner

La Liga Chronicles: Real Union and a First World War prisoner

A pioneering team of La Liga, Real Union are a quiet side playing in the lower leagues now, but once upon a time – an Englishman guided them to their most successful spell.

Formed in 1915, following the merger of two amateur clubs – Real Union quickly installed themselves as one of the first La Liga teams, playing in the inaugural league season of 1929.

Copa del Rey and Bloomer’s honour

The Basque club won one of the first Copa del Rey titles, played before the formation of the national league system – beating Athletic Bilbao 1-0 in the 1913 final.

But after just four seasons in the first division, Txuri-beltz were relegated and had little to celebrate, failing to get themselves back in the top flight ever since.

They have now been playing in the lower leagues of Spain and their current fans will have to rely on the fond memories of their grandparents to remember their most successful time.

2017 proved to be a fond reminder of that time when Real Union and Derby County met to celebrate and honour one man, Steve Bloomer.

Bloomer’s history with Real Union would not have been remembered by the fair amount of fans present in this tie from the Spanish club, but those who delved into why his honour was just that – had to rewind their minds back to 1924.

Who was Steve Bloomer?

Having had a successful footballing career with Derby, Middlesbrough and the English national side, Bloomer moved to Germany to try his hand at coaching with Britannia Berlin, but just three weeks into his role – the first world war broke out and he was quickly sent to a detention camp.

The former striker who amassed 352 goals during his career, spent four years in the camp but set up a football association during his time with seven other former footballers. His time in the camp was fondly remembered as hero-like, given his dedication to the sport and when he left in 1918 –  a game attended by more than 1,000 prisoners took place in his honour.

Moving to Spain…..

Immediately after World War I, Bloomer spent time in Netherlands coaching, but chose to move to Spain in 1923 and take on the role of Real Union. It was one year later that he would guide them to perhaps their most famous title, beating Jack Greenwell’s Barcelona on route and Real Madrid in the final.

During that time, the Copa del Rey was widely regarded as the cup to decide the Spanish champions and on this occasion, Bloomers Union were just that.

With a Barcelona squad which included the likes of Paulino Alcantara, Sagibarba and Josep Samitier – the victory was seen as much a David versus Goliath success.

Bloomer died in 1936, but his legacy has lived on every since – most recently in the Steve Bloomer day held by both Real Union and Derby County.