What better way to begin La Liga News UK’s new weekly feature than with the place that football began in Spain, Recreativo de Huelva, all the way back on 23rd December 1889, nearly 130 years ago.
They may not be the country’s most successful team or have played in the top flight since 2009, but they will always be known as the oldest club in the Iberian nation.
Huelva, a city in the south west of Andalusia, just half hour from the Portugal border, has connections to football dating 21 years prior to the club’s establishment. Before football, the area was known for its port and mines in nearby Rio Tinto, which attracted a host of mining companies and a large number of British workers, who brought the Beautiful Game with them.
During their downtime, they would organise matches among workers and integrate the local population, teaching them how to play the sport which had only been first played 15 years before in England.
Spain’s first club
Years later, the club, Huelva Recreation Club (now under its Spanish version, Recreativo de Huelva), held its first official board meeting, and five days later, on 23rd December 1889, Scottish doctors Alexander Mackay and Robert Russell Ross signed the founding charter, making them the first football side in Spain. With such a status, they were nicknamed ‘El Decano’ (Doyen), according to La Liga’s official website
A month later, fellow Andalusians Sevilla FC became the second team in the country, and the pair played Spain’s first official match in March 1890 at the Tablada Hippodrome, despite only four local players between the clubs, the rest being British. Yet, Sevilla FC were 2-0 winners.
Empty trophy cabinet
In the following years, more and more teams began emerging in Spain and during the 1910s, Recreativo claimed three Andalusian regional cup titles, but the trophy cabinets have been relatively bare since.
Recre reached the 2003 Copa del Rey final, losing to a Samuel Eto’o-inspired Real Mallorca. Their biggest achievement to date is their Segunda Division title in 2006, which saw them get promoted to the Spanish top flight for just the third time in their history.
After three years in La Liga, they dropped back down to the second tier and have since fallen on hard times, with problems on and off the field.