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The Origins of Professional Spanish Football

You might love watching La Liga today – but how much do you know about its origins? To find out, you need to know how football first came to Spain and how it developed into the thriving industry it is today.

Football first arrived on the shores of Spain in the late 19th century, after being brought to the nation by expats from England and Spanish students who had travelled abroad.

Spain’s oldest football club, Recreativo de Huelva, was establushed in 1889 by British workers of Rio Tinto, a company based close to the Portuguese border.

It wasn’t long before the first local football match took place in 1890 between Recreativo Huelva and Colonia Inglesa, the latter of which involved just 20 British players.

Later, the Athletic Club was created in 1898, consisting of both local and foreign workers, miners and students, and eventually, the club would merge with the Bilbao Football Club in 1903 to form the Athletic Club de Bilbao.

It was this combined team that won the first-ever Copa del Rey against Barcelona under the moniker of Club Vizcaya in 1902.

Expansion of the Copa del Rey

By the early 20th century, mounting support for local teams and an expanding transport network made it possible for Spain to participate in away fixtures for the first time.

The Copa del Rey quickly became the country’s first nationwide club competition in football, and in 1902, Carlos Pedros (who would later become Real Madrid’s president) suggested a knockout contest to celebrate King Alfonso XIII’s coronation.

The cup’s first edition boasted just four teams – FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, RCD Espanyol and Club Vizcaya) but three years later, it turned into the iconic nationwide Copa del Rey.

A couple of years later, La Seleccion (a variation of the Home Internationals) came into being in 1915 with the purpose of choosing a side to participate in the Olympic Games.

The national team made their official debut at the 1920 Olympics in Belgium, and came home with a silver medal.

A few national sides have arisen since, and although none of them have been recognized by FIFA, they still participate in international fixtures today.

La Liga is Established in 1929

Spanish football continued to develop rapidly in the early 1900s, and eventually, La Liga was born out of initiatives like the Catalan Championship in 1929.

It was Arenas Club de Gexto director Jose Acha who first suggested the notion of a Spanish national league two years prior, and after some debate, the Real Federación Española de Fútbol finally agreed on the ten teams who would form the pioneering Primera División.

Previous Copa del Rey winners like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Arenas Club de Getxo and Real Unión were all chosen, along with runners-up Atlético Madrid, Espanyol and Europa.

From the establishment of La Liga to date, no other team has dominated the field quite as much as Real Madrid.

Nine teams have been crowned reigning champions in the history of the championship, but Real Madrid has won the title a record-breaking 33 times – even an online casino Malaysia player would be proud of achieving that many wins! Their record is followed by Barcelona with an impressive 25 titles.

Barcelona also won the inaugural La Liga back in 1929, while Athletic Bilbao claimed their fair share of winning titles during the league’s earlier years.