Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Hundred And More Years Of Mallorcan Football

In March 1916, they formed a football team. Its name was initially the Alfonso XIII Football Team, a quite deliberate adoption of an Anglicised form. Football was, after all, an English (British) sport. The Alfonso of the name was the king. Fifteen years later, he was to leave Spain. He went into exile at the start of the Second Republic and the Republican government subsequently charged him with high treason. In the same year, sensing the way the tide was turning, what had, in 1916, very quickly become the Real Sociedad Alfonso XIII, changed its name to CD Mallorca. The sporting club of Mallorca had very nearly acquired its current name; the Real was to be restored in 1948.

This year is the one-hundredth anniversary of Real Mallorca, a hundred years notable more for the lack of distinction than for the gaining of it, but a hundred years are, nonetheless, something to be proud of, even if the club's emergence came some years after others in Spain which were to become part of the fabric of the nation's football. Its first ever match, on the Buenos Aires ground in Palma, was against a team that had been formed right at the end of the nineteenth century. The Futbol Club Barcelona turned up in March 1916 and beat its hosts five-nil. Reports suggest that Barcelona, being guests, hadn't wished to seem ungrateful for the hospitality that had been extended.

Football, it should be said, was not especially popular back in those days. In Spain generally it had been introduced largely thanks to British sailors and workers and also to young Spaniards who had gone to Britain to study. Barcelona, it might be noted, owed a great deal to one Hans Gamper for getting it up and running just over a month before the nineteenth century became the twentieth. Its first players were all foreign.

A couple of years after Barcelona was formed, the first references to "foot-ball" appeared in the Mallorcan press. A Palma magazine for cyclists made references to matches that were being played in Barcelona. Meanwhile, a writer for "La Almudaina", a newspaper of the time, reported on having been invited to watch an exhibition of "foot-ball" that was given by some British sailors: the naval introduction of the sport had crossed from the mainland.

At this time, sport as it was in Mallorca was confined to cycling, sailing, swimming and horse trials. A teacher at the Gimnàstica de l'Institut Balear, a certain Adolfo Revuelta, had to inform the youth of Palma about this odd sport. It was a ball game between two teams of eleven players on a large field at each end of which was a goal, and each team had to try and kick the ball into the other's goal. Simple enough, you would think, and so of course it was to prove, though initially there wasn't a great deal of local interest.

Despite this apparent indifference, teams started to emerge. Although what was to become Real Mallorca is probably fairly described as the first proper club in Mallorca, the first true match is said to have been played in December 1902. Created by members of the Palma "Cercle Ciclista", they called themselves "España", and they took on a Catalan team (result unknown). The following year, a team known as Palmesano, run by our friend Adolfo Revuelta, challenged España. The good teacher's instructions hadn't been entirely successful, as Palmesano had overlooked the part about kicking the ball into the other team's goal: they lost 7-0.

In 1904, they held the first Balearic Championship. Again, cycling was to assist in football's development. Veloz, a team which played at the Tirador velodrome in Palma, played in front of a couple of thousand spectators and became Balearic champions. In 1908, it was Menorca's turn: Mahón FC proved superior to Veloz, España and others.

One says that Real Mallorca was the first proper club, and in the sense that it was established as a company - a "societat" - then this is true, but there were teams which predated it, of which one, CD Binissalem, is very much alive and kicking nowadays. As is often the case with evidence from Mallorca's past, this can be contradictory. For instance, it is suggested that CD Manacor was also around before 1916, though there is equally good evidence to suggest that it wasn't.

One thing is for certain though, and that is that the Alfonso XIII Football Team was started in 1916, while it is also certain that España - Spain - was the first actual football team in Mallorca.

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