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FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Spain Owe Britain A Debt Of Gratitude

Don’t look so smug. You couldn’t have won the World Cup without the British.

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Football in Spain came about through a strong British influence in the country in the late 1800’s. The impact of the British presence is evidenced in the use of British names and terminology for many of the football clubs that still exist today, with FC (football club) used as a suffix rather than the Spanish CF (club de fútbol), and English terms like Athletic and Recreation Club also frequent.

It is thought that modern football was first brought to Spain through a combination of British immigrant workers, visiting sailors and Spanish students returning from Britain, all of whom brought the game with them. Football has been the most popular sport in the country ever since.
The oldest known football club in Spain, technically, is the Huelva Recreation Club. Formed by a doctor, Alexander Mackay, and several British workers who were employed by the Rio Tinto Company, the club came into existence in December of 1889. Although the Gimnàstic de Tarragona was formed earlier in 1886, it had no real team until 1914. Sevilla FC formed in 1890, but again had no official team until years later, in 1905.
It is thought that the first official football game that ever took place in Spain was between that first club, Huelva Recreation Club, and Sevilla FC at the Tablada Hippodrome in Seville. The date was March the 8th, 1890, and the workers of Rio Tinto played the employees of the Seville Water Works. Other than two Spanish players on the Huelva team, every footballer in that game was British. The Seville team triumphed with a 2-0 win over Huelva.
So, the British brought the Spaniards what has come to be their favourite sport back in the 1800’s, a sport which quickly spread around the country and remains their most popular form of recreation.
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