Football shirt history: Recreativo de Huelva, Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid

In recent years no one have contributed more to developing football than Spain. Now a days the best players come from Spain and they play the best football. Everyone is looking towards the country of the World Champions to learn. But over a hundred years ago, the Spaniards got a little help with getting into football.

Written by Magnus Gamlem

The Brits often claim to have invented football. Whether or not that is true is not important in this context. What is a fact is that is was people from Great Britain who first brought football to Spain. The oldest football club in Spain is Recreativo de Huelva, and was founded by two Scots named Alexander Mackay and Robert Russell Ross in 1889. The club has since its foundation played in white and blue shirts, the colours of the Scottish flag.


In Bilbao football arrived not many years later. And just as in Huelva, the Brits introduced football to the Basque people. British workers from Southampton, Sunderland and Portsmouth in Bilbao formed Bilbao Football Club in the late 19th century. Also Basques studying in Britain was involved in getting the game popular in their home country. The Basque students started Athletic Club when they came back to Spain, using the English spelling of the word. The clubs merged into Athletic Club in 1902, and Basque students also went to found Athletic Club Madrid, later named Atletico Madrid. 


When one of the students was told by Athletic Club to bring back 25 shirts from a trip to England, he nearly went back empty handed. Right before he left England he figured out that the shirts Southampton FC was playing with matched the colours that the City of Bilbao was using. He then bought 50 shirts from them and went back to Spain. The club which had played with blue and white shirts up until then, decided to change colours to the red and white stripes. The club didn’t need all 50 shirts, and since they had a close relationship with Athletic Club Madrid, they decided to give 25 shirts to them. And that’s why the two clubs to this day plays in red and white striped shirts. 



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