What happens when two British men start a football team for the miners in Spain back in 1889?
They unearth and begin Recreativo de Huelva, to date, Spain’s oldest, and one of the most historic, football club. The original chairman, Charles Adams, would be a little less happy with how his club is being run these days, however, as Recreativo are on the brink of extinction.
So whats the story?
The club owes over €20m in taxes and players haven’t been paid for over eight months. To put it in perspective a little, these aren’t top-flight millionaires that can survive on a week’s wages. Actually, they mostly earn far from the glittering salaries that La Liga stars take, and that’s why this is such a sad story.
Recreativo are struggling to stay afloat in the country’s third division. The two Scotsmen, Alexander Mackay and Robert Russell Ross, who founded the club were trying to put a team together for the overseas workers in the Rio Tinto mines. It’s a well known tale in Huelva and the fans remember their humble roots. There is nothing overwhelming about this place: its a small port city with just 150,000 occupants.
But today’s situation is far from conditions that greeted them in their first game against Sevilla. This team started as a fan-owned project, something the whole town could be part of. Sadly, it’s demise is a very modern footballing problem: ownership.
The owner refuses to sell and the club’s players, staff and supporters have now taken matters into their own hands. They urged the footballing community across Spain to come together and show that the Estadio Nuevo Colombino can be filled, and that Spain’s oldest club still has a heartbeat.
Fans from all over the country descended on Huelva for a crunch tie, with 21,000 tickets being sold for one euro each – almost symbolic. The match could have been El Decano’s quiet swansong but the game sold out in 24 hours. The SOS call was well and truly heard.
The community came together with buses and taxis offering reduced rates to supporters ahead of kick off. Social media exploded and people tuned in to watch the match. Thankfully, Huelva triumphed, scoring in the 89th minute to send their supporters into raptures.
But this is a story that is all too common in Spain. Real Oviedo were saved from a similar situation not too long ago and it seems like the world’s footballing family have come together to delay the inevitable once again.
Kick-off times have to be changed to as early as possible so as little electricity is used as possible, and the only expenditure here is for playing referees and away travel. Those are the two most important aspects for Recreativo, and paying these alone allows them to play.
Owner, Pablo Comas, and majority shareholder, Gildoy Espana, are refusing to let go. They refused an offer which prompted the response from the supporters and it’s only going to continue in this light.
“For us it would be as if a tsunami came here and swept everything we’ve worked for away,” said local supporters’ club president Jose Antonio Cabrer. That’s how much it means. Football is about more than money.