Recreativo de Huelva face a race against time to avoid extinction


The eyes of the soccer world, quite rightly, are tuned to a pair of rather big international tournaments, Euro 2016 and Copa Centenario. However by the time both competitions end, Spain could see it’s oldest club disappear from existence.

Recreativo de Huelva requires 2 million euros by June 30 in order to survive.

It was only 10 years ago when El Decano humbled the Galacticos of Real Madrid at the Bernabéu. The Andalusian team walked away with a famous 3-0 win against a Real side containing Ronaldo, Fabio Cannavaro, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Raúl and David Beckham. It was a fitting tribute to four Recreativo fans who lost their lives in a bus crash on their way to the game.

The club’s origin can be traced back to 1878 where football, tennis and cricket were brought to Río Tinto by a group of Englishmen and Scots who moved to Huelva to work for mining companies.

Scottish doctors William Alexander Mackay and Robert Russell Ross initially formed the club in order to provide the workers in the mines the opportunity to exercise. Huelva Recreation Club was born on the 18th of December 1889 when the first official board meeting took place with the founding charter signed a few days later on the 23rd.

Success though has been fleeting. The closest Recreativo de Huelva has come to major silverware was when they lost out to RCD Mallorca in the 2003 Copa del Rey final. Indeed they have only spent five seasons in Spain’s top division.

The club has seen some famous players grace its pitch ranging from Luis Aragonés to Antonio Valencia to Martin Cáceres to Santi Cazorla. The Arsenal player played for Recreativo in their famous win against Real.

Right now though the club is facing its greatest battle. According to, the website set-up to save the club; Recreativo must pay off the debt to the Royal Spanish Football Federation, the players via the Association of Spanish Footballers and to prepare for the next season. The amounts are €750,000, €1,000,000 and €250,000 respectively.

If the club cannot raise the funds by the 30th of June they will be relegated to the fourth tier of Spanish football and will be doomed to dissolution.

According to former Liverpool and current Recreativo midfielder Antonio Nuñez the situation isn’t pretty.

“We owe around 20m euros, mostly in taxes,” he confided to Azi Farni of the BBC in March. “Two years ago the tax office blocked all the money coming into the club. That’s why we are not receiving our wages and that’s why we can’t sign any new players. We currently have just 14 players in the first team and we are playing with our kids from the second team.”

“The situation is really difficult for all the employees of the club, because we haven’t been paid for eight months. These are people with families, who need to pay their rent. We are just fighting trying to save the team,” Nuñez said.

Despite the difficulties there is a spirit of defiance. Tickets for the home match against Granada B in the season just gone were sold at just €1 a piece and were snapped up by fans across Spain. The Nuevo Colombino stadium was filled to its 21,000 capacity and the home side managed to win the game with a Ruben Mesa strike.

Coach Alejandro Ceballos hailed the result as an example of the fighting spirit of Recre but if they are to survive then they’ll need more than a victory on the pitch.

“This club can’t die. We are already in Segunda B, which is already bad in a sporting sense but mainly bad in an economic sense. If this club falls down another division again, it would be an inferno,” admitted Ceballos.

This is a club at war with itself too as fans have voiced their ire at the owners. There have been protests and demands that the club is sold to new investors. The president’s box at the Nuevo Colombino stadium generally is empty on match days. Indeed it’s a sad state of affairs at the oldest football club in Spain.

There is still a glimmer of hope but it does demand the generosity of fans from all over the world to help Recreativo survive. The Recre Supporters Trust is encouraging fans from all over to become “Recre Sweepers”.

The liberosdeldecano website elaborates: “A Sweeper is the last man on the team. He plays with freedom, protecting the defensive line and starting or joining to the attack if necessary. The supporters have to play the most difficult game in the history of Recreativo de Huelva, we have to get dressed with our colors and jump into the field to achieve victory. Be a hero attacking and become a “Recre Sweeper”.

There’s an opportunity to help save Recreativo de Huelva by donating to the Sweeper scheme. With that donation there’s the chance to shape the future of the club voting on major decisions that could change the future of El Decano, Spanish football’s oldest team, for the better.

Don’t expect to see any monetary return from this scheme. This is a club that’s desperate for help.

For more information you can find details here at

At the end of each EuroCopa podcast the hosts invariably sign off with “enjoy your football”. Enjoy the Euros and the Copa Centenario and if you choose to become a “Recre Sweeper” you could help keep alive a Spanish institution and help fellow fans enjoy their football too.

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