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Leagues: La Liga

Looking back to a time when Real Sociedad ruled La Liga


There is a common urban myth in soccer that La Liga has always been ruled by the two Madrid powers (Real, and Atleti) as well as Catalan club Barcelona. If you look back at the history of Spanish soccer, that is not the case. In fact, there have been many other clubs that have been powerful in Spain other than the three aforementioned giants. In particular, Valencia, Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad are just some of the “other” clubs who have been great. One of them I want to take a close look at is Real Sociedad (before the former Preston manager David Moyes had his ill-fated spell at the club).

Real Sociedad was formed by British immigrants who came over to Spain to introduce the sport to the world. Throughout history, we have seen the British move abroad and introduce the sport to various countries. In 1904, the club was named San Sebastian Football Club after the town they reside in. The club is also in the Basque country, which plays a key role in the players they recruit. Finally, in 1909 they won the Copa del Rey 3-1 over Club Espana de Madrid. CE Madrid split into other teams, and one eventually became Real Madrid.

In 1910, King Alfonso XIII — who kept a summer retreat in San Sebastian — gave his patronage to the club, so they renamed themselves Real Sociedad. The name would only stick until the start of the second Spanish republic when they’d change their name again, this time temporarily to Donostia Club de Futbol. That name change lasted until the end of the Spanish Civil War. In 1928, they became a founding member of La Liga.

Their next great period was the early part of the 1980s. Going into the decade, they finished second in 1979-80 season with 52 points, one away from Real Madrid’s 53. And thirteen clear of Sporting Gijon, who finished in third. The next year, Sociedad pipped Madrid for the top spot thus denying the Madrid team from getting their fourth straight title. They qualified for next season’s European Cup, which they lost in the first round to CSKA Sofia.

SEE MORE: Read our Beginners guide to La Liga

The next year, they’d repeat as champions with 47 points, beating Barcelona’s 45. They were lead in scoring by one club man Jesus Maria Satrustegui. The manager for this fun was Alberto Ormaetxea, a former fullback with the club. The side that was so successful during this time period also has the record for the most consecutive wins. It lasted from April 29, 1979 to May 11, 1980, an incredible 38 games in a row.

In their second season atop the league, they also qualified for the European Cup where they got to the semifinals against Hamburg who would go on to win the Cup that year. Pedro Uralde was the leading scorer for Real Sociedad in the Cup with four goals. The club would also win the Spanish Super Cup that year with a 4-1 aggregate win over Real Madrid. In 1987, they’d beat Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey, which would be to date their late top flight major success.

Like most of the Basque clubs, they would for most of their existence only sign Basque players until they transferred in former Liverpool legend John Aldridge, In 1990, they dipped into the foreign pool again with the signing of Dalian Atkinson from Sheffield Wednesday, who became the club’s first black player.

So for the new supporters of the sport who only think that Barcelona and Real Madrid have been the best in the league or in Europe, there have been others. A look to the past would show that Real Sociedad as well as others have rich histories. Maybe they can be inspirations for other clubs in Spain to surpass, even temporarily, the Real Madrid’s and Barcelona’s of Spain.

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