|Futbol in Spain|
Association football is the most popular sport in Spain, followed by basketball and tennis. Most people in Spain have at least some sort of connection to football, having the most registered players of all the Spanish sports federations (1,063,090, of which 997,999 are men and 65,091 women). Associated football has the highest number of registered clubs (21,148) according to data issued by the sports administration of Spain's government in 2019.
In a survey of the Spanish population's sports habits made in 2010, football was ranked the second most popular recreational sport practiced by the population (17.9%). 75.9% of those surveyed said they had purchased tickets to attend a football match and 67.3% said that they have seen one on television. In another survey undertaken in 2014, football's popularity as a recreational sport decreased to 14%, being overtaken by other activities such as running, cycling and swimming. However, this survey still found that football was still the sport that interested the majority of the Spanish population (48%). 67% of the sample said they supported a club, 74.9% said they watched their team's broadcast matches on television whenever possible, and 42.4% had their team's memorabilia. The survey also found that most of the population either supports Real Madrid (32.4%) or FC Barcelona (24.7%), while others supported clubs such as Atlético Madrid (16.1%), Valencia CF (3.5%), Athletic Bilbao (3.3%) or Sevilla FC (3.2%).
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (Spanish: Real Federación Española de Fútbol) – the country's national football governing body – organizes two Cup competitions: the Copa del Rey, and the Supercopa de España. The Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP) (English: Professional Football League), composed of 42 football clubs, forms part of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) but has autonomy in its organization and functioning. It is responsible for the organization of state football leagues, in coordination with RFEF.
The Spain national football team has won the FIFA World Cup once, and has also been successful in the UEFA European Championship and the Olympic tournament. The biggest success achieved by the national team was the historic treble win, winning the following tournaments: UEFA European Championship in 2008, FIFA World Cup in 2010, and UEFA European Championship in 2012. They also won the European Championship in 1964. The men's national teams of Spain, in all categories, have won a total of 26 titles in FIFA, UEFA, and Olympic tournaments. In qualifying for the UEFA championships, the team ranked highest in the number of shots (227) and possession (70%) and completed with the highest pass percentage (91%) out of all qualifying teams. The team was also the first to retain the Henri Delaunay trophy. In futsal, a sport closely related to football, Spain's national futsal team is one of the strongest teams in the world, six-times champion in the UEFA Futsal Championship, and two times champion in the FIFA Futsal World Championship.
The First Division of the Liga de Fútbol Profesional – commonly known in the English-speaking world as La Liga – is one of the strongest football leagues in both Europe and the world. Spanish football clubs have won a total of 67 international tournaments. They are also successful across European competitions such as UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Europa League, and the now-defunct Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
Professional football in Spain is a sociocultural event that makes a significant contribution to the Spanish economy. In 2013, professional football, directly and indirectly, generated more than €7.6 billion, representing 0.75% of Spanish GPD. However, due to recent financial crises, many Spanish football clubs in the top two divisions have been facing serious economic troubles due to debts owed to banks. Authorities with the European Union have warned Spain to halt public funding of debt-ridden clubs. In addition to its economic impact, some research reports a relationship between football, politics, identity, and regionalistic attitudes in Spain.
The characteristic style of play developed by the Spain national football team (and at the club level by FC Barcelona) at the peak of its success was Tiki-taka. Tiki-taka is characterized by a team's possession of the ball for large portions of the game, moving it between players with short and quick passes, to then score a goal with an incisive pass.
Modern football was introduced to Spain in the late 19th century from Britain by a combination of immigrant workers, visiting sailors, and returning Spanish students.
The oldest football club in Spain is Recreativo de Huelva, founded in December 1889. Sevilla FC is the next oldest, being founded in January 1890. Although Gimnàstic de Tarragona was established in 1886, the club did not form an actual football team until 1914.
The first official football game played in Spain took place in Seville on 8 March 1890, at what is now an abandoned mine near 2 Calle Sanz. Sevilla FC played against Recreativo de Huelva. Except for two Spanish players on the Huelva team and another two players on the Seville team, all the players on both sides were British. Sevilla FC won 2–0.
In the Basque Country during the early 1890s, British shipyard workers and miners formed the Bilbao Football Club and Basque students returning from Britain founded the Athletic Club in 1898. This early British influence was reflected in the use of English names such as Recreation Club, Athletic Club, and Football Club.
In Catalonia, which had the most developed industry in Spain, football games played by British and Catalans who had studied in Britain were documented in Barcelona in 1882. However, the first official and registered football club was Palamós FC (Costa Brava, North of Catalonia) in 1898. The Swiss Hans Gamper founded FC Barcelona on 29 November 1899. Other clubs were founded in 1900, such as Sant Andreu, Hispania FC, and the Sociedad Española de Football (one year later the founders changed the name to Real Club Deportivo Español). The Catalan Football Federation (Catalan: Federació Catalana de Futbol), responsible for administering football in Catalonia, was the first football association founded in Spain. It was formed on 11 November 1900 as the Football Association of Catalonia (Catalan: Football Associació de Catalunya). The Catalan Football Federation organized the Catalan football championship (Catalan: Campionat de Catalunya), the first football competition in Spain.
In Madrid, the first games were promoted by Institución Libre de Enseñanza (ILE) (English: Free Educational Institution), an educational and cultural centre. The first club in Madrid was Football Club Sky, founded in 1897. Nueva Sociedad de Football broke off from Sky in 1900 going on to form Madrid Football Club in 1902 by Catalan brothers Juan and Carlos Padrós.
Some clubs were formed by local industry, such as Locomotoras Albacete Balompié in Albacete by Talgo and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company.  Locomotoras Albacete Balompié would eventually merge with other clubs into Albacete Balompié. John Hulse, a senior engineer at Lancashire and Yorkshire and one of the people who brought football to Albacete, may have brought the Sheffield Rules to La Mancha.
The Copa del Rey (English: King's Cup) competition was founded in 1903, one year after a previous football tournament named Coronation Cup. It was Spain's national football championship from 1903 until the establishment of the League Championship in 1928.
The Spanish Federation of Football Clubs formed in 1909, but there were discrepancies between the member clubs years later, and some of the clubs formed another association called Royal Spanish Union of Clubs of Football. Finally, the two associations reached an agreement and the Royal Spanish Football Federation was founded in 1913, which allowed the Spanish football to enter in FIFA. In these years, Athletic was the most dominant club in the country, and the first idols in Spain began to appear, like Pichichi and Paulino Alcántara.
The Spain national team was created in 1920 for the Olympic Games in Antwerp. The success of the Spain national team, which won the silver medal, was huge in the development of football as mass social event. As interest in football grew, more people attended matches and information appeared in newspapers, eventually making football a part of popular culture. Football's popularity made it an element of national prestige and eventually political propaganda.
Football's popularity pushed Spanish football to turn professional in 1925. On 23 November 1928, an agreement between several clubs officially established Spain's national football division and birthed the Spanish League. The first league championship began in 1929.
The Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) disrupted national competitions. Although the Spanish League was suspended, the Catalan and Valencian clubs continued contesting in the Mediterranean League in early 1937. Barcelona later toured Mexico and the United States, raising support for the Spanish Republic.
The Spanish League and the Cup were restored in the 1939–40 season after the end of the Civil War. Francisco Franco's regime, a fascist political system, began to use football as a propaganda tool. In 1941, as part of his policy of eradicating regional identities, Franco's regime banned the use of non-Castilian names. As a result, many clubs that had chosen English prefixes previously, such as athletic or football club, had to amend their initials to Castilian names (such as Atlético, or Club de Fútbol). The Catalan Championship was banned and the Catalan shield was taken from FC Barcelona's badge. Spanish football began to rebuild slowly after the War, but Spain's isolated international position meant they did not properly re-enter International football until 1950. Later, Franco's regime was able to use football for political purposes based on the European triumphs of Real Madrid in the 1950s. Real Madrid was used as a Spanish brand of success to promote Spain's image abroad, as well as within the country itself.
Spain was selected as host of the 1982 FIFA World Cup, and the national team was eliminated in the second group stage.
Until the 1984–85 season, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) was responsible for organizing the league tournament. Since then, the competition was organized by the Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP) (English: Professional Football League), an independent body that was formed at the initiative of the clubs themselves after disagreements with the RFEF regarding the management professionalization and economic division of the League benefits.
Since the entry into force of Spanish Law 10/1990, almost all of the clubs competing professionally in Spain are companies under the legal status of sports companies, whose ownership is in the hands of its shareholders. Only three professional clubs (Athletic Club, Barcelona, and Real Madrid) kept their original structure, such as sports clubs directly controlled by their members.
After the arrival of private television in Spain, football clubs increased their income by signing lucrative contracts with broadcasters. While the revenue allowed clubs to sign many of the best players in the world, it lead many to increase their spending unsustainably. In the last few years, several La Liga clubs have been in financial turmoil. Although the biggest clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona, were at the top in the Forbes ftball rich list of 2013, the remaining clubs are weighed down by colossal debt valued at around €4.1 billion. For this reason, most clubs have had to cut their budgets drastically. In 2013, the third biggest club, Atlético Madrid, had a debt of around €180 million, and to relieve that the club had to sell their star player, Radamel Falcao, for €60 million. Television companies also began to lose subscribers; Digital+ said it had lost 15% of subscribers since 2012 and Mediapro lost 25% from 2011 to 2013, also having to shut down MARCA TV in the process.
Main article: Spain national football team
Main article: List of Spain international footballers
Within Spain, regional teams, most notably the Catalonia national football team, the Basque Country national football team, and even the Galicia national football team, began to compete against each other from 1915 onwards. Despite not being officially recognized by FIFA, these regional teams still occasionally play friendly games with some national team players playing for both teams. Some autonomous governments and social sectors in the historical communities (especially in Catalonia and Basque Country) prefer to call their regional teams as national team, while claiming to participate in international tournaments.
The Spain national team, commonly referred to as La selección (English: The Selection) or La Roja (English: The Red One), made their international debut at the 1920 Olympic Games in Belgium and came away with the silver medal. Since then the Spain national team has participated in a total of fifteen out of twenty-one FIFA World Cups and nine out fourteen UEFA European Championship. Historically, the Spain national team did not achieve important results, in terms of trophies or develop an attractive playing style. Surprisingly, this fact contrasted with the huge success obtained by the main Spanish football clubs at the European level. Nevertheless, the triumphs of the Spain national team in 2008 and 2012 European Championship, and in 2010 FIFA World Cup, with an attractive playing style, marked a turning point that divided the history of Spain national football team in two parts.
The Spain national football team has been the winner of FIFA Team of Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, as well as the winner of Laureus World Sports Award for Team of the Year in 2011.
The Spain national football team has won four trophies in FIFA and UEFA tournaments: one FIFA World Cup in 2010, and three UEFA European Championship in 1964, 2008, and 2012. In addition, it was runner-up in the UEFA European Championship in 1984 and in the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2013.
The Spain national under-23 team won the gold medal in 1992 Olympic tournament and the silver medal in 2000.
The Spain national football team won the gold medal at the Mediterranean Games in 2005, 2007, and 2018, the silver medal in 1955, and the bronze medal in 1963 and 1967.
In addition, the honours list includes numerous titles at junior level teams:
Spain has won the Maurice Burlaz Trophy, the prize awarded to the national association that has achieved the best results in UEFA's men's youth competitions (UEFA European Under-19 Championship and UEFA European Under-17 championship) over the previous two seasons, in 1994, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2011.
Main article: List of football clubs in Spain
Main article: Football records in Spain
Currently, the three most important competitions between clubs in Spain are La Liga (English: League), the Copa del Rey (English: King's Cup), and the Supercopa de España (English: Spanish Supercup). Other extinct competitions were the League Cup, the Eva Duarte Cup, and the President's Cup of the Spanish Football Federation. Up to a total of sixteen clubs have been winners of some of the official competitions in Spain at the highest level, and FC Barcelona is the most awarded club with seventy-five national titles,
The Spanish football league system consists of several leagues bound together hierarchically by promotion and relegation. In addition, Spanish Royal Federation Cup is a football competition for teams from the Segunda División B, the Tercera División, and sometimes from the Preferente Regional who have failed to qualify or have been eliminated in the first round of the Copa del Rey.
Main article: La Liga
Main article: List of Spanish football champions
Main article: Football records and statistics in Spain
Main article: List of La Liga stadiums
In April 1927, Álvaro Trejo, a director at Arenas Club de Getxo, first proposed the idea of a national league in Spain. After much debate about the size of the league and who would take part, the RFEF eventually agreed on the ten teams who would form the first Primera División in 1928. FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Arenas Club de Getxo and Real Unión were all selected as previous winners of the Copa del Rey. Athletic Madrid, RCD Español and CE Europa qualified as Copa del Rey runners-up and Racing de Santander qualified through a knock-out competition against Sevilla FC. Barcelona was the first winner of the competition. Only three of the founding clubs, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Athletic Bilbao, have never been relegated from the Primera División; six other clubs have never been below the top two tiers: Sevilla, Real Sociedad, Sporting de Gijón, Valencia, Espanyol and Atlético Madrid.
Historically, some of the best football players in the world have played in the Spanish football league, including Ricardo Zamora, Josep Samitier, Alfredo Di Stéfano, Ladislav Kubala, Ferenc Puskás, Raymond Kopa, Héctor Rial, Telmo Zarra, Francisco Gento, Luis Suárez, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Bernd Schuster, Andoni Zubizarreta, Michael Laudrup, Hristo Stoichkov, Romário, Zinedine Zidane, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Raúl, Ronaldinho, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Iker Casillas, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi, among others.
La Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP) is the association responsible for administering the two professional football leagues in Spain. Professional Spanish football is divided into the Primera División (First Division) and Segunda División (Second Division). The First Division is also known as Liga Santander, for sponsorship reasons, while the Second Division is known as La Liga SmartBank. The First Division consists of 20 professional teams and the Second Division has 22. There are also lower Spain national football divisions. Every year, the three lowest-ranked teams in the First Division pass to the Second Division, and the top three ranked teams in the Second Division pass to the First Division.
La Liga is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in the world. The average stadium attendance was 21,000 in the 2014–15 season, with a range of average attendance from 4,780 people in the stadium with the lowest average attendance to 77,632 people in the stadium with highest average attendance. In addition, La Liga is one of the wealthiest professional sports leagues in the world by revenue ($2.2 billion in 2016).
In La Liga's 90-year history (except the three seasons that the league was suspended due to the civil war), Barcelona and Real Madrid have won 60 titles between them. Barcelona and Real Madrid are two fierce rival clubs, and the matches between both two clubs are named El Clásico. Those football matches are one of the most viewed sports events in the world.
Although a total of 62 teams have competed in La Liga since its inception, only nine clubs have won the title: Real Madrid (35), Barcelona (26), Atlético Madrid (11), Athletic Bilbao (8), Valencia (6), Real Sociedad (2), Sevilla (1), Deportivo La Coruña (1), and Real Betis (1).
Main article: Copa del Rey
Main article: Football records and statistics in Spain
The King's Cup is the oldest Spanish football competition organized by the Royal Spanish Football Federation. In 1902, Carlos Padrós, later president of Madrid FC (later to be Real Madrid), suggested a football competition to celebrate the coronation of Alfonso XIII. Four other teams entered the Copa del Ayuntamiento de Madrid, which would later develop into the Copa del Rey (English: "King's Cup"). These included Barcelona, Club Español de Fútbol, Club Bizcaya and New Foot-Ball de Madrid. The competition featured the first recorded game between Barcelona and Madrid FC, with the former emerging 3–1 winner. Club Bizcaya, which consisted of players from both Basque teams, eventually beat Barcelona in the final. Alfonso XIII subsequently became the patron of many Spanish football clubs, permitting them to use "Real" (Spanish for "royal") in their names. Among the many clubs to add the prefix to their name was Madrid FC, which subsequently became Real Madrid.
The Copa del Rey was Spain's football national championship from 1903 (the first edition was won by Athletic Bilbao with Juan de Astorquia as captain and president) until the foundation of the Campeonato de Liga—League Championship—in 1928. It was initially known as the Copa del Ayuntamiento de Madrid (Madrid City Council's Cup). Between 1905 and 1932, it was known as the Copa de Su Majestad El Rey Alfonso XIII (His Majesty King Alfonso XIII's Cup). During the Second Spanish Republic, it was known as the Copa del Presidente de la República (President of the Republic Cup) or Copa de España (Spanish Cup) and during the years of Francisco Franco's Spanish State, it was known as the Copa de Su Excelencia El Generalísimo or Copa del Generalísimo (His Excellency, The Supreme General's Cup).
Fourteen clubs have won the title: Barcelona (31), Athletic Bilbao (23), Real Madrid (19), Atlético Madrid (10), Valencia (8), Real Zaragoza (6), Sevilla (5), Espanyol (4), Real Unión (4), Real Betis (2), Deportivo de La Coruña (2), Real Sociedad (2), Arenas Club de Getxo (1) and Mallorca (1).
Main article: Supercopa de España
The Spanish Super Cup (Spanish: Supercopa de España) is a championship organized by Royal Spanish Football Federation and contested by the winners and runners-up of La Liga and the winners and runners-up of the Copa del Rey. The competition was founded in 1982.
Ten clubs have won the title: Barcelona (13), Real Madrid (11), Deportivo La Coruña (3), Atlético Madrid (2), Athletic Bilbao (2), Valencia (1), Zaragoza (1), Mallorca (1), Sevilla (1) and Real Sociedad (1).
Main article: Spanish football clubs in international competitions
The Spanish football clubs are very successful in international competitions. They are the most successful in different current European competitions, such as UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, and UEFA Europa League ; and they also were the most successful in the extinct Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
They benefit a lot from their political and historical success as a colonial power. After the Big War (a.a. WW II), Spanish Football Clubs had their most prolific period of the century. Because of their political and economical positioning during Civil War and Cold War, they were able to win several UEFA Champions Leagues in a row. Real Madrid was the only club that managed to win the competition between 1956 and 1960. They were in a great position due to economical advantage and lack of competition. Most of the countries were still recovering from a long and devastating World War II and they were unable to participate in the competition due to financial or political reasons. France, Germany, England, Yugoslavia, and Russia are only a part of the important countries that were unable to compete in the European Competitions for at least a decade. Real Madrid was the one who benefited and won the title five years in a row.
Therefore, the most successful club in international competitions is Real Madrid, followed by Barcelona in recent years. In addition, other Spanish clubs have also won titles in international tournaments, such as Valencia, Atlético Madrid, Sevilla, Zaragoza, Villarreal, Deportivo La Coruña, Celta Vigo and Málaga.
Spanish football clubs hold different records in international competitions.
Real Madrid is the most successful club in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League. They have won fourteen titles and were runners-up three times. Real Madrid is also the most successful club in the Intercontinental Cup (three titles, shared record with Milan, Peñarol, Boca Juniors, and Nacional) and FIFA Club World Cup, with four titles.
Barcelona is the second most successful club in the FIFA Club World Cup, with three titles, and it is also the most successful club in the UEFA Super Cup (five titles, shared record with Milan). In addition, Barcelona became the first football club to win six out of six competitions in a single year (2009) completing the sextuple, and the first European club in history to achieve the continental treble twice (2009 and 2015).
Sevilla is the most successful club in the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League, with six titles.
In total, the Spanish football clubs have won 77 international titles. Over the years, Spanish clubs have won the European Cups/Champions League nineteen times, the UEFA Super Cup fourteen times, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup seven times, the UEFA Cup/Europa League thirteen times, the UEFA Intertoto Cup seven times and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup six times. In addition, Spanish clubs have also won the Intercontinental Cup four times, and the FIFA Club World Cup seven times.
Main article: Women's football in Spain
Main article: Spain women's national football team
Main article: Primera División (women)
Main article: Copa de la Reina de Fútbol
Women's football is a minor sport in Spain. Unlike the men's football, women's football is an amateur sport in Spain. However, in recent years there is a growing social interest in women's football, which has led to an increase in economic investment. A record crowd for a European women's club football match was recorded at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on March 17, 2019, when 60,739 fans turned out to watch a game between Atlético Madrid and FC Barcelona; that attendance exceeded the previous record of 48,121 – also set in Spain earlier this year when Athletic Bilbao played Atlético Madrid at the San Mames stadium. Currently there are two national competitions, the League and the Copa de la Reina (English: Queen's Cup), in the semi-professional clubs involved structure.
The first teams and the first informal women's football competitions in Spain emerged in the 1970s, although they were not officially recognized by the Royal Spanish Football Federation until 1980, with the founding of the National Women's Football Committee. The first official national competition was the Championships of Spain (Copa de la Reina), established in 1983. The women's national league began to dispute the 1988–89 season.
The Spain women's national football team has been qualified twice in the FIFA Women's World Cup, and twice in the UEFA Women's Championship. Its youth division has had success in recent times. The Spain women's national under-19 football team won the UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship in 2004, 2017, and 2018 (runners-up in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016). The Spain women's national under-17 football team won the UEFA Women's Under-17 Championship in 2010, 2011, 2015, and 2018 (runners-up in 2009, 2014, 2016, and 2017), as well as the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in 2018 (runners-up in 2014, and third-place in 2010 and 2016).
While relatively calm today, the ethnic issues in Spain have long been a problem in the country. As for the legacy's result from the totalitarian and repressive Francisco Franco's regime, there has been a strong sense of racial segregation in Spanish football, whereas racism and previous tensions are frequently used to exploit as a sign of defiance, which has contributed to the lack of national success of Spain in international football despite its enormous talents and club powers; it is strongly reflected in Basque Country and Catalunya.
The famed El Clásico in Spain between Real Madrid and Barcelona has been marred with several issues in the relationship between ethnic Catalans, majority supported Catalan independence and Barcelona, and the Spanish-based Real Madrid which sought to preserve Spain as an entity. The issue has been traced from the Francoist Spain, when Barcelona and Catalan identity was strongly suppressed, and the Madrid clubs (Real and Atlético Madrid) had been usually favored by the Francoist regime. Following Franco's death, decades of political healing helped solving the country's dark past, however hostility between Catalan and Castillan population remains persisted and often contributes to significant football hostility in regard to Catalan identity and perceived suppression of Catalan language. Catalan-born players and coaches like Xavi, Carles Puyol and Pep Guardiola have strongly demonstrated the idea of an independent Catalunya, which often creates chaos several times.
Alongside the tensions between Catalans and Castilians, the tensions are also witnessed between Basques to the central Spanish government, which also extended to football, where Basques sought to preserve its identity and in several cases, clash against the Spanish officials and other pro-government clubs. Basque football officials have several times tried to gain, unsuccessfully, for recognition from the UEFA and FIFA as a separate team from Spain. Nationalist issue is also influenced in Basque football's relations with Spanish football.
There are also tensions between various ethnic regions in Spanish football, such as Andalusia, Asturias and Galicia between either themselves or to central government, though it has never extended to the level of tensions Catalans and Basques have.