City: San Sebastian
Founded: 7 September 1909
Official website: www.realsociedad.com
Real Sociedad were founded in the early years of the 20th century and boast a rich tradition in the Spanish league. Only five clubs have provided more players for the Spanish national team than the San Sebastian outfit, which has spent its entire existence in the top two flights and even inspired literary disputes between celebrated Spanish poets Rafael Alberti and Gabriel Celaya. Deeply rooted in Spanish society, the club also fielded one of the greatest sculptors of the last century in its ranks, Eduardo Chillida, a first-choice keeper for the side in the early 1940s.
During the course of their 102-year history, the txuri-urdin (Basque for “white and blue”) have enjoyed glorious highs, chief among them the league triumphs of the early 1980s, and worrying lows, both on and off the pitch. Throughout it all, however, their steadfastly loyal fans have stuck by them, sustained by the memory of footballing legends such as the Bienzobas brothers, Alberto Gorriz, Luis Arconada and Jesus Maria Satrustegui, and by hopes of new talents emerging from a famed youth system that has recently produced stars of the calibre of FIFA World Cup™ winner Xabi Alonso.
Birth of an institution
Football arrived in San Sebastian at the start of the 20th century, brought to the city by young men returning home from England. The sport proved extremely popular, leading to the creation in 1903 of the city’s first football team, San Sebastian Recreation Club, which would later become Real Sociedad.
Lacking official recognition, the new outfit could only take part in the Copa del Rey by entering under the name of a local registered cycling club, Club Ciclista de San Sebastian. After winning the national cup competition in that name in 1909, the team’s directors decided to found the club that exists to this day, which was granted the title of “Real” by King Alfonso XIII one year after its formation.
The making of a legend
Throughout the decades that followed, Real Sociedad fought out some memorable league and cup duels with the equally venerable Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, not to mention their biggest rivals Athletic Bilbao. In the meantime, however, they also endured several setbacks, switching between the first and second divisions at regular intervals.
Aside from that early cup success, there were no further additions to the club’s trophy cabinet until the dawn of the 1980s, when La Real enjoyed their finest hours. Under the stewardship of coach Alberto Ormaetxea, an exceptional generation of players, most of them nurtured in the club’s youth academy, won back-to-back Spanish league titles in 1981 and 1982 as well as a Spanish Super Cup, and reached the semi-finals of the European Cup for good measure.
The foundations were laid in the 1979/80 season, when the men from San Sebastian finished runners-up after setting a new league record of 32 games unbeaten, one that has not been matched since. That season legendary custodian Luis Arconada collected the inaugural Trofeo Zamora, awarded to the goalkeeper conceding the least number of goals, a trophy he would also pocket in the two championship-winning campaigns that followed.
So commanding was Arconada between the posts that La Real fans came up with the famous chant, “No pasa nada, tenemos a Arconada” (“Don’t worry, we’ve got Arconada”). Standing tall alongside him was a phalanx of homegrown heroes such as Satrustegui, Gorriz, Perico Alonso, Roberto Lopez Ufarte, Jesus Maria Zamora and a young Jose Mari Bakero.
The first of those two league crowns was secured in dramatic fashion in the final game of the season against Sporting Gijon, Zamora striking a last-minute winner to help La Real pip Real Madrid. The second also came in heart-stopping circumstances, with Ormaetxea’s men overcoming local foes Athletic Bilbao at home in the last match of the campaign.
Arconada and co followed up by winning the inaugural Spanish Super Cup at the start of the 1982/83 season, when they also battled through to the semi-finals of the European Cup only to lose to eventual champions Hamburg in the semis. In 1987, and with Welshman John Toshack ensconced in the dugout, La Real won the Copa del Rey for the second time. It was their last title to date, however, and when the likes of Arconada and Zamora retired from the game two years later the most successful chapter in Real Sociedad’s history had come to an end.
Having put together a fine squad combining youth products such as Xabi Alonso and Javier de Pedro with productive foreign imports, among them Turkish livewire Nihat Kahveci and Serbian centre-forward Darko Kovacevic, the txuri-urdin finished league runners-up in 2003. Times have been hard since then, however. In 2006/07, they lost their top-flight status for the first time in 40 years, though they would return to the big stage just three seasons later, maintaining their status last term.
The 32,000-capacity Estadio Municipal de Anoeta has been the club’s home ground since 1993. Categorised as a UEFA Elite Stadium, it has the infrastructure to host a UEFA Champions League final, although many Real Sociedad fans still yearn for the club’s former ground, the English-style Atotxa, which hosted games for over 80 years and was the venue for the txuri-urdin’s greatest triumphs to date.
The Atotxa was officially opened at a 1913 derby between Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao, with the famous Rojiblanco striker Rafael “Pichichi” Moreno becoming the first player to score there.
- Spanish La Liga: (2) 1981, 1982
- Spanish Copa del Rey: (2) 1909, 1987
- Supercopa de España: (1) 1983
*The honours listed above are considered to be the club’s major titles and, as such, are not intended to be a full list of achievements.
Luis Iruretagoyena Ayestarán 'Kiriki', Ángel Mariscal, Francisco Bienzobas, Epifanio Fernández Berridi 'Epi', Jesús María Zamora, Luis Miguel Arconada, Roberto López Ufarte, Jesús María Satrústegui, Alberto Górriz, Genaro Celayeta, Perico Alonso, Agustín Gajate, Juan Antonio Larrañaga, José Mari Bakero, Lorenzo Juarros 'Loren', Valery Karpin, Darko Kovacevic, Nihat, Xabi Alonso, Francisco Javier De Pedro, Agustín Aranzábal, Mikel Arteta, Xabi Prieto.