I’ve just read an interesting article in Sapiens, the molt Catalanista history and current affairs magazine, about how the football club Real Madrid was in fact founded by two Catalan brothers. Carles and Joan Padrós i Rubió were born in Barcelona, but moved to Madrid to pursue their business interests. On the 18th of April 1902, the two brothers put the finishing touches on the statutes of a new sports association: the ‘Madrid Foot Ball Club’.
For those who are unaware of the animosity between Madrid supporters and Catalans over the last sixty or so years, Real Madrid is deeply unpopular here in Catalonia. Seen as an emblem of everything that is bad about Spain, Madrid fans (or merengues as they are disrespectively termed) are thin on the ground in this most avowedly un-Spanish corner of the country. Real Madrid was the favourite team of fascist dictator, Francisco Franco, and – sometimes in openly unsportsmanly ways – had the best of domestic and foreign players and league success under the dictatorship.
For these reasons, the fact that Real Madrid was actually created and managed by two Catalan brothers will come as a shock. It certainly seemed to shock many Real Madrid officials, both during and after the years of the Genaralissimo’s patronage. On the death of Carles Padrós i Rubió in 1950, no mintue’s silence was held at the club’s ground. No one connected with the modern club attended its founder’s funeral. Similarly, during the club’s centenary celebrations five or six years ago, the families of Carles and Joan weren’t contacted to play any part – or even watch – the club’s triumphal spectaculars.
The fact that Real Madrid’s fans, a small number of whom are openly neo-Nazi and anti-Catalan, are left in the dark about their beloved club’s origins is an interesting reminder of how politics and football have been intertwined in Spain’s modern history. There’s no reason that Madrid supporters should choose to like Catalans any more simply because their club was founded by two. But perhaps it would give them food for thought enough to realise that they owe a lot to their polako cousins.
Interestingly, the Sapiens article ends with another snippet of information. Atletico Madrid, arguably the bearers of a far greater hatred of Catalonia and FC Barcelona, was founded by Basques. But that’s another can of worms, best saved for another day.