RCD Espanyol – Barcelona’s other football team
Founded in October, 1900, RCD Espanyol have one celebrity supporter nearly everyone reading this page will already know quite well. Much respected Sky Sports football pundit Guillem Balague has followed Barcelona’s ‘other team’ since seeing them demolish Barça by 5 goals to 1 in 1981. And, contrary to what some might think, this victory has not been the only notable achievement of a club so often in the shadows of its illustrious neighbours.
For example, Real Madrid’s biggest ever defeat – so far, anyway – was by 8 – 1 to Espanyol in 1930 and it was as recent as 2006/07 season that they were runners-up in the UEFA Cup, losing out in a penalty shoot – out to fellow La Liga side, Sevilla; thus losing the trophy after being undefeated throughout the competition. They’ve also won the Cope del Rey four times – twice this century; so they’re not quite the no-hope country cousins.
However, it cannot be denied that Espanyol are most definitely the city’s ‘second’ team in many ways. For example, in 2000, when they won one of those King’s Cup finals, the club had only 16,000 members – as opposed to 112,000 at the club just down the road! They’ve also suffered by not having their own home ground. Since leaving their previous home at Estadi de Sarrià – it was sold to wipe out the club’s debts – Espanyol have played at the Olympic Stadium in Montjuïc, where sometimes the crowd look a little lost. A new stadium is currently under construction, however, between the Cornellà de Llobregat and El Prat de Llobregat areas to the west of the city. With a capacity of about 40,000, and due to be ready by sometime in 2010, it should help bring back a little of the club’s individual identity.
And identity has historically been a problem for RCD Espanyol. Founded in the same Sarrià district as FC Barcelona, the club was created to ‘compete with the foreigners of FC Barcelona’; in other words, was proud of its founding members being Spanish rather than the foreigners who established most of the other clubs in Spain. It is this ‘Spanishness’ that has loomed large in the club’s history. Given royal patronage by Alfonso XIII in 1912, the club then became Real Club Deportivo Español – note the Castilian Spanish spelling of the final word. In 1931, and the coming of the Second Republic, the more Catalan name Club Esportiu Espanyol was adopted. However, at the end of the civil war, when the Catalan language was banned, the former name was once more taken. It was as recently as 1995, that the current spelling was re-introduced – but it is true to say that RCD Espanyol still has its share of detractors purely and simply because of its name and previous royal connections.
There is some irony in the fact that probably the most celebrated Espanyol player also spent a large part of his career at FC Barcelona. Ricardo Zamora made his debut for Espanyol at just 16 years of age in 1916 and went on to become Spain’s first world class goalkeeper. Even today, the trophy to the statistically best keeper in La Liga, awarded annually, is known as the Zamora. The best known player of recent years has been the striker Raul Tamudo, who has been at the club since 1997, and whose bustling, wholehearted style is somehow symptomatic of the team he has represented so admirably for so long.
RCD Espanyol has struggled in the last couple of years to compete with the richer teams in the Spanish league – having made the commitment to build the new ground, this has sidetracked much of the club’s funding. However, it still has fervent blanquiazules and offers a genuinely warm welcome – only it would probably be best not to turn up in your new Barcelona shirt!