The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
Lybster play giant-killers
Heritage: Amateurs celebrate links to Spanish team that beat Real Madrid
They play in the exotic Andalucia region of Spain and hold claim to be the oldest football team in the country.
And now, the Recreativo de Huelva football club is celebrating its north roots by inviting a Caithness team out to Spain for a challenge match.
“We’re amateurs playing against a club which beat Real Madrid”
Arrangements have been firmed up for Lybster FC to fly to Andalucia, home of the former La Liga side founded 129 years ago by a family doctor from Lybster.
The link is still celebrated by the continental outfit and their officials are lining up a series of commemorative and social events around the match, due to take place on July 14.
A party of 50 players, officials and supporters from the Caithness Amateur FA first division side are set to make the trip.
Alexander Mackay left his native Lybster to work as a medical officer at a mine in Huelva. He and a colleague initially set up a recreation club for mine workers before founding the club, popularly known as Recre, in 1889.
After early success in regional cups and becoming the first Spanish club to defeat a Portuguese side, they played in the lower leagues before winning promotion to the top flight in the later 1970s.
Their heyday was in 2006 when a 3-0 win at the home of Real Madrid was the highlight in an eighth placed finish in La Liga.
Their fortunes have since dipped on and off the park and they now play in Segunda Division B, the third tier of Spanish football. A financial crisis almost saw Recre go to the wall but officials have negotiated a deal which will see the city council clearing its million euro debt and a company buying the club for one euro. Lybster FC chairman Donald Henderson said preparations are well advanced for the trip.
“It’s a bit surreal,” said Mr Henderson, who runs the village shop.
“We’re an amateur club and will play in a stadium which has a capacity of 21,000 against a club which attracts crowds of 5,000 to 6,000 and who not that so long ago were beating Real Madrid in La Liga.
Mr Henderson said Dr Mackay was known to have packed a leather football in his suitcase when he left for Spain.
As part of the commemoration, Lybster are to have a replica glass football produced and set in a presentation case resembling a suitcase to present to Recre.