The last safeguard of soccer’s identity resides in the town. This was demonstrated when thousands of English fans took to the streets to stop the elitist initial project of the Super League, a competition in which the sporting merit was ignored by its promoters. In Huelva, the struggle and commitment of the Recreativo fans to save the club and its status as dean of Spanish football —it was founded on December 18, 1889— has also borne fruit.
The popular demonstrations of 2015 to put an end to the questioned and judicialized management of the previous owner, Pablo Comas, and the initiatives to raise one million euros that prevented the virtual disappearance of the historic identity have led to an unprecedented formula in Spain in terms of the club management. On April 12, the City Council, now the largest shareholder of Recreativo, announced through the mouth of its mayor, the socialist Gabriel Cruz, that recreational fans will elect the members of the board of directors by vote as of 2025. Only the election of the The CEO will remain in the hands of the consistory as a guarantor that the club does not fall back into the hands of shareholders who endanger an institution considered one of the great hallmarks of the city and the province to disappear. With this measure, Recreativo, which is now a member of the Second RFEF, will not only retain the Spanish football deanship, it will also be a pioneer in the administration of a sports limited company under the parameters of a traditional club.
On the outskirts of the northern end of the Nuevo Colombino, a cast bronze sculpture almost four meters high, represents a grandfather with English traces in his clothing —a nod to the origin of its founders—, with two grandchildren celebrating a goal from the recreational. The monument, the work of Huelva-born sculptor Sergio Sánchez, was inaugurated in 2019 as a tribute to that explosion of feelings and sense of belonging that led to the recreation to put money from their pockets and take to the streets to save the club. That saving movement was led and articulated by the Recre Trust, an association of fans recreationists which anticipated the risk of disappearance under the management of Pablo Comas, with the team already suffering in the extinct Second Division B with a debt of about 20 million euros. “We decided that something had to be done because the club had gone down to Second B and things were not looking good. A colleague had been to England and studied how the trust of amateurs. The fans saw where the club was going, the rejection of Comas was total”, recalls Alejandro López, a member of the Recre Trust. “We held a first demonstration in April 2015 and then another one in October that was attended by 10,000 people, one of the largest that has taken place in the city. We involve all social forces, political parties and associations of all kinds, cultural, neighborhood, clubs… For us the Recre is what the Alhambra is for Granada. We cannot give it to the first one that comes through here and if things don’t go well liquidate the club, disappear and lose the status of dean of Spanish football”, warns Alejandro López.
The defense of the Recreativo dean has also been key to its survival. In 2016, the City Council managed to get the Junta de Andalucía to register it in the general catalog of Andalusian historical heritage as an asset of cultural interest. The maneuver allowed the expropriation of the shares of Pablo Comas, although he has appealed it, and the consistory became the owner of the club. “El Recreativo is a brand, a hallmark and a promotional window for the city, recognized in many parts of the world. The prize for a recreationist it is that the team goes out to play every Sunday, we have to earn the rest on the field”, defends the mayor Gabriel Cruz.
unique and different
“The last years of recreation They have been tough, but they have also shown their love for their club. It is difficult to send the fan the message that the important thing is not to win, but we are unique and different. I am a firm believer that management must be professional, but at the same time the fan must be the soul of the club and participate”, says Jesús Vázquez, the player with the most caps in Recreativo’s history. “You have to be loyal and honest, in 132 years of history, the First Division has not been our habitat. Sports should be one more leg of a project that contains social aspects and our hallmarks, which are what make us different. Football enters through Huelva, through the mines, and that must be projected ”, continues Vázquez.
That attachment to history hooked Antonio Núñez to Huelva, where he now lives, and to Recreativo, where he finished a career that began in the lower categories of Real Madrid and culminated with his integration into the Liverpool squad of Rafa Benítez who won the Champions League in 2005. “I had been in England, where the clubs do give a lot of importance to history. In Spain, sometimes we don’t give importance to where we come from, but at Recreativo I did find this that makes it unique and different. That is why we have to take care of it and protect it”, says Núñez, who together with Jesús Vázquez was the first of the players to contribute money in the collection for salvation.
That million euros that was raised, the Recre Trust would have liked to have converted into shares, but the City Council has denied it. The counterpart has been the ability to elect the members of the board of directors from 2025. Their demands, at least, have turned the recreation in the future ruler of destiny and the life of his team in the face of the disdain and coldness that they reproach the management model of sports corporations.
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