Real Mallorca fan's show their support infront of Palma's Cathedral. | Joan Llado


In every football club’s history there are ups and downs and the island’s major football club Real Mallorca is no exception. In 2017/18, after several seasons of financial instability and lack of sustainability, Mallorca plunged into the “never never land” of Segunda B (the third tier of Spanish football). As expected, there was a dwindling level of interest as fewer fans bothered to turn up and watch. Some, like yours truly, continued to support unconditionally. We averaged gates of around 6,000 per match, a drop of 30% from La Segunda but still a good attendance for a lower league. After going through the footballing wringer over the next three years, Mallorca finally returned to La Liga in 2021, when all the fans who stayed away came flooding back.

However, it was in the Copa del Rey that little Real Mallorca jumped into the limelight. When I started watching “Los Bermellones” in the mid ’80s, we were nothing special, until 1991 when the team made it into the Copa del Rey final. We played Atletico Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu and weren’t given a hope by the pundits.

In the final we held out until the 111th minute when “Los Colchoneros” won it with a deflected shot. After the defeat, the Mallorca side were decimated, with players leaving left, right and centre. The biggest name to depart was one of our favourite sons, Miguel Angel Nadal (uncle of Rafa), who joined Barcelona for the then record fee of 200 million pesetas (1,202,024 euros).

In 1998 we reached the final again and this one was better. It was probably the most exciting and dramatic game of football I’ve ever witnessed first hand. We had an unknown Argentinian coach called Hector Cuper who had transformed the team. They were jokingly called the “Ensaimada Mecanica” and we surprised everyone since we were a recently-promoted side. That final in Valencia deserved a suitable opponent and as it turned out we got one, Louis van Gaal’s Barcelona who had in their midst Rivaldo, Luis Figo, Luis Enrique and Nadal.

The final saw the then biggest displacement of Mallorca fans, with 15,000 making the short trip over the water. The final generated unbelievable interest on the island. Flags and banners were seen all over the city of Palma with taxis and EMT buses flying the colours. The same can hardly be said now ! Fans queued for hours outside the Luis Sitjar ground to collect their free red chubasqueros (rain jackets) donated by the Consell de Mallorca.

Mallorca got off to the best possible start when Jovan Stankovic (now coaching at local lower league side Genova) slammed in the opener. It took Barcelona until the 67th minute to equalise with a Rivaldo goal. Then as extra time loomed, a pedantic referee sent off two of our players, leaving us with nine men for the extra half hour. In that time it was like The Alamo and the Battle of Rorke’s Drift rolled into one as our nine men repelled everything the mighty Barça could chuck at us. The Argentinian Carlos Roa in the Mallorca goal was inspiration personified (as we reached the dreaded penalty lottery), saving three then scoring one himself. The shoot-out then reached sudden death as an exhausted team finally succumbed to the mighty Catalans. On the plane coming home you could have heard a pin drop as we gave new meaning to a new footballing term, “gutted.” At Palma airport, Terminal B was packed with fans welcoming their heroes home.

Throughout the history of the Copa del Rey, 15 different teams have won the coveted trophy and it was our turn to pick up the club’s first major piece of silverware in 2003. Back then, Samuel Eto’o was our main man and the final in Elche was called “Eto’o’s Final.” We had a relatively easy draw through to the quarter finals when things got complicated. Real Madrid were next, the first leg in Madrid finished 1-1. A week later the Son Moix was full as Mallorca went three up in 30 minutes and we beat “Los Meringues” 5-1 on aggregate. In the semifinal we dispensed with another of the favourites, Deportivo La Coruña, winning 2-3 in Galicia and drawing 1-1 in Palma. In the final we faced a surprising opponent, Spain’s oldest club, Recreativo Huelva. Probably due to two less fashionable finalists, the hype regarding the game was muted. Once again, 15,000 made the trip to Elche (Alicante) and everybody was wondering if Samuel Eto’o would be able to play. He was picked for Cameroon in the Confederation Cup but after asking for special permission he got the “nod” to play for Mallorca. He was the star in the final, scoring twice in a 3-0 win. He even paid for a couple of giant paellas enjoyed by us supporters in the Fan Zone.

Twenty-one years later, we’re in another Cup Final and this time we can far exceed the 15,000 that went to Valencia and Elche. There will be 20,698 Mallorca visitors in the stands of La Cartuja in Seville (plus those invited separately by the Club which represent 4% of our original seat allocation), and the logistical challenge of getting all the fans to Andalucia has been a major achievement.

As to the game, our opponents Athletic Club have been one of the surprises of La Liga so far with brilliant displays from brothers Iñaki and Nico Williams. On Saturday night at 10pm Bilbao go into their third cup final in five years as they hope to end a 40-year trophy drought. The Basques will start as favourites but Mallorca will be a tough nut to crack, we’re a very competitive side that’s physically superior to Bilbao in duels, in strength, height and at set pieces. I’m really optimistic about the outcome, that we’ll win our second Copa del Rey Final – Visca Mallorca!