Our game at Huesca’s El Alcoraz stadium on Saturday was called off as heavy snow and icy conditions made the playing surface unplayable. No date has been decided as to when the game will be rescheduled but the ideal scenario would be before or after we play Zaragoza away on the weekend of 9/10 April. Huesca suggested we played the game last Sunday at 12 noon as a thaw was forecast but Mallorca politely refused as players and staff needed to attend a celebratory gala at the Teatro Principal on Sunday night. The postponement also means any injured players have an unexpected extra week to recover.
In every football club’s history there are ups and down and this is most certainly the case with Real Mallorca. Formed as Alfonso XIII FC in March 1916, “the islanders” had to overcome the considerable obstacle of their relative isolation from the rest of the country in their formative years. The club’s first match ended in an ignominious 0-8 defeat against Catalan giants Barcelona. In June of their eventful first year, the club were honoured by King Alfonso XIII with the appellation “Real”, then changed their name to Real Sociedad Alfonso XIII keeping that name until 1931 when the club became known as it is now.
They initially played in the Catalan league after becoming Balearic champions. The club made huge strides to introduce top-class football, and teams like Espanyol, Ajax and even the Uruguayan national team played here in the 1920s.
Regional and national association competitions were suspended during the Civil War as Mallorca concentrated on winning local titles.
However, when hostilities ceased, a national divisional league was formed with Mallorca as one of its founding members.
Fast forward to 1944 and the club had their first promotion success, going up into the new second division. The following year a piece of land at Es Forti in Palma was obtained and not long after that the name of the new ground was to be Luis Sitjar, after a former coach. A covered stand was built along with new terraces and floodlights. To celebrate this innovation, a friendly game was arranged against Newcastle United, and the legendary Alfredo di Stefano guested for Mallorca. After that, Mallorca yo-yoed between the first and second division until the mid ‘70s when they had their first major crisis. There were arguments about transfer rights and Mallorca were demoted back to the third division.
Coming back up in four years, we remained a second division outfit until the early ‘80s and were promoted into La Liga (as it was called by now) in ‘82. The following season 83/84 we signed a certain Gerry Armstrong. He scored the winning goal in the Mestalla for Northern Ireland that knocked Spain out of the 1982 World Cup and he came to Palma on that reputation.
Gerry scored in a home match against Valladolid in March 1984 which finished 1-1. After his goal went in, a wall behind the south goal collapsed, sending dozens of fans into the dry moat below, several being badly injured, which led to the ground being closed. Two “home” matches were then played in Alicante. 1991 saw Mallorca reach their first ever Copa del Rey, losing 1-0 to Atletico Madrid after extra time in the Bernabeu. Season 1996-97 saw the club promoted to La Liga and in 97/98 we had one of the best seasons in our history. In July 97, Hector Cuper was the coach and in just one season we reached another cup final, this time losing on a penalty shoot out (5-4) to Barcelona after the game finished 1-1 in normal time.
This game was made all the more exciting as Mallorca played the extra time period with just nine men. We then went on to beat Barcelona in the Spanish Supercup over two legs (our first major trophy). In 1998/99 the Palma club reached the final of the last ever European Cup Winners Cup, beating along the way Hearts, Genk of Belgium, Varteks from Croatia and some team called Chelsea in the semi-final. Unfortunately, we lost 2-1 to Lazio in the final at Villa Park. In the league we finished third, the best position in the club’s history, behind Barcelona and Real Madrid, and for the first time ever we made it into the Champions League.
In August 2001 we played the first La Liga game at the new Son Moix stadium, and in a dramatic duel against Real Madrid we lost 2-1 with Raul scoring a 96th minute winner. Two months later was another historical result when we defeated the mighty “Gunners” 1-0 in the Champions League on the night of 9/11.
I’ve had a season ticket at Real Mallorca for over 30 years and I’m often asked what is the stand-out game in all these years. Our cup final victory in Elche in 2003 is up there, but for me the game I’ll never forget took place on Saturday, 3 May 2003 away at Real Madrid. The Bernabeu side were 1-0 up at half time, thanks to a Ronaldo (the goofy one) goal, and things were looking ominous. Then in the second half Real Mallorca, under coach Gregorio Manzano, unbelievably turned things around – and how. Goals from Pandiani, Riera, Eto’o, Roberto Carlos (OG) and Carlitos made it a truly magical evening as we created a club record by scoring five in 45 minutes, in a 5-1 win.
Our present predicament has been well documented as we’re now, form-wise, bang ordinary. But with the history of this club as it has been, we will surely return to the forefront of Spanish professional football. Hard times and tribulations are being endured by long-suffering fans and it’s time we once again flirted with glory.
As new owner, American millionaire banker Robert Sarver (who’ll be at Saturday’s Oviedo game) wrote over the weekend: “We still work each day to earn your trust and confidence. I acknowledge there is a lot of work to be done and improvements to be made. I think that together, your club will once again be back in its place as one of Spain’s most admired clubs - Visca Mallorca!"
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