The first Spanish Selection: Silver medal in Antwerp 1920

The first Spanish Selection: Silver medal in Antwerp 1920
Formation of the Spanish national team in the Olympic Games in Antwerp 1920. highlights, among others, Pichichi with his classic headscarf (Photo: Janel Cuesta file)

Last update August 28, 2020 by Javier Argudo

The first Spanish selection Get on his international debut its first major footballing success: the Silver medal Antwerp Olympics 1920. Hence two hallmarks that accompanied for many years to come Spanish football: called fury and disorganization and, If you hurry, to something very close to chaos.

His beginnings were not for less. The Assembly Spanish Football Federation appoints a selection committee to decide the call that was to represent the Spanish football in the Olympics 1920. This committee is chaired by Julian Ruete, representative of the Center region, including the then province of Santander, Francisco Bru, representative of Catalonia and José Berraondo, by the North region, which it housed the Basque Country, Asturias and Galicia.

It also decides, to pre-concentration of the players selected in Bilbao and training matches only in northern Spain stadiums: in Vigo, Bilbao and Irún. A month and a half of concentration and training to successfully tackle the Olympics. The reason for doing so in the north was simple: there were only grass fields, the most similar to those found in Belgium would, in the rest of Spain were, In its great majority, dirt fields.


In the previous concentration in Bilbao, three days prior to the first training match, The first problem arises: the player Sporting Gijon, Manolín Argüelles, abandons the concentration. The reason alleged to scoot the second day of coexistence is that "bored".

Argüelles It was a special kind, with a charisma that drew the gijonés public and was a beloved player by the fans despite his eccentricities. It would not be the only time I leave a team, although the circumstances in the latter case would be different. Years later, a league match El Molinon he left the pitch during a match, with ten minutes remaining, because he said he was fed up and he did not distance himself passed balls, even though, say in his defense, the game was already decided in favor of the Asturian maturing by a clear 3 a 0.

In any case, polemics for the Spanish team did not end there. Selectors Trio is elected Francisco Bru as coach and head of team. Catalan had a number of opponents within the Federation and between some of the components selected team players, particularly those from the Athletic Club de Bilbao what, by then, They maintained a huge rivalry with F.C. Barcelona.

The 11 July is celebrated the first training match with the Spanish team participating in the 21 man squad completing a local football teams. It is made in the Coya field, in Vigo. The teams were called "possible" and "probable". But the atmosphere was rarefied since the appointment of Bru and, back to Bilbao, comes the coach called for calm. Speaking to various media in which states that the base of the team that played in Antwerp will consist of Basque players makes, against those who have no problem, Unlike, admire your strength and see determinants imposed to achieve more physical teams like the Central.


The problems do not end there, the Spanish Federation, not just send the money for tickets and team expenses in Belgium, in an era in which each national Olympic committee should bear its own expenses and that, frequently, They derived to own federations of each sport. Came the date of departure and there was no money for it. Finally, the Marqués de Villaverde, President of Spanish Olympic Committee, he paid from his own pocket the 150.000 pesetas needed to keep the appointment. Spanish footballers traveled by train, the 10 August 1920, in the cheapest category (third) and they housed a modest hotel away from the center of the Flemish city of Antwerp. The federation restituted the aristocrat advance money a couple of years later.

Equipment part, Finally, for Belgium the following players: Zamora (Barcelona) e Izaguirre (Ath. Bilbao) as gatekeepers; arrasate (Real society), Carrasco (Real Union Irun), Otero (Sporting Vigo) Y Vallina (Arenas de Getxo) as defenses; Eguizábal (Real society), Belauste (Ath. Bilbao), Sabino (Ath. Bilbao), Samitier (Barcelona), Sancho (Barcelona) Y Artola (Real society) as a means; Y Patricio (Real Union Irun), Vazquez (Racing Ferrol), Pichichi (Ath. Bilbao), Acedo (Ath. Bilbao), Silverio (Real society), Moncho (Sporting Vigo), González (Sporting Vigo), pagaza (Arenas de Getxo) Y Sesúmaga (Barcelona). Joining them were the coach, Francisco Bru, the delegate, Manolo Lemmel and utilero, Isidro.


Once in Belgium, and the day before the debut before Denmark, It appears a new problem: the mutiny of the Basque. Players, led by the front irundarra Patricio, require Bru to tell them what team plans to take against the Nordic, Suspecting that the coach will benefit, they say unfairly, the players of Barcelona. Gathered all expeditionary, the coach shows his cards: they will play three barcelonistas (Zamora, Samitier Y Sancho). No hint of mutiny, stop getting the delegate Lemmel.

Finally playing in Antwerp, Spanish victory over Denmark, with goal Patricio tuberculosis in the minute 54, it would be the first in the history of the Spanish selection. A Patricio, also, previously had a goal disallowed the minute 21 for offside. victory, which they were attended, according to the press of the time, twenty enthusiastic Basque sailors, they were docked in Antwerp and did not stop encouraging the Spanish team, He had wide repercussions in our country and was a balm to calm down.

And what started badly, It ended well. Spain, of the four meetings, He won three games (Denmark, Sweden e Italy) and it was only defeated by the host Belgium, achieving a deserved silver medal and the first international success of our football.

Frichu Yustas

I enjoy my two passions, football and music. Author of several books: "Atlas Music" (2007) along with other authors; "The rocks of Real Sporting de Gijón. History of a hobby" (2018) Rebeca Diaz with; "Football stories yesterday" (2019); "History of the CP Gijón Solimar" (2020). You can follow me on Twitter @fritzyustas

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