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For the first fourteen years of FC Barcelona's existence, there was very little interaction with the Spanish capital. The few inter-city games that did get played were mainly against the now defunct Gimástica and Espanyol clubs. As for Madrid FC (the modern-day Real Madrid), they had only met twice before a couple of games were played in Barcelona in November 1914.
After Barcelona made it four wins in four games against Madrid, the Catalans accepted the challenge of two more games in madrileño territory a couple of months later.
Madrid’s Estadio de O'Donnell was to be the venue not just for those matches, but also for fixtures against Gimnástica and what was known at the time as the Athletic Club de Madrid –a completely new opponent for FC Barcelona, and which today goes by the name of Atlético Madrid.
The club had been founded eleven years earlier by Basque students living in the city, and in 1914 was still a kind of subsidiary of the Athletic Club de Bilbao. This was to the extent that when the Basques adopted red and white stripes in 1910, reputedly because they had acquired a set of Southampton shirts, the Madrid club did likewise.
After beating Gimnástica 1-0 and drawing 2-2 with Madrid, Barcelona decided to rest likes of Alfred Massana and Englishmen Percival Wallace and Jack Greenwell for the Athletic match on 8 January 1914. They clearly viewed this to be the least important game on their schedule.
Athletic were taking it a lot more seriously. They even strengthened their eleven with ‘ringers’ from their sister club in Bilbao, arguably the strongest team in Spain at the time. El Mundo Deportivo reckoned that “took the interest out of the game” and, along with the fact that it was a work day, was the reason for the poor crowd.
Barça scored first when Arsenio Morales pounced on a defensive error, but it was Athletic who dominated most of the play. The home side had moved into a comfortable 3-1 lead by the break.
In the second half, observers described Athletic’s dominance as ‘monotonous’ and how ‘the Catalans started to become disheartened’. Even so, Paulino Alcántara managed to pull one back for Barcelona before a fourth Athletic goal secured them a 4-2 win. For only the second time in fifteen encounters, Barcelona had lost to a team from Madrid.
Madrid based daily La Mañana concluded its write-up by commenting that “when the game was over and the spectators started to leave, the inevitable arguments broke out, this time between Hodge and Garnica. … A few punches sorted out their differences.” Ah, football in the good old days!
Two days later, Barcelona (with their full strength team) completed their tour with a 2-0 defeat of Madrid.
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