Ricardo Zamora

Football's Pioneers: Ricardo Zamora

This week's Football's Pioneers - in partnership with De Montfort University’s International Centre for Sports History and Culture - comes from Dr. Neil Carter, who focuses on Ricardo Zamora, the most famous Spanish footballer in the first half of the 20th century.
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There is a perception that Atlético Madrid is the Spanish capital's second club, due to the success of its city rivals, Real Madrid. Yet this has not always been the case.

The inter-city rivalries of a number of European clubs have ebbed and flowed throughout history. Just as Everton were once the biggest club on Merseyside and Torino was the dominant club in Turin, so Atlético could once claim to be the most successful club in the Spanish capital.

Indeed, before 1954, Atlético had won more league titles - four against two - since the start of Spanish professional football in 1929.

Club Atlético de Madrid is one of the most complex and paradoxical of Spanish clubs; a complexity that stems from its origins.

It was formed in 1903 as Athletic Club de Madrid by three Basque students, who were supporters of Athletic Bilbao, formed four years earlier.

Indeed, both shared the same founding statutes and, at first, Athletic Madrid wore the same blue and white stripes as Bilbao, changing to red and white in 1911.

The search for an identity characterised the club's early history in which the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) played an important role.

By the time Spanish football had resumed in 1939, Athletic Madrid had been renamed Athletic Aviación de Madrid. Eight of the club's players had died during the conflict and so it merged with the team of the airforce.

A few months later, it was renamed again as Atlético Aviación, as under a Franco decree no team was allowed to use a foreign name. In 1947 it eventually dropped the military connection and settled on its present name.

In 1940, Atlético won its first La Liga championship and, for good measure, retained the title the following season.

In both seasons, the manager was Ricardo Zamora (1901-78). Zamora was the most famous Spanish footballer of the first half of the 20th century. Unusually for a successful a manager, he was a goalkeeper.

Born in Barcelona, Zamora initially forsook a career in medicine for football. His distinguished playing career included spells at both Barcelona and Espanyol, as well as Real Madrid, where he won two league titles.

Between 1920 and 1936, he won 46 Spanish caps and was the 'keeper in Spain's 4-3 victory over England in 1929; the Three Lions' first defeat against a team outside the UK.

After the game, it was revealed that Zamora had broken his sternum. Nicknamed El Divino, he attained a celebrity status through an eccentric dress sense while he was also Europe's highest-paid player.

Unsurprisingly, given Zamora's high profile, he became entangled in the turmoil of Spanish politics. Although he was awarded the Order of the Republic in 1934, Zamora viewed himself as Spanish rather than Catalan.

His memory lives on through the annual Ricardo Zamora Trophy. It was established by the MARCA newspaper in 1958 and is awarded to the goalkeeper who has the lowest goals-to-games ratio for that season.

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