The colours of Madrid and Atleti are unmistakable, but have they always been like that? What is the reason for this choice of colours?
Real Madrid will wear white and cross-city rivals Atlético Madrid will wear red and white in Sunday’s Madrid derby. Club crests are more difficult to reproduce and can be changed over time, modernised, but not the colour of the home shirt. But why do Real Madrid wear white and why do Atlético wear red and white stripes? Two English teams are to blame.
When you think of the Harlem Globetrotters, you think of a spectacle. The quintessential amateur team has delighted fans over the years, whether they liked basketball or not. Well, in the late 19th century there was a comparable team that used the football instead of the basketball: London’s Corinthian. Not to be confused with Brazil’s Corinthians, a club which, incidentally, was founded after a tour of Brazil by the latter at the beginning of the 20th century. It was their immaculate white kit that inspired Real Madrid to choose their own colour.
The British side refused to join the professional ranks and humiliated the biggest teams of the day, such as Blackburn Rovers, who they hammered in 1884 (8-1) shortly after they won the league. Manchester United, though in the Second Division at the time, suffered their heaviest defeat to date (10-3) at the hands of Corinthian. Over time, they eventually became professional and merged with Casuals FC. Corinthian-Casuals FC still exists today, but at a very different level to what it would have been at the beginning of the last century.
Atleti’s case is different and is linked to Athletic Club. In 1903, a group of Basque students founded a team that would take the place of Athletic, Bilbao, already founded and one of the most important clubs of the time. This Athletic Club Sucursal de Madrid would act as a subsidiary in its beginnings, adopting the original Madrid kit. A shirt with two stripes, one blue and the other white, in honour of Blackburn Rovers, the leading team of the time. In 1909 everything changed.
Athletic’s president ordered one of his players, Juan Elorduy, to buy new kits on a trip to England. He needed 50 and there were not enough in Blackburn. So, in Southampton, the port city from which he was to return empty-handed, he took a chance. Unable to get the right order, he decided to buy 50 shirts from Southampton, the local team wearing red and white. On his return, the idea was welcomed and on 9 January 1910, Athletic unveiled their new kit. A year later, Atleti took over and on 22 January 1911, they officially donned their first red and white jersey, colours without which Los Colchoneros would not be understood today.