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Lybster off to celebrate historic ties with Spain

By Matt Leslie

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TOMORROW will be a far cry from Cow Park for Lybster as they get the sun-tan oil and sombreros out for a footballing fiesta.

Lybster jetted out to Spain in the early hours of yesterday to face a level of opposition they’ve not taken on before.

Instead of coming up against Staxigoe or Pentland United, they will be taking on third-tier Spanish side Recreativo de Huelva in a friendly match with an added twist.

Recreativo de Huelva are not the biggest side in Spanish football – indeed they are two divisions below the world-acclaimed La Liga – but they are the oldest club in Spain.

Spain’s love affair with football not only began in the Andalucian town, which is situated close to the Portuguese border, but was started by a doctor from Lybster.

Dr William Alexander Mackay moved from Caithness to Huelva to head the Rio Tinto mine’s medical department. While he was out there, he introduced the game of football to the locals who immediately took to it.

In 1889, alongside another Scot, Charles Adam, he established Recreativo de Huelva football club – Spain’s first. Clubs in Seville and Bilbao soon followed – although the big two, Barcelona and Real Madrid, did not form until 1899 and 1902 respectively.

However, with Spain one of world football’s powerhouses, it is not forgotten over there that the genie was let out of the bottle by a Scottish doctor in Huelva, who was born in Lybster.

Lybster chairman Donald Henderson said: “We only found out about the Lybster connection with Huelva three years ago. We knew that a Caithness man had set up Spain’s oldest club but didn’t know where he was from.

“It was a chance remark from Jamesie Mackay – who used to play for Hibs – who revealed that Dr William Mackay was from Lybster. He apparently used to live in Russell Street before moving out to Spain.

“We got in touch with Recreativo and a club historian came out to Lybster to check it out. Once everything was verified of Dr Mackay’s origins, the idea of a friendly between the clubs came into being.

“Recreativo are not one of Spain’s bigger clubs but they were the first and have given the football world some good players.

Santi Cazorla at Arsenal is one, while Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia is another.

“Plus the Mackay/Caithness connection is still there at the club as William’s great-granddaughter, Charlotte Mackay, is a club ambassador for Recreativo.”

The two sides will play against each other tomorrow at Recreativo’s Estadio Nuevo Colombino, which has a 21,600 capacity.

Henderson admits that the temperature may cause his players to toil.

He added: “Apparently, the heat over there has been hitting the mid-30s so it could be a bit of an issue for our players.

“Recreativo will not be fielding a full side.

“Some of their new signings will be blooded along with some veterans from their last spell in La Liga over 10 years ago.

“Plus, the day before, Recreativo’s new manager, José María Salmerón, will be giving our lads a coaching session and hopefully we’ll pick up some useful tips from him.”

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