On this day in 1902, the Madrid Foot Ball Club is founded by a group of fans in Madrid, Spain. Later known as Real Madrid, the club would become the most successful European football (soccer) franchise of the 20th century.
With its trademark blue-and-white uniforms (originally inspired by those of an English team), Madrid began to make a name for itself in Spain almost right away. From 1905 to 1907, under their first coach, Englishman Arthur Johnson, the team won three titles in a row in the Spanish League, known as La Liga. These were just the first of 29 La Liga championships through 2006 for Real Madrid, including an impressive five consecutive La Liga titles from 1986 to 1990.
Real Madrid’s legendary status internationally was solidified under the leadership of Santiago Bernabeu Yeste, who played for the team from 1912 to 1927 and served as club president from 1943 to 1978. In 1953, Bernabeu began to stock his roster with the best players he could find from around the world, instead of just the best in Spain, beginning with Madrid’s most famous soccer icon, Italian star Alfredo Di Stefano. The resulting team won the European Cup, Europe’s football championship, an unprecedented five times in a row, from 1956 through 1960. Bernabeu then switched course in the 1960s and built a team entirely of Spanish players. In 1966, Real Madrid won its sixth European cup with a team of Spanish “hippies” who rivaled the Beatles in popularity on the European continent.
In 2000, soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, selected Real Madrid the best football team of the 20th century. Two years later, the club celebrated its 100-year anniversary with yet another European club championship, behind the imported stars Luis Figo of Portugal, Zinedine Zhidane of France, Roberto Carlos of Brazil and Raul of Spain. Real Madrid has won a record nine European championships, seven Spanish Super Cups and three world championships. It is one of the few teams that is still owned and operated by its members.