Recreativo’s Rio Tinto Revival

Every football shirt tells a story, but some of club colours are more authentic and mean much, much more to their fans than most.

Special thanks go to friend of Sartorial.Soccer, Andrew Gillan of Mis Viajes en Fútbol for sharing the significance behind Recreativo de Huelva’s unique orange and maroon away colurs.

Over to you Mr Gillan!

When I lived in Huelva, I was a regular at the Estadio Nuevo Colombino and while watching Recreativo de Huelva, Spain’s oldest club, I would marvel at the varied range of shirts worn by the fans around me.

Most wore the club’s traditional blue and white stripes in many shapes and forms, plenty wore the club’s white 125th anniversary shirt, with retro-style oversized badge, some even wore the club’s infamous polka-dot away shirt (internationally derided as the “Minnie Mouse shirt” but actually based on the pattern of Andaluz flamenco dresses), but the one which always stood out most for me was a rather unusual orange and maroon number, which featured the names of all the towns and villages in the province of Huelva woven into the fabric.

Recreativo de Huelva’s orange and maroon away shirt by Adidas

This kit was used by the club in the 2006/07 season when, managed by Marcelino and featuring a certain Santi Cazorla in their ranks, they finished eighth, their best-ever finish in La Liga.

On the way to that finish, they recorded the outstanding result of their history when on 20th December 2006, they travelled to the Bernabéu and defeated Real Madrid’s galacticos 3-0 wearing that orange kit!

Recreativo de Huelva, Adidas, away, shirt
The unique colour scheme has huge significance for Recre

Managed by Fabio Capello, the Madrid side reads like a who’s who of world football superstars – Iker Casillas, Fabio Cannavaro, Roberto Carlos, Sergio Ramos, Raúl, David Beckham, Ronaldo, Ruud Van Nistelrooy – and would go on to win La Liga that season, but on this occasion they were humiliated by Recre.

However, the game was tinged with sadness as on the way to the game, one of the buses transporting Recre fans to the Bernabéu was involved in an accident. Four supporters were killed and a fifth died of their injuries later on. As a mark of respect, the club named the grada animacion (where the club’s ultras sit) at the Estadio Nuevo Colombino the Grada 20 Diciembre.

Recreativo de Huelva
The Grada 20 Diciembre at Recreativo’s Estadio Nuevo Colombino (picture credit to Andrew Gillan)

Given the historic nature of this kit, it seems unsurprising that Recre have chosen to revisit it, with a modern twist on the design being launched as part of their wardrobe for the 2020/21 season.

But where did this distinctive orange and maroon colour scheme come from?

For the answer to this we must head back to the origins of the club in the copper-rich valley of the Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto river, Recreativo de Huelva
The colour of the Rio Tinto inspires Recreativo’s popular away strip (picture credit to Andrew Gillan)

The reason Huelva grew as a city in the late 19th century was due to the investment from British businessmen in the Rio Tinto Mining Company. One of its members, a Scottish Doctor by the name of William Alexander Mackay, helped set up the Huelva Recreation Club in December 1889.

Due to the high copper content, the soil of the river valley is a rich orange, more like Mars than anything else on Earth, while the water is coloured a deep, blood red – almost maroon in colour.

Recreativo de Huelva, Adidas, away, shirt
Spain’s oldest club remember lost supporters and past glories with their 2020-21 away kit

Using a unique colour scheme with a connection to the club’s origins, Recre are showing much bigger clubs how to properly do an “Inspired by…” kit!

Andrew’s blog is a must for anyone interested in football, travel and culture and can be found at

Follow him on twitter @andrewgillan and @viajesenfutbol.

Recreativo de Huelva, home, shirt, Adidas
Adidas’ 2020-21 Recreativo home shirt

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