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Mallorca football: exploring the sceneFebruary 21, 2024

Whether you’re a football fan or curious about island life, the Mallorca football scene offers some interesting insights.

You can watch high level Spanish and international football at Real Club Deportivo Mallorca, root for the more down to earth Palma-based Atlético Baleares (ATB) or your nearest local team.

Deià has a team that plays on the town pitch. Sóller’s football club has its own mini-stadium. So if you’re a fan of truly local football, you have options on your doorstep.


A short history of RCD Mallorca

Located in the smart Estadi Mallorca Son Moix just off the MA20 highway that rings Mallorca, the club that became RCD Mallorca was founded in 1916. Their first match was against FC Barcelona, kicking off a rivalry with Barca that has lasted ever since. Unfortunately, Mallorca lost this first match 8-0.

For long-term RCD Mallorca fans, the club peaked in the 1990s. It reached the Copa del Rey final for the first time in 1991. In 1998, Mallorca won the Supercopa de España. They made it to the final of the 1998-99 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup but lost. Mallorca finally won the Copa del Rey in June 2003.

In the 2010s, RCD Mallorca began to decline. By the beginning of 2016, when the team was at risk of being relegated, Mallorca was acquired by American investor and real estate developer Robert Sarver and ex-NBA player Steve Nash for around 20 million dollars.

Mallorca moved in and out of the third tier of the Spanish league through the 2010s. In 2020, they returned to the top tier of the Spanish league where they’ve stayed.

A classic RCD Mallorca lineup

RCD Mallorca: upmarket international football

I can’t say I’m a regular at Son Moix but I go as often as I can and I love what the club has done to the stadium, under the guidance of club president and majority shareholder Andy Kohlberg who took over ownership in June 2023.

The magnificent RCD Mallorca stadium


Just before Kohlberg formally became owner, he said ‘We have an unwavering commitment to enhance fan engagement in partnership with the city to modernize our stadium, while continuing our aspiration to be a top 10 club in all aspects of business and sports.’

Now Son Moix far more like an English-style stadium where spectators are only 7.5 metres away from the pitch, making the experience of watching far more intense. There are also large screens at opposite ends of the stadium. It’s not so easy to be distracted by the spectacular views of the Tramuntana mountains from the stadium.


Imagining how Son Moix will look how the venue when remodeling has been completed. Source: Ultima Hora


Football and tourism

And it’s not just about watching the match. I was at a game recently when the newly refurbished Presuntuoso restaurant in the Fondo Norte area of the stadium was opened. We were given free paella. Before the match, Mallorcans dressed as Demonis gleefully welcomed the opposing team, telling them they were ‘going to hell’.

This upgrading of Son Moix is very much in line with the Mallorcan government’s mission to promote sport as a way to encourage more tourism to the island.

Lee Kang-In surveys Valldemossa


For me, while I appreciate what the club has done to Son Moix, the real pleasure of watching Mallorca play comes down to the quality of the players and the football. Abdon Prats, ‘el demoni de Artá’ and Sergio Darder from the island are great to watch, as is the Kosovan Vedat Muriqi, the ‘pirate’.

This upgrading of Son Moix is very much in line with the Mallorcan government’s mission to promote sport as a way to encourage more tourism to the island. When Lee_Kang-in, the South Korean player now at Paris Saint-German was playing for Mallorca in 2023 he was the star of an ad for the Arachi chicken brand set in Valldemossa. I’m curious to know if this resulted in a rise in the number of Korean tourists to Mallorca.

RCD Mallorca plays Real Sociedad from the Basque country away in the semi-final of the Copa del Rey on 27 February. If they win, they’re through to the final in Sevilla. If you’re looking for an exciting football experience, whether you’re a serious fan or not, you’ll have a great time at Son Moix.


Atlético Baleares: grassroots football in Palma

The Atlético Baleares stadium, Estadio Balear, is also close to the MA20. Although it too has had a makeover, it’s by no means as smart as Son Moix. But you are nice and close to the action and you also get a good view of the Tramuntanas.

Atlético Baleares is, I’d say, much more of a Palma community team than Mallorca. I go with Esther, a friend of mine, her daughter and grandfather. Esther’s been going to the club since she was a child, through seasons good and bad.

Waiting for kickoff at ATB


ATB’s turbulent history

ATB was founded in 1942 but its origins lie in the 1920s and a club called Mecánico. Before Mecánico, football in Mallorca was rather more elitist, enjoyed by Palma’s middle and upper classes.

Mecánico was formed by a group of workers from shipping company Isleña Maritima. Their shirts featured three white stripes on a blue background and their shorts were cut-down overall trousers.

ATB has played football at the Spanish national level since it was founded, with varying degrees of success. They’re currently in the Primera Division RFEF – Group Two.

In 2014, after several tough years that ended with the club bankrupt, a savior appeared in the form of German businessman Ingo Volckmann.

Getting into the game
My blood is (temporarily) Balearic


Enter Ingo Volckmann

Ingo Volckmann is a Berlin businessman now in his late 50s who prefers to keep a low profile. His father owned a football club in Germany, and he describes himself as a fan of ‘grassroots football’.

Volckmann became majority shareholder of ATB after the then owners transferred their shares to him for a symbolic price. At that time, Volckmann said his aim was simply to save and grow the club.

The initial agreement was to last for two to three years. Volckmann was expected to invest around 800,000 euros. In an interview on ATB’s official channel, Volckmann claimed to have spent 20 million euros up until now.


Beginning at the ATB supporters’ bar

As I’ve said, the experience of watching Mallorca play is pretty upmarket. Going to ATB is very different but just as much fun. Before an ATB game, I like to be with the real fans at Bar At. Baleares in the barrio of Son Gotleu is where they gather before the match.

Son Gotleu is a scruffy working-class barrio on the edge of Palma with a bit of a reputation for being rough. It’s still somewhat rundown but, because of skyrocketing house prices in Palma, is being smartened up a bit.

Bar At. Baleares is a typical noisy Spanish bar. It seems to be a tradition for some supporters to carry songbirds in tiny cages, something I’ve not seen elsewhere in Mallorca, and put them next to each other.


Writer David Holzer shows his ATB colours
Jogo Bonito: The beautiful game

Apparently, some if not all of the songbirds are jilgueros or European goldfinches prized for their singing. The tradition dates back to the early years of industrialization in Spain when people brought the birds into the cities to bring joy into their bleak lives.

I like to listen to the supporters debate the coming match at high volume, with the sound of birdsong occasionally cutting through the noise before walking over the footbridge that crosses the MA20 to the stadium.

To be honest, I’ve yet to see a truly great game at Estadio Balear. But I recommend the experience to anyone who’s a fan of grassroots football. So, why not deck yourself out in blue and white, head for Estadio Balear, buy an ATB cap and watch an authentic island team?

Atlético Baleares’ next game is at home against Castellón from the Communitat Valenciana on Sunday 25 February.


Javier Sanz Gutierrez

Originally from Alicante, Javi’s love affair with the Balearic Islands began when he moved here in 2019. He enjoys getting lost around the islands, whether by bicycle, running in the mountains or by sea. Javi has been our Master Marketing Coordinator since 2022.

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