Football was introduced to San Sebastian by Basque students returning from Britain in 1904, when they formed San Sebastian Recreation Club. One year later San Sebastian Football Club was founded and in 1909 they won the Copa del Rey by beating Club Espanol de Madrid, bizarrely under the name Club Ciclista de San Sebastian after a registration permit mix-up.
Out of this confusion Sociedad de Futbol was formed and in 1910 King Alfonso XIII, who used San Sebastian as his summer capital, granted the club royal patronage. Subsequently known as Real Sociedad de Futbol, they were founder members of La Liga in 1928 but just three years later were forced to change name again, this time to Donostia Club de Futbol after the formation of the Second Spanish Republic.
In 1939 the club’s name reverted back to Real Sociedad, since when the club has generally fluctuated between the top two Divisions, having the best period in its history in the early 1980s with two consecutive La Liga titles.
For many years Real followed the practice of rivals Athletic Bilbao by only using Basque players but this was abandoned in 1989 when John Aldridge was signed from Liverpool. Their best showing in recent times came in 2002-03, when a team featuring Valeri Karpin, Nihat, Darko Kovacevic and Xabi Alonso finished runners-up to Real Madrid.