Athletic – Mallorca: The glow of the Copa del Rey final | Soccer | Sports

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Athletic fans, in front of the Seville cathedral.María José López (Europa Press)

There is surely no more popular tournament in football than the Cup, a meeting point for teams without class status, small or large, a territory for surprise and epic, the competition in which the fan feels more protagonist than ever. from the beginning to the final, announced in this edition for this Saturday in La Cartuja (10:00 p.m.; La1, Movistar, ETB1 and IB3). There has never been a stadium with enough capacity to meet the requests of the fans of the teams competing for the title: now Athletic-Mallorca. The one in Seville will not be an exception because the presence of more than 70,000 red-and-white fans and 21,000 Mallorcan fans is announced – a record number for the club – when the venue is for 60,000. The color of red and white, red and black shirts is dazzling in bright Seville.

The Cup is experienced in the field, in the street, in the bars, on the trains and on the planes, in the city where it is played and in the cities of the finalists, in the towns where there have always been members of Athletic and Mallorca . The mobilization is unique and overwhelming because the preparation and celebration lasts for days and days while LaLiga and the Champions League continue and the Super League is discussed. The aura of the Cup final remains as if it were a relic of the lifelong fan, now represented in Seville. The stage is as welcoming as the poster: Athletic, addicted to the tournament, defends tradition while Mallorca represents the unexpected teams that have earned the opportunity of a lifetime, always so novel and at the same time classic because from time to time Some already have their history in the Cup.

Mallorca, twice runners-up – defeated in 1991 by Atlético and in 1998 by Barcelona – won the tournament in 2003 after beating Recreativo in Elche 3-0. Now, 21 years later, it reaches its fourth final in a period of renewal and modernization forced by the relegation to Second B in 2017. It has even reached a touch of the NBA due to the presence among the capitalist partners of Nash and Kerr. American money has replaced emblematic leaders such as the Asensio family, executive Mateo Alemany or Dr. Batolomé Beltrán.

Aguirre, Mexican by birth and son of Basque emigrants, aims to win a title that was denied to him in 2005 with Osasuna. The coach has put together a team that is expert in overcoming extreme situations: it is six points above relegation in LaLiga and in the Cup he has eliminated teams that play very well such as Real Sociedad and Girona. Football has engaged a larger generation even than the one present in the 1998 final with Barça: 17,000 fans gathered at Mestalla. Now there will be a few thousand more, although it is suspected that many Athletic fans traveled to Mallorca to get a ticket for the final at La Cartuja.

The moment has activated memory and young people are interested in the squads of those illustrious veterans who saw their team play in the Champions League and beat Arsenal in 2001, after finishing third twice in the League (1998-1999 and 2000- 2001). Nobody forgot technicians like Serra Ferrer, Héctor Cúper, Luis Aragonés or Gregorio Manzano or players of the caliber of Diego Tristán, Luque, Nadal, Eto’o, Pandiani and Leo Franco. The popular hook is now a forward from Artà, top scorer in the Cup (six), named Abdón Prats.

Even Valverde, Athletic’s coach, is part of Mallorca’s history. There he retired as a player before starting a career as a coach that he intends to crown with winning the Cup. There is surely no more precious title for Athletic. The last two Super Cups (2015 and 2021) did not alleviate the pain of the six lost cup finals in the last 15 years, four against Messi’s Barça, Maradona’s avenger in his own way. The last Cup trophy that the red and whites won was precisely against Barça de The fuzz in 1984. Clemente’s team won with a goal from Endika after a match that ended in kicks and meant Maradona’s goodbye to Naples.

A Mallorca fan takes a photograph on the Balearic tiles of the Plaza de España in Seville.  EFE/ Raúl Caro.
A Mallorca fan takes a photograph on the Balearic tiles of the Plaza de España in Seville. EFE/ Raúl Caro.
RAUL CARO Raúl Caro (EFE)

Athletic understands that perseverance and also esteem for the tournament deserve the best reunion 40 years later in Seville. With the exception of Barcelona, ​​leader with 31 trophies, no team has won more titles than Athletic: 24 and 17 runners-up in eight Leagues. Although no one mint the ferret -the barge-, the red and white fans are experiencing a moment of euphoria and have no doubt that they will once again take a look at the estuary as they have not done since 1984 after conquering a stadium that was not exactly favorable to them against Real or Barça.

The trajectory of Valverde’s squad invites optimism once it has already eliminated Atlético and Barça, and is fighting to qualify for the Champions League. The communion of the fans with the players, of the club with the team, is extraordinary due to the health of Lezama and the vigor of San Mamés. The question is whether he will know how to manage the status of favorite in a match of maximum expectation in Seville and the result of which are also pending teams with European aspirations such as Osasuna, Betis and Valencia.

Athletic and Mallorca will battle in a final that evokes old times and gives meaning to the Cup as an open tournament and whose last champion is Madrid. The whites have three titles to the Blaugrana’s seven since the classic also became the final point of the Cup starting in 2009. Today Guardiola, City coach, is no longer there, nor is Mourinho. The leading role is for Athletic and Mallorca and for their followers, who fill their mouths with the Cup. There is hardly any way to make your way on foot or by car in busy Seville.

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