Bilbao and Bizkaia settle into the red-and-white madness prior to the Copa del Rey final | Soccer | Sports

The Guggenehim museum in Bilbao displays the Athletic flag.LUIS TEJIDO (EFE)

On March 27, Mallorca opened the Son Moix ticket offices to sell to residents on the island tickets for the Copa del Rey final that its subscribers had not purchased. At six in the morning that day, a father and son took a regular flight from Bilbao to arrive in time to purchase two seats for the appointment in Seville. They made it. An Athletic fan who lives in Palma and saw them somewhat overwhelmed in the queue, provided them with copies of the identity documents of a couple of friends who gave them to them. He himself took three more innings. They were not the only Bilbao residents who traveled with the same objective, although many did not succeed, as they did not provide the corresponding neighborhood document. He Mallorca Diary reported that at least twenty could not prove their residence.

Three days before, the first Athletic fans had already arrived in Seville. There were four people from Bilbao who sailed up the Guadalquivir from Sanlúcar aboard a sailboat that docked at the María Luisa park pontoon. They left Bilbao in Portu III, they traveled 851 nautical miles (1,575 kilometers), stopped in Gijón, Ribadeo and Vigo, and hurried to avoid being affected by the Dana that was announced. They left the ship safe and returned to Bilbao. They will return to Seville for the final. Another group left from Lezama aboard a double-decker bus, similar to London’s urban vehicles, tuned with images of Athletic’s history and adapted inside with beds to rest at night. It only reaches 70 kilometers per hour, but its occupants are confident of arriving on time.

In Bilbao, madness has set in on the eve of the Cup final next Saturday and with the sixth opportunity to win the cup title since 2009. In a city and a province in which the unanimity around Athletic is almost total, the The fever to get a ticket, or to show support for the red and white team, has skyrocketed. There is no public institution that does not display the club’s colors in its buildings. The tower of the Bilbao Exhibition Center, in Barakaldo, displays a gigantic flag on its façade. Like the shirt of the Aznar building, in front of the City Hall. Metro Bilbao has converted the Moyua station into a replica of San Mamés. The platforms, painted green with white lines, represent the grass. The benches have become benches; behind them the stands breathe Cathedral, on a gigantic poster. The pastry shops adapt their products to the red and white colors and make chocolate barges; The shop windows on Gran Vía, which a little over a year ago were dyed yellow for the start of the Tour, have already changed their tone to the one they played a few days before the final.

Local newspapers publish stories like that of Fernando Martínez, who in 1995 created the first website about Athletic from the University of Miami. He now works in Silicon Valley and will travel from San Francisco to Seville. He doesn’t even have a ticket, although he hopes to get one. Like the more than 20,000 Athletic fans who will be in the Andalusian capital without a seat to enter the Cartuja. The club got the Junta de Andalucía, the Government delegation and the Seville City Council to allow them to extend the hours of the fan zone red and white, called Athletic Hiria, which changed location twice until finally, in the Solar de las Banderas near the Torre Sevilla Shopping Center. Thus, those who cannot access the field will be able to watch the game on the giant screens installed there, in a space that can accommodate 40,000 people, and where work is already underway to set it up.

Meanwhile, in Bilbao the stocks of red and white fabric have long been exhausted – in 2012 10,000 meters were sold – and the balconies of all the towns in Bizkaia, in many of which giant screens will be installed, have been showing off the colors for days. Among the fans there is caution, but also optimism when listening to people like Javier Clemente, the last coach who was champion of Spain with Athletic: “I’m fed up with being reminded that I was the last one to win the Cup. I’m looking forward to let them take it away from me. I am one of those who thinks that with this team we can play a great role. And to play a great role is to win titles.”

Just in case, and despite the reluctance of many fans who consider that it is not advisable to prepare hypothetical celebrations, the club has already activated the procedures for the Barge to sail the estuary on Thursday of next week in case of victory. The number of boats that would accompany the main one will be limited, and the club will charge a fee for their presence. It would sail from the Abra Maritime Club, in Getxo, to Bilbao City Hall. “I would be delighted to receive you on the steps,” says the mayor, Juan María Aburto, who will be in the La Cartuja box.

Meanwhile, apart from the sailors who docked their boat at the Sevillian docks, the Athletic Foundation also landed in the capital of Andalusia. In an event led by EL PAÍS collaborator, Galder Reguera, a special edition of the annual Letras y Fútbol contest, organized by the club, was held, and in which the dancer Adriana Bilbao Zarraonaindia, granddaughter of Telmo Zarra, the comedian Alfonso Ramos and the singer Kiko Veneno, who debated art, music, literature and their relationship with football, as well as the relationship between the cities of Seville and Bilbao. After that, Adriana Bilbao and her corps de ballet performed a piece from her work Zarra de ella.

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