Jorge Valdano: The best fear | Soccer | Sports


Mallorca and Athletic fans watch a flamenco show in the Plaza de España in Seville.Raúl Caro (EFE)

a beautiful feeling

European competitions are for the elites and the League is too long to allow surprises, but the Cup supports everyone’s dream and tonight, in Seville, many fans will feel that when dreams come true, they last a lifetime. Because tonight is the night. Maybe not for you or me, but for those who, in Bilbao and Mallorca, filled with the representative pride that their teams provoke in them, have been waiting for weeks for this date with history. Glory will only choose one, but expectation and excitement are the privilege of both teams. And of the two fans, those guys who play by proxy and who couldn’t sleep last night either. At this time the players are accompanied by the fear of losing, of disappointing, of not measuring up. To alleviate that feeling, I will allow myself to tell you that for these moments you have chosen to be footballers and, as I now have perspective, I warn you that you will not know a better fear in the rest of your life.

The dangerous sneaks

It has been more than 20 years since Mallorca won its only Cup and having this opportunity while escaping relegation step by step is a joy on another level. José Sanchís, an excellent journalist and good Mallorcan friend, says that he has “the feeling of going to a party to which he was not invited.” What a party, with more than 20,000 people pouring in. Colados who will pay an entrance fee that, due to the level of expectations, they had to sweat blood to obtain. Athletic has not lifted a Cup for not 20 but 40 years, but due to the authority that prints the League classification and the aristocratic historical rights, it feels like a favorite. Perception trap that should not fall into. Because, by no small percentage, it increases the possibilities of the alleged victims.

Football’s favorite trap

Bilbao has been winning this match for weeks because Athletic is a religion and the people of Bilbao are optimistic. But it is worth remembering that it is those psychological differences that not even algorithms can detect that alter the forecast and turn any match into a scam. More, a final. While waiting, the distance that separates the illusion from the threat will mark a different level of anguish; While playing, some will fight to achieve glory and others to escape failure. Is not the same. The desire to simplify and the taste for exaggeration that characterizes football will prefer to resort to one of the classic definitions of every final: “life or death match.” The now called “structure” of each team is already defined, but in life and death matches, the minutiae count, insignificant details that can cause happy or terrible consequences. As you can see, unforeseen events lurk.

The value of authenticity

Bilbao is painted red and white in a new demonstration of the cultural and popular roots of football that, in the case of Athletic, provokes an exciting explosion of identity. It deserves to be seen and admired. Because the authenticity of that passionate bond that Bizkaia has with its reference club is the great strength that football tends to hide behind increasingly depressing controversies; behind the gigantism of the big teams that dominate the media and poison the networks; behind the mediocrity and corruption to which we are becoming accustomed. Seville will show two stories, two styles, two models, two representative prides… And it will show authentic football: that emotion with which we never tire of playing.

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