Saturday, November 12, 2011

Atlético Madrid suicidal instinct

It has been three months since the official season started and we can already hear the war drums that come from the Manzanares river. Despite the polemic exits of "Kun" Agüero and Diego Forlán, the main references of the club during the last years, the club was able to generate illusion with the arrival of players like Arda Turan, Adrián, Diego and, especially, Radamel Falcao, new and fresh tools for the project of Gregorio Manzano. However, the negative run of results in La Liga have put the crowd of the Vicente Calderón in flames and the coach near the abyss. This is the way to describe this season, but it could have been the description of any season in the previous years at this point of the year.

Atlético Madrid is the third or fourth club of Spain in terms of fan base and TV revenues according several surveys. However, in the last decade, Atlético Madrid have only played once in the UEFA Champions League after their best season in this period of time, when they ended up in fourth position in the 2007/2008 season. A very poor record. Even though there was a time when Atlético Madrid could fight face to face with Real Madrid and Barcelona, perhaps it is too much to ask for this kind of battle nowadays, but it is definitely realistic to ask for much more and the club fails in the comparison with direct rivals, like Valencia, Sevilla or even Villarreal.

Quique Flores' UEFA Cup title

In this comparison there is a clear difference between Atlético Madrid and the clubs we just mentioned. The stability of the club. The question that arises is: is Atlético Madrid an unstable club because of the results or are the results which create this lack of stability? Since Atlético Madrid returned to Primera División in the year 2002, the club had 10 coaches. Ironically, when Atlético Madrid decided to keep their bet on a discussed Javier Aguirre for a second season, the club reached their so wished Champions League spot. In the same period of time, and not counting eventual home coaches who acted as bridge between the real directors of the club, Valencia had five coaches (Benítez, Ranieri, Quique Flores, Koeman and Emery), Sevilla the same amount (Caparrós, Juande Ramos, Manolo Jiménez, Manzano and Marcelino), while Villarreal only had four (Benito Floro, Pellegrini, Valverde and Garrido). It is also remarkable that some of these coaches left these club once their contract expired, looking for higher goals, and not as a consequence of bad results.

Basically, the main difference between these clubs and Atlético Madrid has been their higher dose of patience when it came to face the bad moments. This facts expose the management of the club, the lack of a clear direction. Atlético Madrid has never made a real bet for a project and the only time they did, it actually give them goods, although the club did not learn this lesson. Even Quique Flores, the coach who took the club to the UEFA Cup victory and a Copa final, did not receive the renewal offer, despite the support of the crowd. His evident bad relationships with one of the icons of the club, Diego Forlán, and the bad results of the past season damaged his relationships with the Board. The reality was that Quique Flores had an average squad with a star in decline, like Diego Forlán himself, and another one thinking in higher goals, like "Kun" Agüero.

Gregorio Manzano

This year the bet was Gregorio Manzano, a coach who had already managed the team in the 2003-2004 season, with not so good results, in what it was a surprising decision. Gregorio Manzano is a coach with a good record with humble teams, like Rayo Vallecano or Mallorca, but also with more or less questionable results in big projects like Atlético's and Sevilla's (in this case, not so questionable though). In one way or another, one of the coaches with more consistent results in La Liga in the last decade. Atlético Madrid refreshed the squad, with the addition of new and important names who were given the responsibility to make the fans forget their recent idols.

And the initial results were a reason to feel optimistic. Despite the initial draw at home against Osasuna and the defeat in Valencia, the team showed a relatively good image and the following beatings on Racing and Sporting, with a sublime Falcao, made people feel optimistic about the future. It was not so long ago when Atlético visited the Camp Nou convinced about their possibilities. The 5-0 beating, a result that far from good could have been seen as an accident (it is not that Pep Guardiola's Barcelona does not use to mistreat their rivals in their stadium in the last years, independently of their size), but it took Atlético out of track. Since that horrible night, Atlético has only won one Liga game, at home against Zaragoza, and another one in the Europa League, against Udinese. The 4-0 on Udinese could have been a reason to rebuild, but this credit got destroyed with the poor image shown against Getafe, throwing the match to the garbage, wasting a 0-1 lead and a 2-2 draw when Getafe had been playing with 10 men since the minute 27 of the match. Definitely, this game marked Atletico's lowest point this season.

Falcao vs Getafe

Atlético did not play in the Calderón since the horror night of Getafe, but it is easy to predict what is going to happen soon against Levante . A couple of weekends ago, in the last Liga match at home against Zaragoza, despite the convincing and clear victory, the chants of the crowd were clear: "Manzano, vete ya" -Manzano go away- and "Luis Aragonés, Luis Aragonés". It was it, that point of the season when the Calderón explodes against the team and the coach, making the home experience a hell for a team that already does not have self-esteem. In these situations, the owners of the club, the strange duo Miguel Ángel Gil-Marín and Enrique Cerezo, start to get nervous and it is also usual the chants against them. When the owners get nervous, they panic and it is usual to see them cutting the heads of the coaches to save theirs, in a clear short-time thinking, throwing projects to the garbage with incredible ease.

In the next couple of weeks, Atlético will receive Levante at home and will visit Real Madrid in the derby of the city. Preciselly, with the derby in sight, the ground under Manzano's feet does not seem very solid. With a rising Real Madrid, showing their best moments of football since José Mourinho is the manager, and the poor record of Atlético Madrid in the recent derbies, the possibility of a humiliating defeat is likely and this idea that roams in all the Atlético fans is particularly painful. Another way to see it is that it is a good chance to change the trend of the season, but, at this point, it does not seem the most likely scenario and it is not a minority who believe that Manzano will not have the Christmas dinner in the Calderón.

Cerezo and the long shadow of Luis Aragonés

With the fans finishing their patience and the lack of power of a scared board, the club is in the verge to throw the season to the garbage to start with the improvisations... once more. Patience and football do not mix well very often, especially in Spain, but in the case of Atlético Madrid, patience is the only strategy that has never been used. Improvisations, constant changes, schizophrenia. Atlético Madrid is about to commit suicide once more.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Raúl and the club of 100 caps

Yesterday, an event promoted by UEFA and the Spanish FA made a tribute on the modern myths of the Spanish NT: they players who have more than 100 caps with La Roja. Andoni Zubizarreta (126 caps), Iker Casillas (125 caps) and Xavi Hernández (105 caps) were in the facilities of the RFEF in Las Rozas and got a commemorative blue cap with a golden tassel for it. Angel María Villar, the president of the Spanish FA, said: "Only those who have been football players know how difficult this is".

The cap is a symbol, it represents the first international match, played in 1872 between England and Scotland. Each player of this match were given a cap as memento of this match and this tradition still continues in England. Also László Kubala, in his times as coach of the Spanish NT, used to give a cap to the players that were called to play the international matches.

Xavi, Casillas and Zubizarreta

The first Spanish player to reach the 100 caps record was the goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta, who defended the shirt of the Spanish team from 1985 to 1998, playing 4 World Cups and 2 Euros, while playing for different clubs like Athletic, Barcelona and Valencia. In his speech, Zubizarreta made his personal tribute on players who also deserved to reach these 100 games, but never did it, like "Iribar, Arconada, Hierro or Camacho".

Iker Casillas also got his cap, the captian of the team, the one who raised the Euro and World Cup trophies in images that will be kept forever in the retinas of the Spanish people. Iker Casillas recalled that he was called for the first time 11 years ago and assured that he faced "the next match as it was the last". Iker Casillas probably represents the times of a golden generation of goalkeepers in Spain, including his teammates Pepe Reina and Victor Valdés, not forgetting others who are triumphing in La Liga or abroad. As good captain, he also recalled all the teammates he had in all these years. "Without them, it would not have been possible".


A double tribute awaited for Xavi Hernández, who also got the gold medal of the RFEF, aside the already mentioned UEFA's cap. Surrounded by two special coaches for him, like Luis Aragonés and Vicente Del Bosque, Xavi assured that he felt "priviled to live from football, achieving so many things of a sport that I love and adore". The Catalan midfielder, who made his debut in the year 2000, made some memory and recalled that, in this team, "we lived not so good eras, like nowadays, but with all this recognition and these victories, I am enjoying like a kid". Xavi also got a particular tribute in the words of Del Bosque and Aragonés. The current coach of the Spanish team used him as an example by stating that Xavi "represents the modern player in and out of the pitch, a singular player, gathering too much football in his boots, a very complete player". Luis Aragonés, who Xavi himself labaled as the coach who made him reach a new level, highlighted the "virtues of this player and his extraordinary quality" to raise the importance of this player in the current scheme by assuring that "the influence of the coach is not that high, the example is Xavi for his way to live and play".

This event also made a tribute to several players for the importance of their goals in the history of the Spanish national team. Five paintings of these goals were shown. We refer to the goal of Zarra in Maracaná in the World Cup 1950 against England, which allowed Spain to end up in the fourth position of this tournament, which was the highest achievement of this competition for this team until the last World Cup. The goal headed by Marcelino against the USSR in the Euro 64 final in the Santiago Bernabéu, the first international title of the team. The winning goal of Kiko Narváez against Poland in the last minutes of the Olympic Games 1992 in Barcelona's Camp Nou, a goal which was worth a gold medal. The goal of Torres in Vienna, in the Euro 2008, the goal that opened the era of the champions. And, of course, Andrés Iniesta's historical volley in Johannesburg, in the South Africa World Cup final.

Iker Casillas and the Euro 2008

Another played had been invited to this tribute, another player who also has more than 100 caps: Raúl González. The nowadays Schalke 04 player and already madridista and Spanish NT legend declined the invitation with a very weak excuse sent via fax: a training session with his current team, because Schalke had a friendly match. Yesterday, the department of communication of his own club denied the existence of this friendly match. Raúl erased himself from this tribute, showing his personal feelings in a historical error.

There was a time when Raúl was a living legend inside the Spanish team. Raúl broke all the goal-scoring records, he was the Gran Capitán, the Siete de España (the 7 of Spain). In the summer of 2006, Luis Aragonés' Spanish team had failed in the World Cup played in Germany. The more experienced French team had knocked out a team that mixed veteran players like Michel Salgado, David Albelda, Santi Cañizares and Raúl González with the core of young players that nowadays form the golden generation of the Spanish football. This failure had a bitter taste and there were rumors of rebellion inside the Spanish team, led by the veterans. Salgado, Albelda and Cañizared disappeared from the team for good, but Raúl was the captain.

Xavi, leader and reference

In the following official match, already in the qualifiers of the Euro 2008, Spain visited Belfast to face Northern Ireland. With the smoke of the ashes of the previous tournament visible, Spain failed in a miserable way and got a shameful 3-2 defeat. The press exploded and Luis Aragonés was targeted. At that moment, Luis Aragonés took a decisive decision, dropping Raúl González from the national team to give a new protagonist role to the young generation led by Xavi as the reference of the new style. The decision was an earthquake and, despite the results backed the team, Luis Aragonés had to deal with uncomfortable questions about Raúl in every press conference. The pressure was huge on the coach, a rising pressure while the Euro 2008 got closer and closer, while Raúl recovered his best goal ratio. In the 2006/2007 season, Raúl scored 23 goals and, in the following season, 24 goals. In these two seasons, Raúl won two Ligas and was near the figures of his best years, when he built his legend. Despite the huge pressure of a sector of the press and the constant "Raúl, yes; Raúl no", Luis Aragonés kept betting for the new system and the new generation, leaving Raúl out of the Euro 2008. The rest is history and, even Del Bosque, did not touch what was not broken.

Raúl never criticized the decision in public and Luis Aragonés never closed the door to a possible return and only with the pass of time admit that "there was a point when the national team was too big for Raúl and we had to think in the team and not in a player". The rumors were different though. Luis Aragonés always defended the new model of team around the midfielders, mainly Xavi. The Catalan midfielder and Luis Aragonés designed the team that has given Spain the highest achievements of its history and Raúl did not fit in this new concept. Raúl, always moderate in public, was in the mouths of many people in the tribute on the historical players. These voices suggested that Raúl holds resentment on Luis Aragonés and some players who blocked his presence in the national team in the Euro 2008, his last chance to achieve an international title, the only titles he missed in his infinite curriculum of records.

Raúl and Euro trophy

This resentment made him blind to understand the mechanics of football and his no presence is a historical record that he will probably regret in some years, when the perspective of time and the calm of the retirement allow him to realize that the changes made by Luis Aragonés in the national team were necessary, logic and ended up giving Spain the so wished titles... despite he was the main victim of it. The Gran Capitán failed to understand that he should have been there, with his teammates Zubizarreta, Casillas and Xavi, because his weight in the history of the Spanish team is huge, because it is impossible to understand the modern history of the team without him, because these titles do not hide his legendary status. In one way or another, Raúl also got his commemorative cap and the place in history he still is unable to understand.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

History of the Spanish football: 1929-1930. Athletic's double

Previous chapter: History of the Spanish football: 1928-1929, FC Barcelona win the first Liga and RCD Espanyol's first Copa

The precedents

The RFEF created a new designed for the football season. In this 1929-1930 season, the regional tournaments were played in autumn and they still counted to get qualified to play the Copa del Rey. However, the RFEF decided to play the Liga season first to leave the Copa games for the 2nd part of the season, whenever La Liga had already finished.

Regional tournaments

These tournaments still held prestige in certain zones, given their tradition and the big local rivalries. Aside the prestige of the tournaments of Catalonia, Basque Country or Madrid, in the rest of Spain they were also important, since they were necessary to qualify to the Copa del Rey and meet the best clubs of the country. The results of these regional tournaments were the following:


FC Barcelona - Les Corts (23,000)

The Liga champion, presided by Gaspar Rosés, kept James Bellamy as coach for the new season. The good job of the English coach during the second half of the previous season, taking the team to the title, made the club extend his contract. The culés kept trusting in the column of the team that had won La Liga, 3 Copa titles and 4 regional tournaments in the previous 5 years. So Josep Samitier (27 years old) still was the icon of the team, along with other veterans like the goalie Platko (31), the defense Walter (29), the midfielder Guzmán (28) or the forwrd Piera (26). The new young talents, like Parera (22) and Arocha (22) were supposed to be the future of the club. At the same time, the team got reinforced by important players, like Bestit (21), one of the best players of CD Europa. The victories of the recent past made them automatic favorites to win titles, despite the veteran state of the squad, which seemed to be their main weakness too. Still, Barcelona started the season with a new victory in the regional tournament.

Real Madrid FC - Chamartín (16,500)

The club of Luis de Urquijo, who had been workeing with Santiago Bernabéu since the mid 20s, kept José Quirante as coach of the club. For the first time in a long time, Real Madrid had been a challenger in all the national tournaments and the youth of the team made the fans feel positive about the near future. At the same time, the club did not hesitate to reinforce the team for the new season and the signings were very shocking. With an Athletic Madrid in internal problems, Real Madrid signed their most important players, the icons of their fans, Luis Olaso (29 years old) and Cosme (25), who followed the steps of Triana (27), all of them members of the "Athletic of the Lords". These players only came to reinforce a very solid team, which had players like the veterans Peña (34) or the captain Quesada (27) and, of course, the fashion striker duo Gaspar Rubio (20) and Jaime Lazcano (20). Real Madrid was considered a very serious challenger for any title and had already won the second regional title in a row.

Athletic Club - San Mamés (18,000)

The president Manuel De la Sota decided to place Máximo Royo as technical secretary, while the club brought Fred Pentland back to Bilbao. The English Pentland had already won the Copa 1923 with Athletic Club. Since then, Pentland had been managing Athletic Madrid (two different stages, including the debut in Primera) and Real Oviedo. Despite the season of Pentland with Athletic Madrid had not been brilliant, the coach held prestige in Bilbao, since he had been the manager of the last national title of the club. De la Sota did not hesitate to reinforce the team with more players, so important young players, like the forwards Bata (20), who signed from Barakaldo, a team of the regional tournament, and Gorostiza (20), who was signed from Racing Ferrol, although he had been raised in Arenas Club, joined the club. The reserve team was not forgotten and it was also the first appearance of Iraragorri (17) with the first team. All of them joined the also young, but already experienced Blasco (20), Lafuente (22) or Unamuno (20). The potential of the team was very important, but their youth had already been a problem in the previous season and their defeat in the regional tournament against CD Alavés did not erased these doubts.

Real Sociedad - Atotxa (12,000)

Benito Diaz was still the coach of Real Sociedad. The txuri-urdin club did not have the economic power of the three giants to sign important names, so there were not big reinforcements for a nevertheless important team, who had players like the first "Pichichi" in history, Paco Bienzobas (20), and the forwards "Cholín" (23) and "Kiriki" (22), or the midfielder Marculeta (22). The team of San Sebastián had kept the same tools for some years already and it was time to mature. The failure in the regional tournament against Real Unión was not the best way to start the season.

Arenas Club - Ibaoindo (18,000)

The areneros signed a coach for the first time ever: the former Barcelona player José Planas. The club had seen how legends of the club, like Fidel Sesúmaga and Vallana had decided to retire. At the same time, the important players of the team, the forward Yermo (26) and the goalie Jauregui (33) were not kids anymore. The youth of this veteran team was Gurruchaga (20), a promising home raised midfielder. The club wanted to repeat the fantastic Liga season, despite the economic difficulties to face richer clubs.

Athletic Madrid - Stadium Metropolitano (17,000)

The internal crisis in Luciano Urquijo's team was evident at this point. Players and board in clear fight, the most important players of the team left the team, joining Real Madrid, like Cosme or Luis Olaso, or just retiring, like Vicente Palacios or De Miguel. The squad had to be renovated, but the quality players that left were not replaced by equally important names. Starting with the coach, Fred Pentland left Athletic Madrid to return to Bilbao, while Ángel Romo was the new coach. The only relevant player that had stayed in the club was Luis Marín (23 years old), who was given the responsability to carry the team on his shoulders. The internal divisions affected the social mass, truly disappointed with their Board and, in this context, future did not look good.

RCD Español - Sarrià (18,000)

Jack Greenwell continued as manager, willing to repeat the successful results of the previous year. The tools were basically the same, with the 28 year old legendary Zamora under the posts, Saprissa (28) being the leader of the defense, Gallart (22) commanding the midfield and, in attack, the pericos counted on the talent of a magnificent trio: Padrón (23), Vantolorà (23) and Bosch (22). Jack Greenwell's team had failed to win the regional tournament, but the team had shown a good image after all. As in the previous season, this team was taken seriously in every competition.

CD Europa - El Guinardó (18,000)

Europa kept managed by Joan Bordoy hands one more season. The team had lost their best player, the striker Carles Bestit, who had joined FC Barcelona, while also Xifreu left the team to join Español. The most important reinforcement was Obiols from Barça. The rest of the team was the same of the previous year and the goal of the team was to continue one more year in Primera División given their lack of economic resources to compete for higher goals.

Real Unión - Stadium Gal (12,000)

The same old faces in the only club that did not have a coach yet. This club did not have the economic power of other rivals, but they had been able to keep the core of the team, which were already like a family after so many years, with René Petit (30) and Gamborena (28) as the most veteran members of the squad. The promising names were the young but already experienced Luis Regueiro (21) and the forward Urtizberea (20). The team was not considered among the favorites, but they had won the competitive regional tournament of Gipuzkoa and the talent of some of their players was evident.

Racing Santander - El Sardinero (12,000)

After years and years under the management of O'Connell, the team had a new and young coach, Francisco Pagaza, who had been one of the legendary players of the Spanish NT in the Antwerp Olympics of 1920. It was the first experience of Pagaza, who had also played for Racing (among other teams like Arenas, Athletic Madrid or Racing Madrid). The most relevant players were the mids, the young Larrinaga (18) and Loredo (23), and the forward Óscar (23). The goal of the team after a new regional title was to stay among the best in La Liga and a good Copa participation.

La Liga

It was the second edition of this tournament. The fans still preferred the tradition and the emotion of the Copa over the newly created tournament, but the same fans recognized that the nature of La Liga was better to decide the best team of the season, given the regularity that a team had to show to win it, compared to the Copa, more open to surprises.

The 1st week of football had a very interesting match, a classic of the Spanish football, Athletic Club vs Real Madrid. Both teams, who were clear favorites to win the title along with Barcelona, faced each other in the opening game of the season. The madridistas opened the scoreboard with a goal of Gaspar Rubio, but Athletic Club, with the support of the home crowd, overcame the result in 20 minutes with two goals of Unamuno. The 2-1 at half time was also the final result of the match. In Les Corts, Barcelona defended their crown against Real Sociedad. The Catalans only needed the first half to certify the victory with two goals scored by Goiburu and Samitier. Real Sociedad, without an injured Bienzobas, disappointed in their visit to Catalan lands. The first surprise of the season was the important defeat of Español in Santander in a great second half of the local team. In a Basque derby, played at the Gal Stadium, Real Unión defeated Arenas Club with two goals of Urtizberea and Garmendia in the early minutes of the second half, although the areneros left a really good image in this game. Finally, Athletic Madrid had to overcome a 0-2 at home to defeat Europa with a hat-trick scored by Marín.

In the second week of the league, Barcelona returned to Ibaiondo, where the Catalans had won their first Liga title, back in June. This time the missing of players like Samitier, Guzmán and Walter suggested a tough game for the blaugranas in Basque lands. In fact, Yermo advanced Arenas, but Bestit tied the game before half time. In a brilliant second half, two goals of Arocha gave Barcelona the victory and the leadership. And it was this way, because Athletic Club could not defeat Europa. Despite the early goal of Unamuno, Europa were able to overcome the result with two goals of Mauricio. At the end, the young Gorostiza saved a point for Athletic. In Chamartín, the madridismo were looking for a new president, while Santiago Bernabéu rejected this position. In these moments of internal instability, and despite the 2-0 at half time, Real Unión overcame the result in a brilliant second half with goals of Sagarzazu and the former madridista René Petit. Unlike the previous season, Real Madrid disappointed in their first games of the season with only one point after two weeks. In Atotxa, Real Sociedad destroyed a weak Racing with "Cholín" and "Kiriki" making people forget Bienzobas, still injured. In Sarrià, Espanyol defeated Athletic Madrid as it was predicted, but the poor image shown by the team was worrying.

In the third week, Barcelona confirmed their good form with a new victory, this time in the derby against Europa played at Les Corts. Once more, Samitier put the team on his shoulders and scored two goals to overcome the initial one of Europa. The worst news were the long term injury of Samitier, who saw how his season came to an end. With this victory, Barcelona opened the gap on Athletic to two points, since los Leones could only tie at home in their derby with Real Sociedad. Athletic suffered in this game and they were twice down in the scoreboard. Unamuno was able to tie the game to save a point at home. In the Stadium Metropolitano, Athletic Madrid took their particular revenge on Real Madrid with a victory in the derby. The athleticos were superior, especially in the first half, and the two goals of Marín and Cuesta gave them the lead. Gaspar Rubio scored in the last minutes a useless goal that was not enough to tie. Real Madrid were disappointing in La Liga and 5 points far from Barcelona, the leader, after 3 weeks. In Santander, Arenas crushed Racing, only needing the first half to show their superiority, led by a great Yermo. In the Stadium Gal, Real Unión saved a point in the last minutes of the game with goals of Regueiro and Garmendia to overcome Español's 1-3.

Samitier scores vs Europa
The fourth week only came to confirm the superiority of a rocketed Barcelona. Not missing Samitier, the blaugranas were very superior to Racing Santander in Les Corts and crushed their rivals with a clear 5-0 and a hat-trick by Arocha. The culés were "favored" by their eternal rivals, Español, who were able to tie against Athletic Club in Sarrià. Still, the Basque team were happy with the draw, since they were able to overcome the initial 2-0 with two goals in the second half scored by Chirri II and Lafuente, in this case in the late minutes. In Atotxa, Real Madrid showed their state of total depression with another harsh defeat. Real Sociedad beated the madridistas with a clear 4-0, with Ayesterán and Belauste scoring in pairs. In the Metropolitano, Real Unión showed pride to overcome the 3-0 of Athletic Madrid at half time and both teams offered a nice football show. The biggest surprise of the weekend was the victory of Europa in Ibaiondo against Arenas.

The fifth week did not change the trend of the previous weeks. Barcelona kept their perfect sheet with another impressive victory, this time in Gal against Real Unión. The barcelonistas looked invincible and solved with unusual superiority a tough rival. The goals of Arocha and Bestit made Barcelona close the successful 1929 with an important four point gap on their main rivals: Athletic and Español. Once more, Pentland's team was not able to triumph, but definitely showed pride to overcome the 3-1 Arenas had on them. Athletic were very irregular so far and, despite their 2nd position in the league, the powerful state of Barcelona seemed difficult to match. At the same time, Jack Greenwell's Español crushed a broken and desperate Real Madrid in Chamartín with an amazing 2-4. As Español was rising as power in La Liga, Real Madrid's poor form was scary and one of the favorites for the title was in relegation zone, with only one point out of 10 possible. The madridistas had lost their title chances in just one month. It was also the week of the disappointing results of Real Sociedad and Athletic Madrid, against Europa and Racing respectively. Real Sociedad and Athletic Madrid had had a nice beginning of the season, but these results blocked their progression.

Spain vs Czechoslovakia (1-0) in Montjuïc

The new year and the decade started with a friendly game of Spain vs Czechoslovakia played in the new stadium of Montjuïc, Barcelona. Spain played with Zamora (Español); Ciriaco (Alaves) and Quincoces (Alaves); Guzman (Barcelona), Marti (Barcelona), Obiols (Europa); Piera (Barcelona), Bosch (Español), Rubio (Real Madrid), Padrón (Español) and Sastre (Barcelona). Spain defeated the Czechoslovakian team with a short 1-0. This friendly game was the prelude of the sixth Liga week. In Les Corts, Barcelona continued with the unstoppable run and did not have problems to defeat Athletic Madrid. The initial goal of Costa was tied by Sastre in the last minutes of the first half. In the second half, Sastre and Bestit toyed with Athletic Madrid for the final 4-2. The victory of Barcelona kept the gap on Athletic in 4 points. Athletic finished with the negative run of four consecutive draws and crushed Irún in a game non exempt of problems. Chirri II twice and Unamuno gave an early 3-0 lead for Athletic in San Mamés, but Real Unión were near the draw before half time with two goals for the visitors. Only in the last minutes of the game, the goals of Chirri II, who completed the hat-trick, and Gorostiza gave the local fans the so wished calm for a final 5-2. In Chamartín, after 5 weeks of negative results, Real Madrid ended up winning a game against a weak Racing, the final 6-0 was a nice ending for a run of results that had left the team without any option in the race for the title. In the other Basque derby, Arenas and Real Sociedad gave the Atotxa fans a nice goal festival, which ended up with a 4-4 that was useless for both teams. Real Sociedad kept losing points in their race for the title, while Arenas could not escape from the bottom places. The surprise of the weekend was the victory of CD Europa in Sarrià against Español. A great Bestit II, who scored two goals, raised the team of Gràcia to an unexpected 3rd position, sinking the options of Español in La Liga, where they were 6 points away from Barcelona.

In the 7th week, the match of the week was the visit of Athletic Club to Les Corts, the home of the leader Barcelona. The blaugranas had a unique chance to show authority against their main rival in the race for the title with a victory that would have almost sentenced the tournament. During a big part of the game, the title almost was in Barcelona's pocket, Piera advanced the Catalans in the first minutes of the game and Les Corts seemed to carry Barcelona to a sure victory, but Athletic Club resisted and, in the last minutes, the Basque team saved a point with a goal of Gorostiza. Barcelona kept the 4 point lead on Athletic, but the Basques had saved a "match-ball" in their sweetest draw and the press did not forget that the fixtures of the 2nd round, with tough away games, was harder for Barcelona. It was clear that the title had to be a race between Barcelona and Athletic, since the rest of the teams were very irregular in their results. Real Sociedad wasted a 0-1 lead in the Metropolitano and allowed the local Athletic Madrid to achieve a draw with 5 minutes to go. In the Stadium Gal, Real Unión destroyed the weak defense of Racing, who received 6 goals once more, with a brilliant Urizberea scoring 4 goals. In Ibaiondo, Arenas Club sinked Español in the standings. Without Zamora under the posts, Español was a weak team once more and Arenas seemed to find their best form (2-0). Finally, in Europa's El Ginardó, Real Madrid confirmed their reaction with their first away victory based on the two goals of the re-born Gaspar Rubio.

The 8th week of La Liga was a turning point in the competition. The leader Barcelona visited Sarrià, the home of an Español in low moments. The blaugranas, clear favorites for this game, saw how the pericos gave them a lesson of football, especially in a brilliant first half of the local team. Gallart, who ended up scoring a hat-trick, and Vantolrà gave the blaugranas a historical 4-0 beating. At this point, the blaugranas started to miss the personality of Samitier in these important games. The draw against Athletic Club and the defeat in the derby raised the doubts on Barcelona and the culé optimism disappeared in two weeks, while Español cut the gap down to five points. On the other hand, there was a rising team: Athletic Club. The Basque team showed no mercy on Athletic Madrid and, even though the local fans had to wait for the second half to assure the victory, the final 6-1 showed the superior level of Athletic Club. Not far from there, in Atotxa, Real Unión defeated their eternal rivals, Real Sociedad, in the derby of Gipuzkoa. A great Regueiro put the team on his shoulders to defeat Real Sociedad in the last minutes of the game and to raise his team to the 3rd position in the standings. In Chamartín, a Real Madrid of renovated impulse was the team that everyone had labeled as one of the favorites for the title. The madridistas crushed Arenas with a clear 5-2 with Lazcano and Calé as main protagonists. Finally, in Santander, Racing put an end to their bad run of results with a clear 6-0 on Europa.

Ventolrà scores for Español in the historical 4-0 on Barcelona
The 9th week came to close the first round. If at some point everything seemed to be a walk in the park for Barcelona, this weekend only came to create more doubts on Barcelona. A rising Real Madrid visited Les Corts to test the doubts of Barcelona. As it happened in the previous season, Real Madrid was very superior in Les Corts and ended up crushing an unrecognizable Barcelona. Already at half time, the result was surprising, a 0-3 for Real Madrid with a brilliant Gaspar Rubio. In the second half, the shy reaction of Barcelona was instantly stopped by Lazcano with a new goal for a final 1-4. This result and the easy victory of Athletic Club at home against the weak Racing opened a new scenario. Athletic Club was the new leader, thanks to the goal difference and tied with points with a Barcelona that had wasted the 4 point gap in only 2 weeks. At the same time, the good results of Real Madrid left the madridistas 4 points far from the new leader, when they had been 9 points down at the beginning of January, only 3 weeks before this moment. The press considered that this Real Madrid was back in the race for the title. Real Unión also appeared as potential candidate with a new away victory, this time in Europa's stadium, while Marculeta scored the winning goal for Real Sociedad in the last minutes of the game against Español, who already saw the huge victory in the derby as an anecdote. Finally, the victory of Arenas in the Metropolitano left Athletic Madrid struggling in the bottom zone, shared with Racing.

The 10th week opened the second round of La Liga. In Chamartín, the two teams in best form, Real Madrid and Athletic Club, faced each other, with the locals looking for a victory that would put them definitely back in the race for the title and the visitors willing to show authority. And it was Athletic Club who sent the message to their rivals with a convincing victory in the always tough Chamartín. Lazcano advanced Real Madrid soon in the second half, but in less than 15 minutes Athletic overcame the result with three goals, two by Gorostiza and one by Unamuno. The late goal of Gaspar Rubio was useless for a Madrid that saw their reaction stopped by a brilliant leader. In Atotxa, Barcelona seemed to find some air with a hard-working victory in Real Sociedad's home (1-2). Arenas Club blocked Real Unión's rising trend with a noisy and historical 7-2. In the bottom zone, Español was able to find some calm with an easy victory on Racing Santander (3-0), while Europa did the same with an Athletic Madrid in free fall (2-0).

Nothing seemed to change much in the 11th week, Athletic Club and Barcelona triumphed in their games, where they did not have problems to impose their football. Athletic Club defeated the much weaker Europa in San Mamés with goals scored by Iragorri, Lafuente and Gorostiza, while Barcelona found some stability with a calm victory on Arenas Club (3-1). The two main candidates for the title became the only candidates after the rest of the results. Real Madrid and Real Unión left their reduced chances in the way with a useless draw (2-2) for both teams. At the same time, in the bottom zone, things got tight with the surprising victories of Athletic Madrid on Español (2-0) and Racing on Real Sociedad (2-0), which left these teams in dangerous situation.

The 12th week kept the league in the same point, but the tight situation on top suggested the importance of the goal difference. In this sense, the historical 1-7 of Athletic Club in Atotxa against Real Sociedad was very important for the club of Bizkaia to keep the lead in the standings. The hat-tricks of Iraragorri and Gorostiza were a nightmare for the local fans who expected something different when their team took the lead in the scoreboard soon in the game. Less noisy but equally convincing was the victory of Barcelona in Europa's home. As it had happened in the last weeks, García and Goiburu scored the winning goals in a team that started to get used to the absence of Samitier, leader and reference of the team. In the derby of Madrid, the hat-trick of the star Gaspar Rubio came to destroy a broken Athletic Madrid with a clear 4-1. In the remaining games, the victory of Español on Real Unión in Sarrià allowed the pericos to set some distance on the relegation zone, while Arenas Club crushed Racing Santander (5-1) at home.

Real Madrid's Lazcano in action
The 13th week ended up being decisive. In an error of unexpected limits, Barcelona organized a friendly game in Paris to play against a French team and collect some money. The team had to play against the bottom team, the weak Racing, in Santander and the club decided to take only half the initial XI. The consequences could not have been worse. Barcelona underrated their rivals and, despite the early goal of Parera, two goals of Larrinaga in the last minutes of the game finished with the Catalans (2-1). Obviously, Athletic did not miss the chance and destroyed Español in San Mamés with another shocking result (6-0) with Iraragorri scoring 4 goals. Athletic were the best team and Barcelona's error was handling them the league on silver plate. Without options in La Liga, Real Madrid also returned to the depression and could not defeat Real Sociedad at home (1-1). In the bottom zone, the victory of Racing allowed them to escape from the relegation position, which was occupied by Athletic Madrid with a new defeat, this time in a humilliating 8-2 in Irún. CD Europa also damaged their chances with a fatal defeat at home against Arenas (1-2).

In the 14th week, the impressive Athletic Club did not accelerate in their amazing run for the title. Gorostiza scored 4 goals in a new beating of Atheltic (5-2), this time against their neighbors Arenas. It was the 6th consecutive victory of the amazing Basque team, who continued humiliating their rivals with unusual ease. In this week, a most serious Barcelona did not make joked with the rival Real Unión and used all their potential to defeat a rival in a brilliant second half, overcoming a negative 1-2 to finish with a convincing 4-2. The shocking result of the week was the noisy victory of Español in Sarrià against Real Madrid (8-1), in what it was the worst ever defeated received by the merengues in their history. In the bottom zone, Europa fell to the relegation position with a new defeat, this time against Real Sociedad. Very important was the game played in the Metropolitano, a desperate Athletic Madrid was visited by Racing Santander in a kind of final for the local team, who ended up triumphing to escape from the bottom position (3-1).

The 15th week was the advanced ending of La Liga. As it had happened in Santander, Barcelona came to fail in one of the most unexpected stadiums, the Metropolitano, to throw their last Liga chances away. Despite the initial goal of Athletic Madrid, Piera and Goiburu advanced the blaugranas, two penalties awarded to the local team in the second half ended up giving the victory to the colchoneros. This defeat had serious consequences in the Catalan team, the Board criticized the attitude of the players, who responding issuing a public letter denouncing the president Gaspar Rosés and its board and the lack of seriousness when it came to accomplish with the promises given to the players. The Board responding denouncing that the heavy defeats (4-0 and 1-5) against Español and Real Madrid were a hidden strike of the players, exposing that this internal problems came from several months ago.

The defeat of Barcelona was even more relevant after the draw of Athletic Club in Gal against Real Unión in a very polemic match that had to be suspended in the minute 2 of the second half, when René Petit was sent off and the local fans attacked the referee, who ended up suspending the game. At the end, the RFEF decided that the 1-1 was the final result and, after a long run of victories, Athletic dropped points, but their gap on their rivals was not reduced, but increased. In Ibaoiondo, Arenas defeated Real Sociedad. In the bottom zone, Racing Santander came to respond the victory of Athletic Madrid with another triumph against a depressed Real Madrid, which had entered in a new negative run. With 3 weeks to go, the defeat of Europa at home against Español (1-2) put the team of Gràcia in real trouble, having to overcome 3 points out of the last 6 to be played in order to save their position in Primera División.

The 16th week had a special atmosphere. Barcelona visited San Mamés in the game of the season. A local victory would give the title to Athletic Club, while Barcelona aimed a victory to cut the difference down to one point to pressure Athletic in the last two weeks. San Mamés was packed to support their team and to carry them to their first Liga title and the match definitely was special. After 47 seconds, Chirri II made San Mamés explode with joy with the first goal of Athletic. The Basques continued with their attacks and, in the minute 16, Gorostiza made Athletic give another step towards the final victory with the second goal. If that was not enough, Lafuente scored the third only 7 minutes later. In less than 25 minutes, Athletic had achieved what it seemed to be a decisive 3-0. Surprisingly, Barcelona, who had disappointed in recent weeks, found pride and started to attack, while Athletic felt the vertigo of the victory. Diego scored the first goal of Barcelona in the minute 35. But what it seemed to be an anecdote was the beginning of a huge reaction. Arocha scored the second for Barcelona in the minute 37 and, only one minute later, Bestit tied the game. In only 3 minutes, Barcelona overcame a 3-0 to tie the game. The second half was as beautiful as tense, with chances for both sides. However, the victory was for the local side, when Gorostiza scored the fourth goal for Athletic with 8 minutes to go. The 4-3 was the final result and Athletic Club won their first Liga title of their history.

Athletic Club, Liga champions 1929-1930

Aside the fight for the title, the most relevant games were those related with the relegation. In Santander, Racing were able to reach their goal and achieved the points they needed to stay in Primera División one more season. With the support of the fans and the great game of Cladera, Racing defeated Real Unión with a clear 4-2 to seal their permanence in the top division. In Chamartín, Real Madrid, who were still not saved, needed to defeat Europa in order to avoid problems in the last two weeks. The merengues did not fail in this key moment and were very superior to defeat Europa with a stunning 6-1. In Atotxa, there was another dramatic game. Real Sociedad received the visit of Athletic Madrid. In this game, Bienzobas and Cholín scored the goals that assured the permanence of the txuri-urdin team in Primera División. So, with two games to go, only Athletic Madrid and Europa were in the fight to avoid relegation, but the three point gap that Athletic Madrid had on Europa seemed decisive.

In the 17th week, with the Liga title solved in the hands of Athletic Club, the fight to avoid relegation continued. CD Europa advanced their game against Racing Santander. Already before this game, the europeos knew they needed a victory in the last two weeks, waiting for two defeats (or one defeat and a draw, depending on goal difference) of Athletic Madrid too, as only solution to their problem. Europa played against a Racing Santander that had nothing to fight for. The local squad took advantage of the lack of motivation of Racing and crushed their rivals (5-0). This result wanted to put pressure on Athletic Madrid, which had to be visited by the Liga winners, Athletic Club. In the Metropolitano, Athletic Club presented a team that mixed the usual starters with new talents of their reserve squad. In fact, a very young Bata scored his first professional goal to advance the visitors. However, Athletic Madrid, knowing the importance of the game, were able to react before half time to score three goals. The 3-1 at half time and the lack of an objective to fight for suggested an easy second half for Athletic Madrid to seal their position in Primera División. However, Atheltic Club made a fantastic second half and, in the first 15 minutes of the second half, scored three goals (two of them scored by the great Gorostiza) that ended up punishing Athletic Madrid. With the final 3-4 and the victory of Europa, everything was left for the last week. In the remaining games, the most important matches were two derbies. In Les Corts, Barcelona defeated Español in a majestic game solved by two goals of Bestit and Martí in the last minutes for a final 5-4 for the culés. This result assured the runner-up position of Barcelona. In Stadium Gal, Real Unión won the derby of Gipuzkoa with a tight 3-2 victory on Real Sociedad.

The days which preceded the last week were very tense between the representatives of Athletic Madrid and Europa. During this week, Real Unión announced the absence of three usual starters like René Petit, Arza and Sagarzazu, who were injuerd. Athletic Madrid suggested that there was match-fixing and requested the presence of assistants of RFEF and the Centro Federation in the game between Real Unión and Europa at the Gal Stadium. Europa protested by these accusations and responded with a similar petition. The decisive games were Arenas Club-Athletic Madrid and Real Unión-Europa. In Gal Stadium, Real Unión wanted to avoid any kind of suspicion on their fair play and ended up playing with the injured players, given the pressure of Athletic Madrid and the reports of the Madrid newspaper "Informaciones". The fair play of Real Unión was evident, since the locals looked for the victory since the very first moment and the two goals of Urtizberea for the locals before half time seemed decisive. At the same time, Athletic Madrid resisted in Ibaiondo, being a 0-0 the result at half time.

In the second half, things changed in Irún, Bestit II put the team on his shoulders to tie the game in the early minutes of the second half, but these two goals were responded by a Sagarzazu, who scored the 3-2. In Ibaiondo, Anduiza scored for Arenas though. With the last 15 minutes of the season to be played, Europa (3-2) and Athletic Madrid (1-0) were losing their games, but the craziness was yet to start. In the minute 78, both teams tied their games, scoring Escrich for Europa (3-3) and Marín for Athletic Madrid (1-1). The turning point only came four minutes later, when Bestit II scored in Irún the 3-4 for Europa. With these results, Athletic Madrid was in Segunda due to goal difference. But things got worse for Athletic Madrid when Rivero scored the second goal of Arenas in the minute 86. Athletic Madrid got relegated to Segunda División and Europa saved their heads in what it was a heroic comeback of the Catalans.

The rest of the games were irrelevant, but there was an interesting Real Madrid-Barcelona, which ended up with a clear 5-1 for the madridistas, driven as always by Lazcano and Gaspar Rubio. Also Athletic Club completed their fantastic season with a victory in Santander, closing the season totally unbeaten.

Athletic Club's victory was based on the attacking proposal of Fred Pentland and the amazing level of the young Basque strikers. Gorostiza, who ended up being the top-scorer of La Liga with 20 goals in 18 games, Unamuno and Iraragorri were in the top-10 scorers of the season. Blasco also was the best goalkeeper of the competition, receiving 20 goals in 15 games. Pentland's team got the admiration of everyone, unbeaten during all the season and crushing rivals with unexpected solvency, independently of their level. Athletic was the best team and, given their youth, the future of this team looked brilliant. This was Pentland's usual formation during this season:

In Segunda División, CD Alavés ended up promoting to Primera División in a very tight race against Sporting Gijín, Iberia SD and Sevilla FC. CD Alavés closed a fantastic season that had started with a surprising victory in the regional tournament on the "unbeatable" Athletic Club and the other Primera club, Arenas. In CD Alavés, their main stars were their two defenders: Ciriaco and Quincoces.

Copa del Rey

Round of 32 - March 6-13, 1930

Only one week after the end of La Liga, a new edition of the Copa del Rey started. The big favorites for this tournament were the usual favorites: Barcelona, Real Madrid, the Basque teams, but above them, Athletic Club. The club of Bilbao was the rival to beat after their majestic Liga tournament and their amazing state of form.

In this first round, the favorites did not fail, but some surprises were near to happen. In this way, while Barcelona, Español, Real Unión or Arenas Club solved their clashes without much problems, Athletic Club and Real Madrid had to suffer to advance. Athletic Club had to overcome the 3-0 victory of Racing Santander with a brilliant 5-1 in San Mamés, when the journalistic reports expressed their doubts on the Basques after their poor game in the first leg, their first defeat since November 1929. Even more surprising were the problems of Real Madrid against the runner-ups of Aragón, Patria, a very humble club that was in Tercera División. The madridistas needed a replay to advance and kept showing the irregularity shown in La Liga season. The biggest surprises were the defeat of Europa, who got surprised by Real Oviedo in the first leg with a result that was impossible to overcome, and the shameful defeat of Athletic Madrid in the replay against Castellón. The winners of the regional tournament of Valencia were a decent team, but the 7-1 made the club of the Metropolitano explode and the fans expressed their anger for this result and the relegation to Segunda División.

Round of 16 - March 20-27, 1930

The Copa has always been a tournament open to surprises, but it was not in this round. However, some of the favorites had to suffer to advance. The most important clashes were those played among Primera División teams. In the Basque derby, Athletic did not have any problems to defeat Real Sociedad and the Liga champions left the clash solved in the first round at home. The Real Madrid-Arenas was more balanced on paper, but the reality showed the superior level of Real Madrid, who defeated the Basque team in both games, showing an unexpected solid image after their poor season.

More problems had Real Unión with Castellón. The Basque team was surprisingly defeated by their rivals in their home, the Gal Stadium. Castellón had already surprised Athletic Madrid in the previous round, but this time they could not complete the epic story, since Real Unión were able to advance with a 0-2 away victory. Barcelona also had problems in the first leg played in Seville against Betis. The game in Seville was full of problems and had to be suspended at half time with 1-1 on the scoreboard. The local fans were protesting the performance of the referee, who responded doing gestures to the tribune. The reaction of the fans of this tribune was radical and several chairs were thrown at the referee, who suspended the game. In the second leg, Barcelona did not have any problem to impose their football to advance.

Quarter finals - May 4-11, 1930
In this round, there still were three teams of Segunda División, Alavés, Valencia and Oviedo, which had the difficult task to surprise the big favorites. In the first leg, the biggest surprise was the 2-1 victory of Alavés on Barcelona. During the season, Alavés had shown to be a respectful team, given their victory in the regional tournament of Bizkaia, where they defeated who ended up being the Liga champion (Athletic Club). Besides, Alavés had completed a fantastic season in Segunda División with the promotion to the top division and this club counted on the two central backs of the Spanish NT, Ciriaco and Quincoces. But, despite all these facts, their victory on Barcelona was considered more than just surprising. In the other games, Español defeated Oviedo with a short 2-0, although the higher level of the Catalans suggested that the pericos should not have problems to advance. In Mestalla, Real Madrid crushed Valencia and their good level made the press talk about the resurrection of the madridistas in this key moment of the season. Finally, in the Gal Stadium, Athletic could not defeat Real Unión, but the 0-0 draw allowed them to face the second leg with optimism.

In this second leg, Barcelona did not left any option to the surprise and crushed Alavés in the second leg played in Les Corts. This time, the Catalan club did not underrated their rivals and the 4-1 showed the real difference between both teams. In San Mamés, Athletic Club continued their fantastic season with a usual 4-0 beating on their rivals in San Mamés, Real Unión was the victim. Español also won in Oviedo (0-1) and did not gave any option to their weak rival. The surprise was about to happen in Chamartín. Valencia defeated Real Madrid with an epic 0-2 and the result might have been more dramatic for the madridistas, if the referee had not disallowed a goal to the valencianistas, with only 3 minutes to go, that would have forced the replay. The scandal was huge and Valencia made an official complaint that was ignored. At the end, the big favorites were in the semifinals.

Semifinals - May 18-25, 1930

The semifinals had the same protagonists of the previous edition, but with different clashes. In the first leg, Barcelona visited San Mamés, while Real Madrid had to visit Sarrià. In San Mamés, Athletic and Barcelona faced each other again almost two months after the brilliant Liga game that ended up giving the title to the local squad. Athletic wished to repeat the story, while Barcelona looked for their particular revenge, this time with Samitier back in the team. But everything seemed to go in Athletic's direction when Iraragorri advanced the Basques in the minute 11 of the match. However, this time Barcelona looked for the draw soon. In the minute 19, Samitier, acting as playmaker, found Goiburu whose shot was initially saved by Blasco, who could not block the ball though. Goiburu himself got the lost ball to tie the game. This draw was an impulse for the most experimented Catalan team, who enjoyed the best chances, although Goiburu was very inefficient in attack. The domination of Barcelona continued in the second half, although Athletic also enjoyed some counters. When the draw seemed to be the final result and probably the fair result too, Gorostiza, always Gorostiza, headed a ball into Barcelona's goal after a brilliant cross of Lafuente. Athletic won 2-1.

The first leg of the second semifinal will be recalled by the violent clash between Español and Real Madrid. However, the first minutes promised a brilliant show. Español defended their Copa crown, while the resurrection of Real Madrid (with its up and downs) was tested in Sarrià. Real Madrid dominated the early minutes of the game, while Español was imprecise in their football. The match was beautiful and nice and, ironically, despite the good game of Real Madrid, it was Padrón who scored in an individual action to advance Español in the minute 15. This is when the game finished. When the ball started to roll again, the Español forward Tena II was tackled and injured and the local team had to play with ten men the rest of the match. Given the passive attitude of the referee, the beautiful game turned violent, with tackles and aggressive actions which never were solved by the official. With Real Madrid in superiority on the pitch, which forced Español to focus in defense, and both teams paying more attention to their individual revenges than in playing football, the match was ugly, without important chances, 90 minutes to forget. Español had won 1-0, but the result was too open for the second leg.

Español-Real Madrid in Sarrià
In the second leg, Les Corts was packed to see one of the best matches you could see in those days, a guarantee of good football, a clash of styles the technical football of the Catalans against the fast and impulsive football of Athletic. The first attempt of this game was a shot of Iraragorri that hit the post, but Barcelona responded very fast, when Goiburu found Samitier who scored the first for Barcelona. Despite some attacking actions of Athletic, Barcelona kept controlling the match. In a collective action, Piera left behind the Athletic defenders to find Urquizu, who passed the ball to Goiburu, scoring the second for Barcelona in the minute 33. The match entered in a crazy battle without stop. In the minute 35, Gorostiza tied the semifinals and only two minutes later Ramón gave Barça the lead again. That was not enough, in the minute 40, Gorostiza tied the semifinal again and Athletic still had time to score one more goal before half time, this time scored by the wonder kid Bata. The 3-3 at half time gave Athletic the ticket to the final, but there were 45 more minutes to play. In the second half, the game was equally balanced, although without the same festival of goals. It had to be the star of Barcelona, Samitier, who scored the fourth goal of Barcelona to tie the semifinal again. Athletic looked for the victory and even scored one more goal (Lafuente), which was not allowed, since the referee considered it was offside, a decision protested by the visitors. The 4-3 was the final result and a tie-breaker had to be played in Zaragoza three days later.

In Chamartín, Real Madrid and Español had to find a finalist in this second leg. The stadium of Real Madrid had been renewed and 30,000 madridistas packed the stadium. The atmosphere around this game was hot, given the events of the game played at Sarrià, although the fans were noisy, but respectful with the visitors. Still Español started the game very nervous, while Real Madrid went for the victory with the support of their fans. In the minute 16, Olaso found Cosme, who beat Zamora to tie the semifinal. The madridistas did not stop there and their lesson of football was brilliant. Only Zamora kept Español in the game. In the second half, things did not change much, a nervous Español could not stop the continuous, although inefficient, attacks of Real Madrid. But in the minute 72, the wonder couple appeared, Lazcano passed to Rubio and the top scorer of Real Madrid scored the second goal for the madridistas, buying a ticket for the final of Barcelona. In the last minutes, Madrid got conservative and Español did not find a way to react. Real Madrid was in the final.

Three days later, in the stadium of Torrero (Zaragoza), Athletic and Barcelona played the replay to decide the last finalist. This time the match was far from beautiful. The season had been long and the constant matches started to affect both teams. The match promised emotions, 31000 fans packed Torrero, a neutral ground. Who else could be, but Gorostiza, who advanced Athletic in the scoreboard after 13 minutes. Barcelona looked for the draw, but their hopes got ruined when Sastre got injured in an accidental action, leaving the Catalans with ten men on the pitch, with all the match to be played and the disadvantage in the scoreboard. Still Barcelona attacked their rivals, who were not playing one of their best games. Athletic was playing without their usual impulse and Barcelona was clumsy in their actions though. The 1-0 was the result at half time. In the second half, Barcelona kept looking for the draw, but the Catalans started to pay their efforts and the German defender Walter had to retire injured too after another accidental action. Barcelona was with nine men on the pitch and the match was fully controlled by a conservative Athletic. Things got worse when the goalkeeper Uriach got injured too with 15 minutes to go. In this situation, Barcelona was broken and Athletic did not need to make big efforts to score the second. In the minute 83, Barcelona got a suicidal system to look for the draw, but in a counter-attack, Unamuno sentenced the blaugranas with the second goal for Athletic. The match finished there, a depressed Barcelona let themselves go and Athletic scored two more goals in the last minutes. Gorostiza and Bata closed the 4-0 beating. The press saw in this result a change in the dominance of the Spanish football. The youth and talent of Athletic were praised over an old and declining Barcelona. Athletic was in the final.

Final - June 1, 1930

The final was played in Barcelona in the events of the international exposition hosted in the city. While Athletic Club preferred to play in Les Corts, Real Madrid's preferences were for the new stadium of Montjuïc. Finally, the RFEF decided to play the match in the new stadium of the city of Barcelona. The Estadio de Barcelona, popularly known as Montjuïc was a unique stadium, the biggest in Spain. Despite some games had been played there in the previous year, the stadium was fully completed before this final. The unbelievable amount of 63,000 fans showed up in Montjuïc to watch the final that Athletic and Real Madrid were about to play and the reports said that thousands of fans were out of the stadium without a ticket.

The match was also marked by the recent events. Real Madrid was already seen as an enemy of Barcelona since several years ago, but the recent incidents between the merengues and Español were also decisive to understand the behavior of the fans. When Real Madrid jumped on the pitch, the infinite crowd dedicated whistles and booing to the madridistas, while Athletic club was received with a huge ovation. The Catalan crowd had spoken. Athletic were the big favorites, although Real Madrid, despite their irregularity during the season, was considered one of the best teams of Spain.

Only 30 seconds needed Athletic to take the lead. Lafuente started the attack in the right wing and his poisoned cross could not be stopped by the madridista goalie Vidal. The ball ended up in the feet of Gorostiza who passed the ball to Unamuno who scored the first goal for the Basque team. This early goal surprised Real Madrid who got groggy for some minutes, while Athletic pressured their rivals. However, in one of these actions, the Madrid captain Quesada tackled Unamuno, who had to leave the pitch for some minutes. In this situation, Real Madrid were able to go back to the game. Unamuno returned five minutes later, but the madridistas had started to dominate the match and, in the minute 15, Gaspar Rubio headed the ball to Lazcano, who was alone inside the box and had enough time to kick the ball inside Blasco's goal to tie the game. In the following minutes after the 1-1, Real Madrid showed to be a very uncomfortable rival and those who thought that Athletic was going to defeat Real Madrid easily got convinced that they were wrong. The forwards of both teams tested the brilliant goalies of each team, Vidal and Blasco. Only a few seconds before half time, in the last action of the first half, Athletic enjoyed a corner kick. Gorostiza placed the ball inside the box and the ball without an owner fell in Iraragorri's feet, who kicked the ball into Vidal's goal to advance Athletic right before half time (2-1).

Unamuno's goal

In the second half, Real Madrid started with a renovated impulse. The madridistas were intense in their football, dynamic in attack and aggressive in defense. This style allowed them to dominate the game and, at the same time, frightened a younger Athletic. In the minute 65, Gaspar Rubio crossed the ball into the box, Blasco failed to grab the ball and a smart Triana headed the ball into Athletic's goal. In these minutes, Athletic looked lost and Real Madrid was very superior. However, the goal stopped the effervescence of Real Madrid's football and the match got balanced again. The attacking actions of both teams could have made the final fall either way, but Vidal and Blasco succeeded in their performance. In the last minutes of the match, there were two controversial actions, one in each box, well solved by the referee. At the end, the 2-2 was the final result after 90 minutes and the match went to the extra time.

In the first half of the extra time, Real Madrid was in superiority, since Lafuente got injured. Even though both teams looked tired, Real Madrid were the team that decided to dominate. The madridistas found air to pressure their rivals, while Athletic could only defend in an unusual image for this team. In the last minutes of the first half, Lafuente returned to the pitch and both teams were with eleven men again. In the second half of the extra time, things did not change though. Real Madrid felt superior and Athletic were struggling physically, since they had played the mid-week game against Barcelona. In these minutes, Blasco repeatedly saved Athletic, while Madrid could only regret their missed chances. Surprisingly though, when Athletic looked dead, Chirri II, the captain of Athletic, built a counter in the left wing and passed the ball to Lafuente who kicked the ball into the madridista net. It was the minute 115 and Athletic took the lead in the most unexpected moment. This goal was a pyschological shock for Real Madrid and, out of frustration, the madridista defender Prats kicked Chirri II's back, who responded with another aggression. Both players were sent off, but the match died in these incidents. Athletic had won the Copa del Rey too.

Athletic celebrate Lafuente's goal, Real Madrid in shock

With this new title, the 11th Copa in Athletic's history, the Basque club seemed to open a new era in the Spanish football. Fred Pentland's team had shown a brilliant image during the season, unbeaten in Liga and completing the fantastic season with the Double achieved in the final of Montjuïc. Athletic's team was young, talented, fast and agressive, having all the elements to dominate in the years to come, in the new decade. At the same time, Barcelona had shown a declining image, with the most important players in veteran ages and without a realistic replacement for them in the horizon. Real Madrid had shown to be a fantastic team, but very irregular in their performances, mixing amazing games with pathetic matches, which made impossible to find a wished regularity. Fred Pentland's Athletic seemed to be the team of the years to come.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The sports newspapers in Spain

The importance of sport in the Spanish media is reflected in the presence and the space they occupy in the overall Spanish media. But, when we refer to sport, we should mainly focus in football. A report of González Ramallal in the year 2004 said that football was the 70% of the total content of the sport information. And, when we refer to football, perhaps we should talk about Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. The information about these clubs are between a 9% and a 12% of the total space of sport information, while the rest of the sport clubs gather a 6% of the total space in the sport information, but depending on their success in a certain moment. Only the Spanish national team gets near the figures of Barcelona and Real Madrid in times of international tournaments. This statistics show the specific weight of football, in general, and Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, in particular.

Let's make a bit of history. The first sport newspaper in Spain was the Catalan "El Mundo Deportivo" (nowadays, just "Mundo Deportivo"), which was born on 1906 and it is the second sport newspaper in Europe. The first was the Italian "Gazzetta dello Sport" (1896). At that time, "El Mundo Deportivo" was not essentially a football newspaper. In fact, football was a small part of it, among other (if not more) popular sports in Catalonia. Football was a relatively new sport and the popularity of cycling, athletics, boxing, motor sports or hockey, to name a few, was as important as football can be.

El Mundo Deportivo in 1912, without football

The changes started to happen in the 1920s. The silver medal of the Spanish NT in the Olympics Antwerp 1920 was a reason of pride for the country. The importance of this medal was huge in the development of football as mass social event. The interest on football grew and, as a consequence, new big stadiums were built and professionalism became a fact during the decade. At the same time, these changes were evident in the media too. The only sports newspaper, "El Mundo Deportivo", started to dedicate more and more pages to football in comparison with other sports. In the general information newspapers saw the impact of football too and their sport sections started to grow, essentially dedicated to football.

El Mundo Deportivo in 1925

But another change was evident. Football had crossed the borders of sport to be used as a way to create a sense of nation and even race, which started to be dangerously mixed in this decade all around Europe. So the silver medal in Antwerp was used to set terms like "Furia española" (Spanish fury) and football was definitely used as element of prestige and propaganda tool. It is important to remember that Spain fell under a military dictatorship, which had reflections of the Italian fascism, although it was more catholic-nationalist-conservative than really fascist.

In the 1930s, the political events stopped this use of football. The democracy of the II República was a constant earthquake, the radicalism of the ideologies in all Europe reached Spain too. The radical left and right movements were peaking in all Europe, creating the appropriate atmosphere for the war that was about to start. In fact, the Spanish Civil War has often been seen as a prologue or rehearsal of the World War II.

In this environment the popular sport newspaper "Marca" was created. "Marca" was born in the Basque city of San Sebastián in the year 1938, during the Spanish Civil War. San Sebastián already was under the fascist occupation of the Franco troops, which were already suffocating the last Republican zones. The Marca journalist Miquelarena stated their intentions and the necessity of a "change in the conception of football to make it fit in the new values of the State. During the II República, football was a red (communist) orgy of the lowest and evil regional passions". The journalist highlighted that "almost everyone was separatist -and rude-. The pro-Basqueism was seen in the stands of San Mamés and also in the tribunes of Chamartín. In most of the cases, a madridista was a pro-Basque of Madrid; that is, a localist mental retard against the national limits". Obviously, after the fascist occupation of Madrid and the end of the Civil War, "Marca" moved its headquarters to Madrid. At the same time, "El Mundo Deportivo", which had closed as a consequence of the Civil War reopened at the end of 1939, with a big picture of Franco in their cover and a tribute to those "who fell in defense of God and Spain". As it was obvious, the Catalan newspaper had been "domesticated" too. As an example of it, the analysis of the 11-1 defeat of Barcelona against Real Madrid in Chamartín in the year 1943. Barcelona had won the first leg in Les Corts with a clear 3-0. "Marca" created a hot atmosphere with insulting words against the Catalan fans, which had created a hot atmosphere in the stadium, and "surprisingly", the Catalan "El Mundo Deportivo" joined the party attacking the local fans, their readers. The defeat of the Catalans was a question of state and many Barcelona players and managers, many years later, ended up denouncing that the Director General de Seguridad (the boss of the repressive police of the fascist regime) had entered in the locker room of the visitors and "suggested" the necessity of a passive attitude in this second game. The 11-1 was labeled as "abnormal and absurd", but no one was able to write about these pressures, which were in the mouths of everyone in the streets of Barcelona.

El Mundo Deportivo 12/31/1939

The strict control of the media was evident, also in the sport sections. The regime knew the importance of the sport media as propaganda tool and the use of the "Furia española", as slogan to reflect the values of the "hispanic race" (virility, impetuosity and fury). The Spanish NT did not reach the international success aside the exceptions of the semifinals of the World Cup 1950 and the famous goal of Zarra in Maracaná (as famous as the comments of the national radio speaker Matías Prats) or the Euro 1964 victory against the "communist rats" of the USSR. But these triumphs were just exceptions compared with the huge success of Real Madrid in the European Cup, during the late 50s and 60s. Real Madrid definitely was more useful to the goals of the propaganda of the fascist regime, not only because of the victories, but also because this club was a Spanish club without any kind of doubt, while Athletic Club and FC Barcelona were suspicious of the nationalist (or separatist, as the regime liked to call it) aspirations of the Basque Country and Catalonia, respectively, "enemies of Spain".

During the 1960s, after the international acceptance of Spain, the regime relaxed the pressure on the media, which allowed the creation of new newspapers. Even though the censorship and the control still existed, the opening in the media sector allowed the creation of "As" in the year 1967. "Marca" already was the most read newspaper in Spain and, definitely, part of the propaganda machine. It was the times of "football is the opium of people". While "Marca" had built a national idea of journalism, "El Mundo Deportivo" had still kept a more local view, mainly focused in a Catalan (not catalanist, as it is evident) audience. The weapons of "As" were similar to "Marca's" and their goal practically the same, although this newspaper always was in a secondary position.

Marca in the 1940s, Real Madrid 11-1 Barcelona

The arrival of democracy definitely changed the face of the sport journalism, which broke the chains with the past. Many newspapers appeared in scene and in this specific sport sector too. The first sport newspaper to appear in democratic times was the Catalan "Sport" (which was an intelligent mix of the English word and the sound of the same word in Catalan, "Esport"). "Sport" was part of a new media group (Grupo Zeta) that had opened after the death of Franco in 1975 and their ideas were quite innovative and radical in the sport journalism. While "Marca", "El Mundo Deportivo" and "As" had still manners of the previous decades, "Sport" opened with a radical different line. "Sport" used to open with big color pictures and headlines, spectacular graphics and a clear idea: they wanted to be the newspaper of the FC Barcelona fans. As a consequence of it, "Sport" got rid of the pretended objective (which had never existed anyway) view on football. "Sport" was openly barcelonista and radical in their headlines and designed.

Obviously, "Sport" was not a real threat on "Marca" and "As", since they targeted a different audience, but "El Mundo Deportivo", which was about to make 75 years of history, suffered the consequences of this new wave of sport journalism. In a short period of time, "Sport" was seen as one of the main references, due to their connection with a new free media created after the Francoism. "Sport" was Catalan, catalanist and openly pro-culé, not even trying to convince the Espanyol fans, as "El Mundo Deportivo" had been doing. The differences between both newspapers were evident. "El Mundo Deportivo" had always been (still is) connected with the Catalan bourgeoisie as part of the Godó editorial group. In the new democratic times, "El Mundo Deportivo" and the rest of the group got closer to the Catalan nationalism views, but in a very moderate sector. On the other hand, the editorial bet of "Sport" was openly catalanist and culé.

Colorful Sport in the late 70s

In Madrid, changed had to happen too. As "Marca" had kept the supremacy in all Spain, the newspaper, keeping the madridista bias, was quite moderate in their editorial line, also giving space to other Spanish clubs in their pages. "As" got suffocated, since they were unable to offer something different to what "Marca" was offering, which made the newspaper collapse. The big changed happened in the year 1996. The owner of "As" sold the newspaper to the most powerful media group in Spain, PRISA, which already gathered the most profitable general newspaper (El País), the radio stations with higher audience (Cadena SER in general radio and Cadena 40 in commercial music radio) and the only pay TV channel (Canal +). PRISA bought "As" to change its shape and took advantage of the synergies of the whole group, using already prestigious journalists. "As" needed a new space and the example to follow was "Sport". The new "As" got openly madridista and radical, they were the first to create an all color newspaper and the growth in readers was evident since the very first day.

Obviously, the decrease of readers in "Marca" and "El Mundo Deportivo", the two classic newspapers of Madrid and Barcelona, had to have consequences. "El Mundo Deportivo" was the first to react, with a change in the year 1999. The impulse of "Sport" seemed unstoppable and "El Mundo Deportivo" changed its commercial name to "Mundo Deportivo" and, following the example of its competitor, added more color, graphics and radicalism in its messages. The change in "Marca" had to wait until 2007 when the newspaper was bought by Unión Editorial and their new director, Eduardo Inda, added a definitive pro-madridista editorial, very sensationalist.

Marca in their Anti-Ramón Calderón campaign

The other big change during the last couple of decades has been the growth of regional sport journalism. So "Superdeporte" was created in Valencia, aiming the niche of the growing valencianism, opposed to the centralism of the Madrid newspapers and the catalanism of the Barcelona press. In other regions, the lack of population made other projects fail and this regional niches had been occupied by the traditional sport newspapers. So "Marca" and "As" usually have particular editions, with special pages in certain regions, while "El Mundo Deportivo" also created special editions in the Basque country, one in Bizkaia, aiming the Athletic fans, another one Gipuzkoa, targeting the Real Sociedad fans, and also in Madrid, with the creation of "Mundo Atlético", which targets the space left by "As" and "Marca" in their radical madridismo among the Atlético Madrid fans.

Basically, at this point, the objective (at least, the pretended objective) perspective of football information has definitely disappeared from the newspapers. All the sport newspapers are definitely based on radical and fanatic perspectives, which border the sensationalism and the ridicule articles and theories, if they are clearly in them. As a consequence of it, in the recent years, new terms generally accepted by the fans have been created in these newspapers, like the "Villarato" theory created by Alfredo Relaño in "As", which suggests (without any kind of objectiveness and with high doses of Goebbelsism) that there is an established structure in the Spanish football and now also in UEFA to favor FC Barcelona around the figure of Ángel María Villar, president of the Spanish FA. At the same time, the Catalan press did not hesitate to accept and use the term created by the Barcelona president, Joan Laporta, to describe a kind of invisible power to destroy Barcelona, and himself, "The Spanish media cavern" (la Caverna española mediática), along with some variants created by Josep Guardiola himself, like the "Milky Central" (la Central Lechera), which suggest the control of Real Madrid and its president Florentino Pérez on the pro-madridista media to make an uniform message to destroy the prestige of Barcelona, backing several kind of theories, created from the club itself or the media in blur borders, as the "Villarato" itself to new versions like the never proven doping cases in Barcelona (and Valencia) or how the fixtures have been fixed by barcelonistas.

As' "Villarato" campaign

But, at the same time, these newspapers also aim to have certain internal influence and they surely have it. In the case of Real Madrid, the most evident case was the campaign built by "Marca" to destroy the prestige of the president Ramón Calderón, which ended up with Florentino Pérez back in the presidency of Real Madrid.  It is not that "Marca" actually lied in their reports, but it was surprising to see such an open campaign to destroy the prestige of the president Calderón. Even though it is not a proven theory, the clear support on Florentino Pérez made by "Marca" and the economic and financial influence of the current president of Real Madrid can be considered as "strange" at least. Also Eduardo Inda's "Marca" created a clear anti-Manuel Pellegrini campaign since the very early weeks of the 2009-2010 season. As it popularly known, Manuel Pellegrini was a Jorge Valdano's man. This campaign suggest some kind of internal power battle in the club. The signing of José Mourinho, who had a clear bad relationship with the formal sport general director, Jorge Valdano, and the final departure of the club of the last, suggest this situation and the position of Marca in all this story. At the same time, during all this time, "As" has kept a more critical position on Florentino Pérez and, especially, with José Mourinho. The good relatioship of Jorge Valdano with the PRISA media group, owner of "As" and "El País", and the criticism of the newspapers of this media group on José Mourinho made the fans connect all these facts to the point that, without using names, José Mourinho and Florentino Pérez had talked about "certain pseudo-madridistas", who seem to support the club while they do not hesitate to criticize to break the unity.

In Catalonia, the most evident case of internal influence is not around the coach Guardiola, but the figure of the president. In the last period of the presidency of Joan Laporta, "Mundo Deportivo" and the rest of the Godó group media, were openly critical with the president. Even before the "pseudo-madridista" theories, Joan Laporta, in a meeting with barcelonista penyes (fan groups) also warned the culés about the existence of those who call themselves barcelonistas but in reality wanted to destroy the calm of the club. In the last presidential elections, "Mundo Deportivo" clearly supported the candidature of Sandro Rosell in opposition to the laportista candidatures. In this war, "Sport" has kept a more neutral line, not backing Laporta, but without the cynical support on Sandro Rosell showed by "Mundo Deportivo". And it is not irrelevant to analyze the whole matter from a political view, since Joan Laporta presented a independentist candidature in the last Catalan elections, which was supposed to scratch votes from the moderate nationalist party, CiU.

Mundo Deportivo attacks Joan Laporta

Another interesting topic is the relationship with the rivals. The Madrid located newspapers, despite their evident pro-madridismo, also target a broad audience, which may include certain zones of Spain, where the barcelonistas do not feel fully linked with the catalanist vision of the Barcelona located newspapers. On the other hand, the Catalan newspapers have been more radical in their treatment on their rivals, especially "Sport", but also "Mundo Deportivo" in recent years. As a consequence, while "As" or "Marca" do not hesitate the show the triumphs of the rival Barcelona in their covers, although often with spicy or ironic comments or headlines, the Catalan press definitely ignores the information. In the day by day, these newspapers normally dedicate their headlines and covers to their own club's issues. The only exception, in both cases, is when it is time to attack the rival with negative news, either defeats or scandals.

Finally, the relationship with the Spanish NT is quite different too. "Marca" and "As" act as clear supporters of the Spanish NT, treating the information from a pure fanatic and supporting perspective that does not admit any kind of hesitation. "Marca" and "As" put the Spanish NT in the same level of support given to Real Madrid. However, the Catalan press is more cynical in this support. The political situation of Catalonia is very different and complex, with an overall sense of Catalan national feeling, which gather different kind of tendencies, with Catalonia as nation inside a "nation of nations", which would be Spain, to those who are openly independentist in their feelings. This situation force the Catalan press to play an ambiguous role. So the perspective keeps being quite barcelonista even in the event of an Euro or a World Cup. If Spain is playing, the analysis is often focused on the participation of Catalans or barcelonistas. At the same time, they do not hesitate to dedicate covers and headlines to other blaugrana players who play for different nations, like those who got Ronaldinho in the past or Messi nowadays, even if they dress their nation's shirts. While the treatment of the Spanish NT is warm and supportive in the Madrid media, the Catalan press, despite not rejecting the topic, definitely is more cold, cynical and still culé in their editorial lines.

Mundo Deportivo and Marca treating the triumphs of the rivals

The huge influence of these newspapers in the general opinion of madridistas and barcelonistas is evident. This influence is based in the amount of readers of each newspaper. "Marca" is the most read newspaper in Spain, over the general information newspaper "El País". Among the total amount of readers, "Marca" gets the 20% of the audience with nearly 3 million readers. "As" gets the 9% of the Spanish readers (1.443 million) and they are the 3rd most read newspaper in Spain. The Catalan newspapers get lower amounts of readers, since their perspective is more Catalan than Spanish in comparison with the Madrid located newspapers. Still "Sport" and "Mundo Deportivo" are read by 0.717 and 0.711 million readers respectively, almost a 5% of the total each of them, although in this case with lower readers than the general newspapers. In the internet editions of these newspapers, the situation is pretty similar, has 4 million visits per day, is visited by 2.4 million people, and and get 1.28 and 1.20 million visits respectively, more than any Catalan newspaper site.