The build-up to Friday’s Copa del Rey final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao was overshadowed by a political storm whipped up after Catalan and Basque fans said they would whistle the Spanish national anthem in the stadium. Politicans in Madrid condemned such “separatist” ideas and suddenly a fierce debate was underway about 20th century Spanish history and current national identity. Lots of material then for my first piece for El País’s Trans-Iberian blog.
The most worrying was the permitting of a neo-fascist march through Madrid on the day of the game, while fans from Bilbao and Barcelona soaking up the sun and enjoying themselves elsewhere in the city. I took my camera along and got pics of some very dodgy characters from La Falange and other ultra right-wing groups. The Facebook album can be viewed by anyone by clicking through here.
With so much going on it was easy to forget there was actually a game to play – I provided a preview of the match for the FOX Soccer website, and then a report for the Sport 360 newspaper in Dubai as Barcelona easily outclassed their opponents with goals from Pedro (2) and Messi to claim a 14th trophy of Pep’s four seasons in charge.
The big news this week was Carles Puyol’s shock announcement on Tuesday that he would miss the tournament with a knee injury. I was standing by to provide a piece for the Irish Examiner newspaper, which looked at Spain’s other defensive options and also the pretty shambolic nature of their preparations.
The new issue of When Saturday Comes magazine also hit the shelves, and comes with a handy Euro 2012 guide for which I’ve written the Spain bits. Sara Carbonero, Manolo ‘el del Bombo’ & Vicente Del Bosque’s acting talents all get a mention.
But we shouldn’t forget the Europa League final. My report for Sport 360 talked up both Diego Simeone’s tactical set-up and Radamel Falcao’s magical finishing, while there was also room for a Sport 360 analysis piece arguing Athletic Bilbao’s players and fans should dry their tears as if they stick together ‘la Gabarra’ can float again.