No one has removed the red and white flags from the balconies, but a couple of weeks after they were hung they look limp. For the look of the most pessimistic, even discolored. After the 2020 postponed final against Real, the Athletic fans are discouraged, not so much because of losing to their neighbors but because of the way they do it, without any reaction after Oyarzabal’s penalty goal. The fact that the people of Bilbao did not add a single opportunity to equalize is what has hurt the most among the fans. “They did not compete, it was disappointing”, is the most recurrent reflection.
The scene that went viral, that of the fan who was launched in Bilbao from the top of a traffic light, was, according to a follower who expressed it on social networks, the metaphor of what happened in La Cartuja: “He got up as if nothing had happened, but the purple remains for a long time ”.
The atmosphere in Bizkaia is very different from that of two weeks ago. So all the street conversations revolved around the finale. Even the least football fans talked about Athletic. Now it is no longer like that, the appointment against Barcelona is announced with a mute. Although the Ertzaintza has prepared a special device to avoid scenes similar to those of the team’s farewell on the way to Seville, or those that occurred in the center of Bilbao in the hours before the game with Real, it does not seem that the staff is too willing to repeat them. Two weeks later, in addition, Bilbao, perhaps due to uncontrolled crowds, is the Spanish city -except for Ceuta and Melilla-, which is evolving the worst in the pandemic.
The Biscayan newspapers try to raise the morale of the troops with profuse information related to Athletic, but they have already published several articles written by psychologists as therapy. Radio stations also broadcast special programs to repeat the level of tension among listeners. Efforts come from everywhere, especially from the club, which if in the meeting against Real, took advantage of the invitations sent by the federation to entertain its employees and some former players, it has now decided to take the relatives of the footballers: “The objective is to create an environment in which the players feel more protected after the diagnosis of the entity and the coach is that the excess of responsibility blocked them against Real”, assures the president of Athletic, Aitor Elizegi.
Marcelino García, the rojiblanco coach, who was perplexed by the performance of his men in the final against Real, – “I’m sad because we were not ourselves” -, has changed his usual routines. Instead of training two days in Seville, as he did in the previous final, he decided to schedule a session in Lezama yesterday and then travel to the Andalusian capital.
Both in the club and in its surroundings, they make an effort to try to raise the morale of the fans, without forgetting that the game two weeks ago is the cause of the downturn. According to former President Fernando García Macua, the disappointment is logical: “A great opportunity was missed.” He maintains that “you have to send a message. The team knows that it is indebted to the club, the fans and all of Bizkaia. Not because of losing, but because of the way it happened. The feeling is that Athletic was not able to compete to the full of its capabilities. That always leaves a bad taste in the mouth ”.
The players admitted that their work had been deficient and that this could influence the reaction of the people: “I went out with a hat and sunglasses so that they would not recognize me,” said Dani García, but was surprised: ” I realized that I was making a fool of myself. I thought they were going to say something bad to me, but it was the other way around ”. Raúl García acknowledged: “We were not as we should have been. It is not so easy to put into words that the team did not compete. You have to admit it ”. For this it is essential, in the words of Mikel Balenziaga, “to change the chip. We had hard days, it was time to compose ourselves. The dressing room has been very complete and we want to show that in this final ”.
From the euphoria of the days leading up to the 2020 final, played on April 3, to the pessimism and caution against Leo Messi’s Barça. “I’m sure we improve and play a good game,” says an ordinary fan, “but what would annoy me the most is doing it and losing, which is the easiest thing against Barça.