Both Roberto López Ufarte (Fez, Morocco; 62 years old) and Andoni Goikoetxea (Alonsotegi, Bizkaia; 64 years old) are, in recent days, two very busy people. Although both retired a long time ago from their original profession, that of footballers, in whose development they coincided in Atlético (in 1987) after two long careers in Real Sociedad and Athletic, respectively, the former winger and the former central defender are in a constant bustle before the final of the Cup on Saturday between San Sebastian and Bilbao. Interestingly, both have identical track records. They won two leagues, a Copa del Rey and a Super Cup.
“I made my debut for Athletic in a Cup match against Real in Atocha when I was 17 years old,” Goikoetxea recalls. “On the return leg I scored my first goal in the penalty shoot-out.” López Ufarte also made his debut against the eternal rival: “My first game was in San Mamés, in 1975, a very rainy day in which we had to stop for a few minutes. We lost ”.
Each one pulls to one side, but between Goiko and López Ufarte there is confidence: “We have never been enemies, we were rivals at Athletic and Real, although later we played together at Atlético de Madrid and we are friends,” says the ex-rojiblanco. “In our times, the players of both teams got along well,” explains López Ufarte, and reveals: “From time to time we organized a dinner on neutral ground. Besides, Andoni, despite what was sometimes said, was a very noble player ”.
The two ex-footballers think that Saturday’s final will be a very close match. “I think we are at 50%,” says López Ufarte. “A year ago, yes I would have dared to say that we were better than Athletic, but since Marcelino arrived he has been stronger in defense,” he says, adding: “La Real seems to play better, but you have to be at one hundred percent one hundred”. Goiko is of the same opinion: “We are halfway there. There is no favorite, because in addition to saying that we are favorites does not add anything, the important thing is performance on the field ”. “It’s true,” replies López Ufarte. “To play a final the most important thing is to be mentally strong. There are many situations that change everything during a match and you have to know how to turn the tables. The one with the strongest head will win ”.
One of the determining factors of the final is the absence of fans for the pandemic. Two social masses that would have invaded Seville, but that will finally see the final from a distance despite some timid attempts to open the doors of La Cartuja to a part of the fans. “Football without an audience is not football. It is played for people to enjoy. These are the times that touch us, but it’s a shame ”, confesses the former Real player. “Against Celta, the first game I went to the San Mamés box, I wanted to cry, a tremendous sadness”, corroborates Goikoetxea.
With two football figures from three decades ago it is impossible not to look back. López Ufarte doubts if he could have a place in Real today: “I feel identified, due to his way of playing, with Silva, although he plays a little further back. Today’s are better than before. They are better able than before to do many things. Before, a side did not make a game change from side to side of the field. Schuster or Andoni did it, who had a great ball displacement, but now any player does it ”.
For the former Athletic defender, things have also changed. “But I think that López Ufarte, Satrústegui or Zamora would now also play at Real,” he says, and delves into the transformations of football: “A central is asked the same before than now, to anticipate, to be forceful. But everything has changed. You have to be careful even to jump headlong, with your hands close to your body so that you don’t get a card. And now all the teams are playing to come out from behind, even if they are not trained. 90% of those teams, before reaching the center of the field, have lost the ball. If you don’t, you’re a garrulous. Now we only talk about possession ”. According to López Ufarte, “it is curious to see that one side rises and the other finishes off. Before it was unthinkable. If one side went up, the other stayed. The defender was defense ”. Goiko replies: “That is good too, that the player has freedom.” “Now”, the San Sebastian answered again, “but the problem is that you can then go back down to your post.”
In Bizkaia and in Gipuzkoa defeat is feared. On both sides, losing a final against the eternal rival is a terrifying possibility. “But thinking about losing is more a matter of the fans. Players don’t think about that. If they lose, they think about the next game, ”says López Ufarte. “It’s true, the players don’t have time to think about that, but if you lose it’s a bitch,” Goikoetxea ditch. “And in this case with more reason for the pique”, adds the one who was left-handed winger of the Real.
Of course, victory is the horizon dreamed of on both sides: “In Bilbao we think we are going to win. The beautiful city is full of Athletic flags ”, says the former defender. “In San Sebastián there is also a lot of atmosphere,” says the forward. “That’s the beauty of it,” they both conclude.
The weight of the purple falls on the two technicians who lead Athletic and Real, Marcelino and Imanol. Is the burden heavier for either of you? “The responsibility of the two coaches is the same,” says López Ufarte. “I compare Imanol with Ormaetxea, who was a very quiet man. La Real is under construction. Imanol has gotten off to a good start. All he has to do is balance the team and try to play the game he’s used to, catch up with Athletic in terms of aggressiveness ”. However, according to Goiko, “the pressure that Garitano could have is different than that of Marcelino, because you are more involved if you are from home.”
“Real Sociedad has always brought us a lot of problems throughout our lives. It is a complicated team. I love Merino now, Isak is very effective, and Oyarzabal of course. An uncomfortable match but we are not going to forgive him ”, challenges Goikoetxea. “They will have to do a lot of things well to win us. The important thing is to play as a team ”, replies López Ufarte.
The final has been played for a long time, also among former players.