Cup final trip report from BilbaoBy: Jack | June 2nd, 2012
Accepting that getting tickets for the Spanish cup final would be near impossible, I went for the next best thing.
Before leaving for Bilbao one of my Basque friends (who I met in Manchester) tried to get me a ticket to watch the game on the screens in San Mamés. However, despite the stadium holding 40,000, they quickly sold out. He assured me though that there were going to be several screens across the city and of course plenty of bars showing the game.
Whether I saw the game on a big screen or in a bar, just to be in the city around hundreds of Athletizales and experience the atmosphere would be great. There was also the prospect if Athletic could end their 28 year trophy drought of the Gabarra - the cup being paraded on a barge on the city’s river.
With the game at 10pm I spent the day wandering across the city. The club museum was closed due to the screens being installed but stalls were already being set up outside the stadium. Walking round the city I could see Bilbao was ready for the final. Most shops seemed to have either a red and white flag or a window display and many people (including those at work) were wearing Athletic shirts.
After a few hours chilling at the hostel (it was a hot day) I left just after 8pm. With over an hour and a half before the game lots of fans were already around the city and the atmosphere was building. If you’ve ever seen a game at San Mamés it was like matchday but times ten. It seemed the whole city would be watching the match either on a big screen, in a bar or at home.
I had originally planned to see the game in Plaza Nuevo in the Casco Viejo, but upon crossing the river on the way to the old town I saw to my left a screen erected near the stage at Arenal and headed there. There was still over an hour to go but it was already busy and starting to fill up as fans gathered with their bottles of kalimotxo. A band was playing music on the stage by the screen and fans were having their faces painted red and white. Soon it turned to dusk and the game was finally upon us.
As you all know our cup dream ended very quickly. Straight from the start Barça attacked our goal and nearly scored within thirty seconds. They didn’t relent and a couple minutes later had their goal. They had clearly learnt from Atlético Madrid and our cup final defeat two weeks ago.
However where Atléti sat back on their lead, Barça went for more and 20 minutes and two goals later the game was all but over. Some fans left but most remained. The team performance improved and with a very valid penalty shout and Ibai’s second half one-on-one chance it could have been 2-3 with 40 minutes to go, but it wasn’t to be. All but the very optimistic of rojiblancos could see a comeback wasn’t going to happen and when Llorente was withdrawn the defeat was confirmed.
Fans left disappointed but not angry and in truth had likely half-expected the defeat. There was going to be no Gabarra and the long wait for silverware would go on. However, the fans’ crazied passion for the club remained and the Basque chant/saying Beti Zurekin is as true as ever – always with you.