King’s Cup returns to Catalonia – this time with even more (inevitable?) controversy

Similar to all other big Football nations in Europe, in Spain the cup is considered less important than the championship. Nevertheless, winning the cup surely is something special, as members of the Royal Family (usually the king) present the cup to the winners.

That seems to have an additional motivational effect on players from regions which are striving for independence, namely Basques and Catalans: The record winners are the FC Barcelona with 26 titles and Athletic Bilbao with 23 titles, both winning significantly more often than “the Royals” Real Madrid (18 titles). However, the Copa del Rey competition recently has seen a lot more variety than the Primera División when it comes to winning teams: since 2001 the Cup has been won by nine different teams whereas there were only three different teams winning the league.

The combination of Basques and Catalans in the King’s Cup final also creates possibilities for polemics and scandals, as the 2009 final in Valencia showed, which was played by Athletic Bilbao and the FC Barcelona. Traditionally, the Spanish national anthemn is played before the game to honour the King. As soon as the anthemn started to play, many Catalan and Basque fans turned their back to the King and started booing. The real scandal, however, was that the Spanish TV did not show what was going on and cut to reporters in Bilbao and Barcelona instead. At half time they showed the anthemn, without sound.

This years final again saw the Basques from Bilbao and the FC Barcelona in the final, which happened to take place in an even more delicate location: in Madrid. The King himself was not present this time, but Prince Felipe was there in his place. The final Bilbao vs Barcelona was a good omen for the Catalans, who won their last title in the above mentioned final in 2009 also against Bilbao. On the other hand, last year’s lost final against arch rivals Real Madrid sealed by Christiano Ronaldo’s goal in extra time was one of the toughest defeats in the last years.

As expected the match caused some controversial reactions again, such as a chorus of whistling during the national anthemn.  To add to the controversy, sources appeared stating that the police confiscated Basque and Catalan flags and banners before the game and apparently even removed people who managed to smuggle a flag into the stadium, from the game. All this happened while the right wing Falange (which was the party of the nationalist dictator Franco) organised a march in the centre of Madrid during which swastikas and all kinds of Nazi symbols were on display.

At least, in terms of football it was a good game. This year there was no doubt who would win the final. Bilbao never looked like they could keep up with Barça’s tiqui taca. The first chance 30 seconds into the game should have been the lead for Barcelona but the fans merely had to wait another 2 minutes before Pedro scored his first goal using the confusion in Bilbao’s defense to his advantage. A nice combination of Iniesta and Messi increased Barcelona’s lead before Pedro’s second goal decided the game in minute 25.

Xavi, who was captaining the team during the match received the Copa from Prince Felipe. Puyol, normally the team’s Captain but currently injured, insisted that Xavi who captained the team during the match take the Copa first, in a somewhat different fashion than e.g. some of Chelsea’s players when they were presented with the Champions League trophy here (1:50 – 2:10).

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