Iñigo Martinez “Playing The Cup Final Without Fans Would Be Wrong”
UEFA’s decision to postpone EURO2020 to next summer will theoretically give domestic football leagues the necessary time to complete their respective seasons. While most players agree with moving the tournament, it’s still somewhat disappointing for those who were looking forward to playing. Athletic defender Iñigo Martinez was expected to be in the Spain squad and told Radio Nervión that he will work hard to keep his place next year.
“There was a clear option for me to play, but it was a logical decision to postpone the tournament,” said Martinez. “It’s a shame because of what the European championship represents, although health is more important. I believe I had serious options of being in the squad, but I will try to be there next year which is one of the things that every footballer would like.”
Martinez was in line to possibly start for Spain due to his incredible form with Athletic. The defender acknowledged that he’s played well at the club level and hopes to be even better when football resumes.
“I think I’ve been consistent, both with injuries and in games, and at the moment I feel good. We’ve seen how strong the defense has been this season. Right now we have to rest for the league and return even stronger. We will return with more strength and freshness than we had. Let’s see if we can continue to improve and climb in the league.”
The club has given the players individualized training plans to follow at home during Spain’s lockdown, though it can’t replace actual sessions at Lezama. Martinez says that not being able to go to the facilities is hard and that everyone has to be responsible for their own fitness right now.
“It’s been a little strange for us who are used to going to Lezama every day and working with our teammates. When they take it away from you it’s like taking a toy from a child. We have to do the work that the club has given us because that’s all we have right now. The dietitians have also sent us plans for what we should eat and what we shouldn’t eat. We’re professionals and we have to eat healthy and stay active. If we don’t, that’s when you lose your shape. After being still for so long we will have to do a mini-preseason when we come back then focus on the league and the Cup.”
Martinez admitted that Athletic’s path to the Copa del Rey final has been full of challenges. The Lions overcame a red card and two penalty shootouts, along with eliminating Barcelona, but now there is concern that the match might have to take place behind closed doors. For the 28-year-old, not having the fans in attendance would just be wrong.
“It’s been a crazy path with moments that other teams wouldn’t have been able to turn around. We did and it brought us joy. In the end we are where we wanted to be and now we have to finish it. The final must be won. We neither want nor expect the Cup final to be played without fans. We both, ourselves and the fans, deserve to enjoy this match and playing it without the fans wouldn’t be the same. It would be wrong.”
With Real Sociedad having also reached the final it will be a unique game for Martinez against his former club. “This is what I’ve wanted the whole time and I’m happy about it,” said the defender. “I have friends and former teammates there who deserve it and who hav spent years trying to be in such a situation. It won’t be easy because of our opponent, but we are also a hard team to play against.”
Martinez has yet to score a goal since joining Athletic, but maybe he could change that in the Cup final against La Real. “I’ve been looking for the goal since I came to Athletic,” he admitted. “I will continue looking for it, but it’s not something I’m obsessing over. My job is to defend well. That’s what they pay me to do and that’s what I have dedicated myself to doing.”
Although La Liga wants to finish the season before 30 June, when player contracts expire, the Spanish Football Federation are willing to reschedule the Cup final at an even later date if necessary. Both clubs, as well as the RFEF, are committed to playing the final with fans in attendance and will do everything possible to make that happen.