Luis Rubiales “The Priority Is For The Cup Final To Be Played With Fans”
Aitor Elizegi championed a myriad of ideas during his campaign for Athletic Club president. Among them was the goal of seeing the club more involved in the decision making for La Liga and the Spanish Football Federation. As one of the league’s founding clubs, Elizegi felt as though Athletic had not been as well-represented in Madrid as the Basques deserved.
Since winning the presidential election, Elizegi has joined the Board of Directors for RFEF president Luis Rubiales and the two have built a strong relationship. “I talk to Aitor Elizegi a lot,” Rubiales told Telebilbao in a recent interview. “He is always in good spirits and we have had a great connection from the beginning. I think we understand football a similar way. He’s very involved with us.”
Rubiales had words of high praise for Elizegi. “He’s a man who has shown me honesty and tremendous values,” he continued. “He’s educated, always building, and always proposing ideas. It’s very difficult to hear a bad word or bad gesture about him. I have a great connection with Aitor Elizegi.”
With Bilbao set to be one of the host cities for the European championship, Rubiales and Elizegi have had even more projects to work together on. EURO 2020 may have been rescheduled to next summer due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but the RFEF president is excited about hosting international matches at San Mamés.
“We have visited San Mamés a number of times and when we leave we always boast a lot about the stadium. The Cathedral is incredible. The new stadium has been built very much in the Athletic style. It’s evolved, but maintains the essence. It’s been a success. It’s one of the best stadiums in the world and it’s very enjoyable to go there. We are looking forward to the European championship which has now been moved. I’m sure the stadium will be full. We’re going to feel at home.”
Apart from the National Team, Rubiales is also responsible for organizing the Copa del Rey final which was originally scheduled to take place on 18 April before being postponed. Although it’s not possible to set a new date right now Rubiales speaks regularly with Elizegi and Real Sociedad president Jokin Aperribay.
“We have been in constant communication about what will happen for the Copa del Rey final. We will not make a decisions without first listening to Elizegi and Aperribay or to the presidents of the Gipuzkoa or Bizkaia Federations. I don’t want to make any decisions without their involvement.”
The possibility of playing the final behind closed doors has been mentioned, though the Spanish Federation and both clubs have no intention of that happening. Rubiales recognizes just how important this game will be for Athletic and Real Sociedad.
“The priority is for the Cup final to be played with fans. In this case we have two clubs who haven’t won the title for years and have two tremendous groups of fans. If everything goes well we want to play the final with fans. It would be a wonderful thing for Seville to be made a landing spot for Basques.”
Athletic and Real Sociedad have never met in the Cup final which makes this year a truly historic fixture. With everything that’s happened because of the pandemic, Rubiales is hopeful that the Copa del Rey will be a time for everyone to come together in memory of those who have been affected by the coronavirus.
“It’s going to be a very special and emotional day because the Cup final is the most beautiful game in our country. The final should always be played with the fans and we would only talk about playing it behind closed doors if there was no other way, but we are not contemplating that right now. After what is happening we will remember all those who are no longer with us, our health workers, and the solidarity of our society.”
It’s hard to imagine that the two Basques sides would have advanced to the final if not for the changes to the format this year. “I have high respect for all the clubs that have participated in the Cup,” said Rubiales. “For me it has been the most beautiful competition that I can remember with humble fields full of emotion and goals in the last minutes.” Athletic haven’t lifted the trophy since 1984 and are determined to finally take out La Gabarra after too long of a wait.