Athletic Players Prefer To Play The Cup Final With Fans Even If It Means Missing Out On Europe
Athletic are facing a serious dilemma. In light of the health crisis, UEFA have ruled that the Copa del Rey final must be played before early August for the winner to be awarded European qualification. If the match were to take place this season it must be done behind closed doors, or there’s still an option for it to be postponed until next year which would result in the last European place being given to the club that finishes 7th in the La Liga table.
Over the past few weeks both clubs have made it clear that they don’t want the final to be held without fans. However, postponing the historic match until next season would likely cause Athletic to miss out on Europe. The Lions currently sit five points off of 7th place and would have to make up that ground in the remaining 11 games to qualify for the Europa League.
The Spanish Football Federation are leaving the decision up to the clubs and, in a very real sense, Athletic must choose between playing for Europe without fans or playing the final with fans next season with the risk of missing out on Europe. The club has yet to make a formal statement but players are already starting to weigh in.
“I prefer to play the final with everyone, that is, with the fans,” Ibai Gómez told COPE on Thursday evening. “We have all come this far and we will all win together. I prefer that option over playing the Europa League. For me it’s a dream to win a title and take out La Gabarra.”
Iñaki Williams is also in favor of postponing the final until next season. “It would be very difficult for me to imagine the final without an audience,” he told El Hormiguero. “It’s a final for all Basque football and we all deserve to enjoy it. I’m confident that it can be played with the fans.”
Missing out on Europe would likely cost Athletic around €12 million in revenue but, for many players and fans, not being able to experience the historic final together or possibly celebrate winning the title would be a far greater loss.