Luis De La Fuente “Playing The Final With Fans Is The Ideal Situation”
Athletic’s decision to postpone the Copa del Rey final until fans can attend has been widely celebrated by players and fans alike. Even former presidents and coaches have supported the stance, including current Spain U21 manager Luis De La Fuente. After graduating from Lezama, De La Fuente would go on to make 233 appearances for the club and was part of the 1984 team that lifted the last Cup title.
De La Fuente would go on to coach Bilbao Athletic on two separate occasions before eventually taking over as the Spain U19 manager followed by the U21 team. Speaking with Radio Marca on Tuesday he agreed with Athletic that the final shouldn’t be played without fans.
“Hopefully we can celebrate it with the fans because, far from what the Cup final means in terms of being a football event, it would represent that we have overcome this situation and pandemic. It should be a party, which it already is, but also after having lived these tremendously hard months it would be a reason for celebration.”
Athletic and Real Sociedad had the choice to play the final this season, behind closed doors, with the winner earning European qualification. That won’t be the case with the match being postponed past 5 August, but De La Fuente says it was the right decision.
“Playing the final with the fans is the ideal situation. In any sporting even the fans are vital. Those of us who have had the opportunity to be in the Cup final know what it represents, what it represents in Bilbao, but I think it’s even more important to have the feeling of overcoming what we are experiencing now.”
The magnitude of the final alone is enough to warrant waiting for fans, but De La Fuente highlights that doing so is also appropriate given the battle against Covid-19. “Hopefully we can celebrate an event of this nature with the public because it would be the best news for all of society and for us.” In light of the health crisis of the past two months, Athletic have chosen to put fans first.