If you are told about a tournament that is named as Campeonato de Espana – Copa de Su Majestad el Rey de Futbol, you may perhaps find it difficult to relate it to the 115th edition of Spanish football’s most prestigious yearly event, the Copa Del Rey. The tournament has reached the last stage with FC Barcelona and Deportivo Alaves making it to the final. However, in the sports crazy Spain, it is kind of odd that they cannot decide on the venue for the Copa Del Rey final between these two teams. On the other hand, the date for the final is fixed as May 27. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi wants the final at Santiago Bernabeu but the Real Madrid bosses wouldn’t allow that. Therefore, the decision on the match venue is still in the limbo.
Elsewhere in the world, the venue for any final is decided months in advance but Copa Del Rey has always been an exception. In the Golden-Age of 17th century Spain, the world was attracted to the European nation’s extraordinary achievements in painting and literature. That honor has now gone to sports beginning with the latter half of 20th century. Of all sports, where Spaniards excel, football is the most popular. Besides; Spain also have living tennis legend Rafael Nadal, three-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez and women’s badminton World Champion Carolina Marin. Spain’s basketball team is regarded only second to World & Olympic champions USA. Other sportsmen, who have brought honor to Spain, are; Fernando Alonso, who won back-to-back Formula-1 World Championship in 2005 and 2006 and celebrated cyclists Carlos Sastre, Oscar Pereiro and Alberto Contador, who brought the Tour de France trophy to their home nation. Spain is also credited with hosting the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and 1982 FIFA World Cup. They also won the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted in South Africa. For a nation so accomplished in sports, it is very surprising that Spanish Football Federation cannot tell us about the venue of Copa Del Rey final.
This year’s Copa Del Rey story was not about FC Barcelona. There was no surprise in the Blaugrana making it to their 39th final of the event, although Atletico de Madrid didn’t make things easy for them in the two-legged semifinals. Barcelona have also won Copa Del Rey in the last two seasons and therefore, their reaching another final wasn’t a big news. The real revelation was Depotivo Alaves. It was a huge achievement by a recently promoted club from Basque Country, who would be playing in the final of a major tournament only for the second time in their 96-year history. In the annals of Spanish football, there wouldn’t have been another instance of such contrasting finalists. Barcelona have won virtually every possible title in football competitions while Alaves’ only winning trophy thus far is in Spain’s second division. Alaves making it to the summit games was unthinkable in the beginning of the season but out of 83 teams, they have amazingly forked out their place in the final with a 1-0 home win in second-leg semifinal over Celta Vigo on February 8.
However, the bigger and messier story is about searching for the Copa del Rey final venue. The Spanish Football Federation have a strange way of doing things. Every year, they wait for the two finalists before declaring the match venue. This is weird because elsewhere, venues for the final games are decided months in advance, if not years. UEFA fixes the venues for Champions and Europa League finals well in advance. In other countries like France, Germany, Italy and England, stadia are earmarked for summit games without a shred of doubt but Spain is different. Barcelona and Alaves have their choices but stadium owners have their own problems. Barca’s choice of Bernabeu is unacceptable to Real Madrid because they don’t want a repeat of 1997, when Barcelona won the title there and their fans sang the Cule hymn much to the chagrin of Madrid people. Alaves would prefer Atletico de Madrid’s home venue San Mames, because it is closer for their fans. However, Atletico have already scheduled the Guns N’ Roses concert on May 30, three days ahead of the final and they would need the time for preparing the stadium for the event. Atletico have instead offered the use of Vicente Calderon. Another possible venue is Mestalla, which has hosted three of the last eight Copa del Rey finals. The RFEF hasn’t reached any decision yet and it will need crossing our fingers for a while before the shoddy issue is decisively sorted out to the acceptance of both teams.