Better back Betis

Better back Betis


Captained by 40-year-old Joaquín, the club lifted their fourth-ever major after 17 years

Friday, 29 April 2022, 11:51


You really couldn't get more Real Betis than winning a penalty shoot-out in the early hours of the morning and then partying until the sun rose.

The club which prides itself on representing fans from all walks of life and disrupting the cosy life of the establishment clubs never does anything the conventional way.

The Copa del Rey trophy was lifted just after 1am by a captain who is approaching his 41st birthday. Joaquín truly is "the oldest winger in town".

The club's previous major came when he was just starting out on a glorious career 17 years ago. This bookends a career of one of football's entertainers and he rightly led the wild partying of the Green and Whites.

For some Spanish clubs, the Copa is an unwelcome distraction - a major that is hidden on the CVs of the big stars of the big clubs. For Real Betis, it was only their fourth trophy and was celebrated as fervently as any Champions League in Madrid or Barcelona.

Manuel Pellegrini unified a squad of "nearly men" and made them winners. The likes of Nabil Fekir, who was destined for a move to Liverpool if it wasn't for a dodgy knee or agent, depending on which account you read.

Héctor Bellerín reminded everyone that he wasn't in Spain for a holiday when he arrived from Arsenal in the summer. He dedicated the winner's medal to his dad who used to take him to Betis matches as a kid.

The man-of-the-match in the final was a striker with a hipster beard that couldn't disguise a constant smile. Borja Iglesias was born for this edition of the Copa del Rey. He finished the tournament's top scorer, hit a stoppage time winner in the semi and hammered a header in the final. This is undoubtedly the peak of his career.

For Pellegrini, it was the latest in his collection of accolades. In his 50-year football career, he has souvenirs from Chile, Ecuador, Argentina and won the English Premier League and League Cup. He'd taken Malaga and Villarreal on great adventures, yet this was his first trophy with a Spanish club. His short spell at Real Madrid didn't bring success.

He's a progressive coach who has managed in six different countries. And he showed just how progressive by donning a Kappa tracksuit for the final. Hipster at the age of 68.

The club jokingly tweeted that his only comment after the final was "Let's concentrate on Getafe". Yet Pellegrini is serious. Betis are just four points behind Atlético with five games remaining.

They have an extra couple of days to recover from their festivities; if they can win the next Liga game, it sets them up for a showdown with Barcelona as both clubs chase a Champions League placing.

If you were looking for a similar club in English football, you could go for Newcastle United. Passionate, long-suffering fans, representing the working class who get little dividend for investing their hard-earned money into the striped-shirted footballers.

Newcastle United have ambitions, yet Real Betis are living the dream after years of slumber. The adventure may not have ended just yet and the Champions League could beckon. It would be a popular destination for travelling fans.

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