The 'magia' of the Copa del Rey
The trophy, dropped by Sergio Ramos, was patched up and it's now as misshapen as the whole event
Friday, 12 January 2024, 13:50
Friday, 12 January 2024, 13:50
The Spanish FA Cup does have the magic of the English equivalent; it's just a different kind of magic.
When Sergio Ramos famously dropped the brand-new Copa del Rey trophy from the top of a double-decker bus and fragmented it under the wheels in 2011, it just summed up the competition.
It is the oldest football competition in the country, preceding La Liga. The history reflects the mood of the country. It has been the King's Cup, Madrid Council Cup, President's Cup, General's Cup and now King's Cup again. The only thing that's traditional is the absolute mayhem and mystery.
You always know what you are going to get with the FA Cup: a freezing third-round day, money-spinning replays, the odd upset on the way to a glorious event in the Wembley sunshine.
In Spain, it is complicated. The trophy dropped by the Real Madrid captain was the 12th different trinket. They patched it up and it is as misshapen as the whole event.
For example, you may remember that the 2020 final was held in 2021. It was a historic all-Basque affair and the organisers wanted to hold the game back until fans could attend. A 350-day delay still didn't allow supporters to beat Covid restrictions.
One of my favourite games to commentate on was the 2022 version when Valencia and Real Betis saw off the big clubs to make the final. The twist in this tale was the 10pm kick-off time to beat the heat. As the game ventured into a penalty shoot-out, the trophy lift didn't happen until the early hours of the morning. How very Spanish!
Real Betis won in 2022 and they must be the only club happy that the final is held at La Cartuja in Sevilla. The stadium, originally built for athletics, is unpopular with football fans - but it is now regarded as the national stadium.
Who will make it there in 2024? The odds are stacked in the favour of the big clubs. A reinvention means that the competition is seeded. Lower-league municipal clubs get to host teams from above them in the pyramid. The four clubs heading to the Supercopa final-four don't enter the competition until the "Round of 32" which of course is the week before they head to Saudi Arabia for another uniquely organised competition.
There were very few shocks. Fourth-tier Barbastro only lost by a single goal to Barcelona, Tenerife beat Las Palmas in the Canary Island derby and Alavés overcame Real Betis. It could be their year - they'd won 10-0 in a previous round.
The Copa does deliver some crazy stories. Floodlight failure meant that a capacity crowd at Unionistas de Salamanca's game with Villarreal was abandoned on Sunday night and resumed on Monday evening. The capacity crowd returned to see the third-tier team knock out the club who habitually frequent European competitions in a penalty shoot-out. The prize is a draw with the stars of Barcelona. Typically, the day and kick-off time is yet to be determined, although this time around it is only a week away. How very Copa del Rey!
The one truly magical moment occurred when 16-year-old Aaron Ochoa Moloney made his first start for Malaga in the cup against Real Sociedad. It was a 0-1 defeat but a day the Irish youth international, born in Andalucía, is never going to forget. Try telling Aaron that the Copa isn't mágica!
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