Lourdes Alonso, with an old-fashioned shirt and ball. / FRANCIS SILVA

La Rosaleda's little girl is still loyal to Malaga

80 years later, Lourdes Alonso recalls what it was like to perform the ceremonial kick-off at the official opening of the stadium

PEDRO LUIS ALONSO

It happened on Sunday 14 September 1941,and at that time people referred to the Martiricos stadium as the Segalerva and it was normal for the local team to still be called Malacitano, although that summer it had adopted the name of the city. La Rosaleda stadium was officially inaugurated with a friendly match between Malaga and Seville. All the local authorities were there, and all eyes were on a little girl in a pretty dress as she performed the ceremonial kick-off. Eight decades later Lourdes Alonso, the protagonist of our story, is still living in Malaga and has fond memories of those moments. She is practically considered the godmother of this stadium nowadays.

"I got to do it because my father was the mayor of Malaga then, and it was supposed to be my mother who did it but the poor thing was very pregnant (with Lourdes' brother Luis Ignacio, one of the couple's 12 children) so it was decided that her eldest daughter should do it instead," she explains.

Lourdes, like most girls, liked nice things and she still remembers her outfit, which doesn't show up well in the black and white photos of the period. "It was pale pink with white threads, that they bought for me, and I had gloves and socks to match," she says.

At that age - she was ten at the time - the footballers seemed enormous. And it wasn't just any two players that accompanied her. One was the captain of the Malacitano team, Chales, a legend in local football. He went on to become a coach, and two generations of footballers followed in his footsteps (his son and grandson): Antonio Iznata and Raúl Iznata. The other, for Seville, was Guillermo Campanal, who also played for Spain at that time.

They are no longer with us, and nor are most of the people in those black and white images, because 80 years have passed now. Maybe at the time Lourdes was not really aware of the importance of what was happening. This was the inauguration of the stadium that belonged to a club which was historic in Spanish football, in a major city.

"I remember that they put a little hat and some gloves on me, and pushed me out onto the pitch, because I didn't want to go... it was Rafael Betés, who was my father's secretary then, who pushed me," she says.

"At the time I didn't realise what it was all about, but now I feel very proud that people remember me," she says, modestly, because she was invited to the event that Malaga was planning to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the stadium. It was cancelled because a celebration would have been inappropriate due to the fire which had been devastating the Sierra Bermeja for days and led to several places being evacuated.

Proud at ninety

"I don't have much enthusiasm for things these days, and I didn't think anyone would even remember me now, but it seems I was wrong. I have felt very proud and excited for days, and I don't mind admitting it," says this 90-year-old, looking curiously at the photos that accompany this report, which show that the stands were not very high and there were few women present.

She only recognises the former parish priest from San Felipe Neri, Luis Vera, who was also the chaplain of the Malaga team, blessing the pitch. Also present were the secretary of the Spanish Federation, Sánchez Ocaña; the president of the Andalusian Federation, Antonio Calderón, and the president of the Andalusian College of Referees, who was officiating at that historic match.

Lourdes Alonso has been back to La Rosaleda in recent years. She was there for the 70th and 75th anniversaries of the stadium, which actually has two every 12 months (one in September to mark the official inauguration, and the other in spring for the actual opening, which had taken place a few months earlier).

"I wasn't very interested in football years ago, but I am now. I follow everything that the team does, whether they win, or whether they lose. Let's see if they can go up to First Division soon," she says.

She comes from a family of football fans, from her father and her brothers (one, Pedro Luis, managed the Malaga Federation and was acting president of the club in 1956) to many of her nephews. Her two grandchildren, Alejandro and Patricia, however, are more enthusiastic about basketball.