Following Friday’s 0-3 win in the Copa del Rey final, Catalan paper Mundo Deportivo picked up a touching story about one 8 year old Bilbao fan’s encounter with Carles Puyol and the flag that united the two of them. The following is a translation of the article, the original can be found here.
It was a Basque flag that was being waved by Carles Puyol in the zone where the fans of Athletic sportingly applauded Barça while the blaugrana squad walked with the Copa del Rey trophy around the pitch of the Vicente Calderón stadium.
The captain, respectful of all rivals, but especially thoughtful when it comes to Basque clubs, knotted the flag around his waist and displayed it next to the Catalan Senyera during the entire celebration. But the Basque flag Puyol carried was not just any flag: it belonged to Ibai, an 8 year old boy who realized as the minutes passed what he was on the verge of losing. It was with this flag with that he had cheered on Athletic in San Mamés alongside his father, the flag with which they traveled to Manchester to experience a great night at Old Trafford, the flag which had wiped their tears in Bucharest and in Madrid, but also the flag which he has exhibited with pride during his trips to other matches and which he wanted to continue displaying at the future finals of his beloved team. For a boy who has witnessed the sensational season of the red and whites, overcoming the disappointment of the first few games, he does not have the same doubts that assail the adults: for him this season is not unrepeatable, they will reach more finals and Athletic will win.
Will Carles Puyol keep the Basque flag?
Ibai was excited to see Puyol on the pitch with his flag, but when he missed his flag he became disconsolate and began to cry. And his father, because for someone from Bilbao nothing is impossible, understood that this was a challenge that would have to be dealt with. The two went to the area where, after 1 in the morning, the players from both teams headed to their respective buses. Among a swarm of people behind the fences and police horses, he tried to get himself heard until Athletic’s bus driver understood his message. The message was then passed to the driver of Barça’s bus. And between the two they explained to Puyol what had happened. Ibai and his father, with the permission of both clubs to pass through the police barrier, had already reached the captain of Barça, but the most important thing was still missing. Had he saved the flag? Had he lost it in the locker room festivities or given it away to another Athletic fan at random?
And when Puyol got off of the buss with the flag in his hand, Ibai’s face lit up for the first time since Pedro’s early goal in the final. Puyi gave him a kiss, a hug, and posed with him for photographs, he was so affectionate that the child was moved. He could not say a word, just trembled, but his gaze gave heartfelt thanks. And one day in the not so distant future, when he celebrates a title with Athletic, he will remember Puyol as a friend, never as a rival.
Source: Mundo Deportivo; Images: MD and REUTERS/Felix Ordonez