Stephen Brandt (@StephenCBrandt) - This article was originally published in FUTBOLISTA ISSUE 01 in November 2019.
One of the best clubs in Spain has always been Athletic Bilbao, where they have made
most of their fame in the Copa Del Rey (Generalissimo). Up until Barcelona’s emergence Athletic Club was the standard bearer for the competition. To add extra spice to the competition for a good majority of its existence it acted as the national title for the country. The 1969 Copa Generalisimo Final was just celebrated again at Athletic Club’s stadium just recently here in 2019.
The 1960’s in Spain is during the reign of General Franco, however this wasn’t a
completely down time for the country. There was an economic boom that brought the country into the industrialized world, and brought people into the country at a great rate. On the football side the league was coming off the dominance of Real Madrid on the continent. The lesser clubs in the mind of the government in Madrid, weren’t as lucky. General Franco was a Real Madrid supporter, and saw Barcelona as the enemy. In fact, the board of Barcelona was wiped out by pro-Franco forces. And we can see why Catalonia has wanted to leave Spain for the longest time. The 1960s for the Basque Club was one of the few low points in the clubs history. For all the great times, and the Copa Del Generalisimo that they won, the 60’s were a barren time. The only chance for silverware was the 1969 final.
The manager of the side was a former midfielder for the club in Rafael Iriondo, who had played for the club for thirteen years 1940-1953. While he was at the club he had an amazing partnership with Augustin Gainza, Jose Luis Panizo, and Telmo Zarra. This group of legends brought the club the 1943 La Liga Title and four Copa Del Generalisimos.
Elche their opponent on the other hand haven’t been as lucky. Their golden period for a lack of better words was during the sixties and seventies. They finished fifth in La Liga in 1963-64. That’s what brings us to the topic at hand. Elche’s manager at the time was Roque Maspoli, who was the goalkeeper for the Uruguay national team that won the 1950 World Cup. Rogue also was a stalworth with Penarol at the time. Juan Asensi the Elche midfielder turned his time at Elche into a big time more to Barcelona.
This was also a coming back to the norm for Athletic Club. The Basque side was
expected for a good majority of time to be in the final, and win it. They had won their 20th Copa in 1958 with a 2-0 win over Real Madrid, but then had to wait 11 more years to win their next one. In between those years Athletic Club would suffer defeats at the hands of Real Zaragoza in 1966, and Valencia in 1967.
Going into the match in Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu on June 15, 1969 it came out from
the Athletic Club’s Anton Arrieta, one of the five attackers who would always start, was
scheduled to miss the match due to an illness. However he didn’t miss the match. Throughout most of the match Elche dictated most of the play, but weren’t able to break the lead as legendary goalkeeper Jose Angel Iribar deflected all the shots that came towards him. The match was decided on an 82nd minute goal by the aforementioned Arrieta. This was after Athletic Club was able to take control of the match in the 77th minute.
The irony of this is General Franco was all about Madrid, and didn’t look too highly upon the Basque’s or any other parts of the country, had to hand the trophy adorning his name to Athletic captain Koldo Etxeberria. Athletic Club would have another dry spell in the Copa, not making it or winning it until the 1972-1973 season against CD Castellon featuring a young Vincente Del Bosque.