A final like no other: la Real, Athletic and the biggest Basque derby ever | Sid Lowe

Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao’s delayed Copa del Rey final will be an historic occasion – even without any fans to witness it

They have waited a long time for this, just not for it to be like this. Saturday night’s Copa del Rey final between Real Sociedad and Athletic Club, the Basque derby staged almost 1,000km south in Seville, should have been played 12 months ago. Instead, it was postponed by the pandemic and a decision that defines these two historic representatives of a unique place, a country: together, they refused to play without their people. But it’s not that, or not only that.

It’s not just that this match, the match, will take place a season late and, with supporters still not allowed in, at an empty stadium. It is that the 60-year-old barge upon which Athletic Bilbao last celebrated in 1984 has been fixed just in case; that Luis Arconada, the most recent Real captain to lift a trophy, did so three years after that; and that this is the first time they have met in a cup final. It’s not just a year they’ve waited for this, it’s more than a hundred of them.

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