KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- A historic wrong in Spanish football has finally been put right.
On July 18, 1937, Levante FC defeated Valencia 1-0 in the Sarria stadium in Barcelona to win the Copa de Espana Libre. Their success was never recognised. Until now.
The Copa de Espana Libre was the reduced, designated continuation of the national Spanish cup. But by then the country was in bloody turmoil: a nationalist rebellion led by General Francisco Franco against the Republican government was marching inexorably across Spain.
Three months before the Copa final bombing by warplanes of the German Condor Legion, commanded by Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen, had obliterated the town of Guernica; one month before the final Franco’s troops had captured Bilbao. Madrid and Barcelona remained defiant. For the time being.
This was the backdrop against which a restricted league championship, the Liga Mediterránea and the Copa de Espana Libre, were organised. Barcelona won the eight-club league. The top four clubs were due to play out the Copa. Barcelona sent their players on tour to Mexico and the United States instead so Levante, who had finished fifth in the league, took their place.
The four-team copa, featured Levante, Valencia, Espanol and Girona, played each other in June and July 1937. The top two teams met in the final. Here first-placed Levante Football Club (predecessor of the current Levante UD) defeated runners-up Valencia by a single goal.
After the civil war the Franco sporting establishment refused to recognise the Copa de Espana Libre, also known as the Trofeo Presidente de la Republica.
For 70 years Levante pursued recognition in vain. In 2007 the Congress of Deputies supported their claim which was renewed in 2019. Not until last Saturday did the Spanish federation formally approve recognition.
Hence a replica cup was finally handed over before a 1-1 home draw against Zaragoza in LaLiga on Friday night. Veteran captain Vicente Iborra received the trophy from federation president Jose Luis Rubiales, himself a former Levante player.
The Levante team, usually kitted out in red and blue, wore a blue-and-white strip similar to that of the 1930s. The club have adopted it as their change strip . . . in honour of old heroes, gone but not forgotten.