Yet the Real Madrid legend of the 1950s and 1960s is exactly who Levante’s female midfielder Alba Blasco first mentioned in Tarragona earlier this month. Blasco clearly has a vast knowledge of the game, and a particular love of those who play with flair and skill.
“I support Real Madrid, but I love football in general, and Levante as well, obviously,” said Blasco, who plays for Levante in LaLiga Genuine, a tournament created by Spain’s top flight for people with intellectual disabilities.
“In South Africa, Spain won the World Cup in 2010, you had Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas who passed the ball and Iniesta scored (the winner against the Netherlands in the final). I like teams that play as a whole, I play in the midfield or on the side. I like Barcelona and how they handle the ball. I like players like Iniesta and Xavi (of Barcelona) a, I love them because they play with a lot of teamwork in the midfieldnd Isco (of Real Madrid).”
LaLiga Genuine is a unique competition that has its origins in the province of Tarragona and whose organisers hope will eventually spreadacross the globe. A local team, La Nastic, already had a team with intellectual disabilities, and knocked on the door of La Liga president Javier Tebas to ask him about creating a competition.
Eighteen teams from La Liga’s structures have already come on board for the tournament’s first year – players have to be older than 16, either male or female, and must have an intellectual disability of at least 33%.
Clubs are required to integrate the teams into their structures, to provide coaching staff and support staff, and to treat their teams exactly as they would any other base-level team at the club. At the tournament, players wear the full kits of their respective teams. Emphasis in the competition, meanwhile, is put as much on taking part and on fair play as on winning.
“We are used to organising many tournaments but this is the first time we have organised an event as full of humanity as this one,” adds LaLiga Genuine sporting director Juanjo Rovira.
“This is a pioneering initiative, we believe this is going to be an important milestone and that other organisations surrounding football and other sports will understand that people with disabilities have a right to play sport and develop their passion.”
On the coaching staff of Celta Vigo’s LaLiga Genuine team is Francisco Diaz Fontenla, a life-long Celta fan who has not let the fact he is confined to a wheelchair get in the way of his love of the game.
“Being pessimistic is of no use whatsoever, facing problems is what you need to do to achieve in life, don’t settle for anything” says Fontenla.
Fontenla, meanwhile, remembers former Celta striker Benni McCarthy very well, with the Bafana Bafana front man on the books of Vigo from 1999-2003.
“I loved him very much,” adds Fontenla.
Would you like to place a soccer bet? Click here to get started in 3 easy steps.