This year, CD Mirandes, became the second team in the 109 years history of Copa del Rey, which reaches the semifinals of the competition, despite being a third tier side. The first was UE Figueres, in 2002, a team which represents a town from Catalonia which has about 43.000 inhabitants. Now, after ten years, Mirandes make it also to the semis, but their performance is surely bigger than Figueres. You may ask why and of course I will give you the answer. Well, let’s say that the team represents a smaller village, Miranda de Ebro, from the province of Burgos, that has less population, about 39.000 people. Plus, Mirandes put out of the competition three first division sides until they played Athletic Bilbao in the semis. Alright, Figueres eliminated at that time Barcelona, but the team from those years had few in common with the squad from our days.
And is still to mention that Figueres played seven consecutive seasons, between 1986 and 1993, in the second Spanish League, performance which Mirandes never reach. In fact, Mirandes never played higher than the third tier in their entire history, even though the team was founded on 3rd of May 1927! So, regarding the things this way, we realize that this year performance increases more. That’s why, I want to make a short remember of the Cup season of Mirandes, but first, I would introduce a few things about their all time history. And a few are indeed, because the squad from Burgos played his first major match 50 years after its birth, on 28th of December 1977, against Valencia at which Mario Kempes was the main star. Predictably, the ‘Bats’ won, but not by far, only 4-2. Another important fact regarding the history of Mirandes is the presence on the bench of Juan Manuel Lillo, between 1988 and 1991. The coach was only 23 years old when he reached promotion to the third level of Spanish football in 1989 and it is known that Jose Guardiola considers the man to be one of his most influent mentors.
Now, will focus on the present, yet on the most successful era in their history: the Copa del Rey semifinals, in an Era in which Spanish and even World football is dominated by two giants: Barcelona and Real Madrid. It all started on 31st of August and ended five months later, on 7th of February with a 2-6 crush defeat at San Mames, against giants Bilbao. But until this phase, Mirandes eliminated three top division teams: Villareal, Santander and Espanyol, after they eventually defeated also Amorebiesta, Linense and Logrones in lower stages. And the disputes against those last three, even four, if we also consider Athletic in the semifinals, were much though because the matches were played in double stages.
31.08.2011 Amorebieta – Mirandes 0-1 (Ivan Augustin ‘54)
07.09.2011 Mirandes – Linense 3-1 (Lambari ‘1, Asier Barahona ’28, Pablo ‘89)
12.10.2011 Mirandes – Logrones 3-1 (Albistegui ’17 – o.g.) Arroyo ’25, Ivan Augustin ‘52)
13/21.12.2011 Mirandes – Villareal 1-1 (Arroyo ‘26), 2-0 (Pablo ’60, ‘88)
03/10.01.2012 Mirandes – Santander 2-0 ( Pablo ’34, Martins ‘45+2), 1-1 (Pablo ’72 – p.)
17/24.01.2012 Espanyol – Mirandes 3-2 (Arroyo ’28, Pablo ‘78), 1-2 (Pablo ’58, Caneda ‘90+2)
31.01/07.02.2012 Mirandes – Bilbao 1-2 (Lambarri ‘90+1), 2-6 (Blanco ’57, ‘86)
But we shall also say, that the key figures of this team, have very interesting stories which in most cases are true proves of how football can beat everything, or almost everything, because Pablo Infante, the top scorer of the competition, didn’t want to turn professionally, because he has a local business in Quincoces de Yuso, 60 kilometers away from Miranda de Ebro. Here he owns a small bank, which he has to open every morning at 8 a.m. This is the reason why, after the historical victory over Espanyol, in the quarters, he couldn’t remain to celebrate the success along with his team mates! He plays at Mirandes since 2005 and he gathered around of 250 matches, 120 goals and he is, of course the all time top scorer! In fact, Pablo spent his entire career in the province of Burgos, refusing offers from teams which were playing in higher divisions, just because his priority was his bank. Now, he’s 32 years old and surely everybody will remember that the 1.68 meters winger for the third tier of Spain became the top scorer of the 2011-2012 Copa del Rey.
An at least such interesting story is also the one of defender Cesar Caneda, the man which qualified Mirandes in the historical semifinal, after scoring the winner against Espanyol in the stoppage time. Born on 10th of May 1978, in Vitoria, the city of Deportivo Alaves, the 1.77 meter player begun with a promising career at Athletic Bilbao youth level in 1994 and two years later he was a key player in the Spain U18 national football team, were he appeared in 9 occasions. But this was it with international football. Still, his career looked like it was just beginning, because he made the step to Athletic Bilbao’s first squad in 1998 and stayed here until 2005, when he was sold. During the seven years spent here, he only played 29 league matches, for the only squad, alongside Barcelona and Real Madrid, which never relegated from Spain’s first division. Unfortunately he never imposed in the first line-up, especially in his first three years at Bilbao when he was most of the time loaned to other squads like Salamanca, Sevilla and Santander. Well known names, but who were playing in those years in the second level. He won promotion with the last two, but return to Athletic each time. In 2005, he was finally sold at Eibar, where he scored his first senior goals and after he went on playing for Cadiz and Alaves, which were also in the inferior leagues. Quite surprisingly for a lad that even caught the UEFA Champions’ League 1998-1999 along with Bilbao, he end up playing in lower tiers and so he arrived at Mirandes in 2010. Now, at nearly 34 years he became one of the heroes of the town, as he qualified the squad into the semis of the Copa del Rey, with a late winner, against Espanyol. A such unexpected performance that made even Iker Casillas gelous. Yes, that guy who lifted the UEFA Champions’ League trophy twice and also the European and the World Cups…
A fantastic story is also the one of Nauzet Perez, the starting 1.90 meters goalkeeper. In the first place, he’s only 27 years old, as he was born on 1st of March 1985, a quite young age both for a goalkeeper and if we also consider that most of his team mates passed 30. Second, he is born in Las Palmas, part of the Canary Islands, but he never imposed as a starter in the local team. Although he was in the yard of Malaga and Mallorca he never made it to play higher than the second team. So, what makes this goalkeeper, who played only in lower Spanish divisions, so special? Well, he is special, because before he joined Mirandes, in 2011, Nauzet wore the shirt of Halmstad, one of the most popular teams from Sweden! Unfortunately, there he only appeared in eight occasions, was sent off once and Halmstad only managed to obtain three draws, the rest being defeats. So, not a single victory in Sweden and 10 goals conceded.
Luckily for these guys, they had the appropriate man behind them. Carlos Pouso, the coach, was the man for the job, even though he worked most of his life in an industrial warehouse. He encouraged them after Espanyol turn the score in the first leg of the quarter finals, in only a few minutes, from 2-0. There were the last minutes and the referee also made some mistakes, but Pouso said: ‘How can I be mad of my lads. Football is a joy for us and our town and this performance is the best thing that ever happened to our team’. And that work. But it didn’t work when he tried to motivate them with videos that showed a boar attacking a lion, the animal which is the nickname of Athletic Bilbao. In the end, the gap between the two teams value and, most important, physical preparation, showed off.
And maybe you are also asking how their performance was repaid? Their small stadium, Municipal de Anduva, holds only maximum 6.000 spectators and those don’t fill every time the tribunes. But at most matches from Copa del Rey they did, and with the occasion of the dispute against Bilbao, they brought in to the budget of the club, 300 thousand euro!! A big sum, which represents nearly a quarter of the amount that the club uses yearly, but half of it, according to an agreement with the players, entered in their own pockets, as well as it happened after every previous game on home soil in the 2011-2012 competition.