Again, the “Gray Lady” is speaking about the Basques.  In Thursday’s edition of The New York TimesRory Smith, the lead soccer correspondent who covers all things European football from his base in Manchester (England, not New Hampshire) has published a detailed, warm-hearted article about a very special tradition about Real Sociedad.  Earlier, this same author already gave us an amazing article about Athletic.

Rory Smith, leading the reader to believe he’s going to read about soccer, ends up telling quite a different story, though it is football-related.  He speaks of tradition, emotion, commitment, and love for the club.  He tells of what lies behind the addiction to this Basque football team.

Patxi Alkorta (Kutxateka) recogida de la revista kapitain
Patxi Alkorta (Kutxateka) photographed in ‘Kapitain’ magazine

And it’s a tradition that dates back 61 years: launching a flare to announce a Real Sociedad goal in its home stadium.  A well-known and indeed renowned donostiarraPatxi Alkorta, got it started.  According to the tale, he wanted to make sure the arrantzaleak, the fishermen, on the coast or in the harbor were kept up to speed on how their txuri-urdin-clad team were playing.

That idea has passed through all the necessary trials to stop being a mere “fancy” and turn into a tradition that is integrated in the Club and its fans: it outlived its creator, and his successor is in charge of announcing Real’s txitxarros; it survived changing stadia, though there were a few years of silence during the transition; it’s even survived the arrival of new technologies that, in theory, would make it wholly unnecessary to announce a goal.

Juan Iturralde launching a flare in San Sebastian (Nacho Hernandez)

We can’t even imagine a goal being scored in Anoeta without the sound of a celebratory flare.  We’re sure all those living within earshot would feel the same.

We’ll leave you with the tale as told in both the English and Spanish language editions of the US newspaper.  But we’ll also leave you with the article by Pablo Sáenz San Juan on the Kapitain website, telling the same tale, with photos of its protagonist.

By the way, the users’ comments to the English article are well worth the read!

The New York Times – 18/3/2021 – USA

As soon as the ball crosses the line, Juan Iturralde is on his feet. He darts back inside his suite, heading for the door. He pauses only briefly, to snatch two bottle rockets from a plastic bag placed carefully, deliberately, in his path. Its location is strategic: Iturralde is, essentially, in the news business, and every second counts.

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The New York Times – 18/3/2021 – USA

En cuanto el balón cruza la línea de meta, Juan Iturralde se pone de pie. Corre al interior de su palco, dirigiéndose a la puerta. Solo se detiene brevemente, para arrebatar dos cohetes de una bolsa de plástico colocada con cuidado, y deliberadamente, en su camino. Su ubicación es estratégica: Iturralde está, fundamentalmente, en el negocio de las noticias, y cada segundo cuenta.

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Revista Kapitain  –     – Euskadi

Los cohetes de Patxi Alkorta

San Sebastián, una tarde de domingo de fútbol. La Real juega en casa. Lejos del estadio una explosión en lo alto del cielo retumba en la tranquilidad de la Parte Vieja “¡boom!”. Se produce un momento de tensión en toda la ciudad. Los donostiarras que pasean por las calles hacen una pausa. Esperan. Esperan en vilo. Otro cohete “¡boom!”. Todos saben lo que esa segunda explosión significa: gol de la Real en Anoeta.

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