Osasuna president Luis Sabalza has expressed his pride and excitement ahead of his club’s second Copa del Rey final in history, in which they will face Real Madrid on Saturday at the Estadio Cartuja in Seville.
Sabalza, who has been at the helm of the Navarrese club since 2014, has witnessed the remarkable transformation of Osasuna from a team on the brink of relegation to the third tier and financial collapse to a solid La Liga side and cup finalists.
“I consider myself a naturally optimistic person, but never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined being here preparing for this,” Sabalza told The Athletic. “There will be at least 24,000 of our fans at La Cartuja, the biggest mass movement of Osasunistas in history.”
The 75-year-old also recalled the dramatic day in June 2015, when Osasuna scored a last-minute equaliser at Sabadell to avoid dropping to Segunda B, which would have likely doomed the club.
“We are all so happy now, but it reminds me of another mass movement, to Sabadell, when we were on the point of dropping to Segunda B, which was unthinkable,” he said. “In the Nova Creu Alta, 3,000 ‘rojillo’ fans gave the team the strength to equalise in the last minute. Thanks to them, we are here today. A club like Osasuna can never forget where it came from.”
Sabalza also praised the work of director Fran Canal, sporting director Braulio Vazquez, coach Jagoba Arrasate and academy director Patxi Punal for building a competitive and sustainable project based on the club’s values and identity.
“The club has been doing things well now for some years,” Arrasate said. “Each season we have the feeling we are a bit better, we are growing with the new stadium, too. Maybe this Copa final is like a photo of the growth of the club. But we cannot stop now, some teams have reached a final and the following year it has not gone well. It is a positive for us, to push us on still further.”
Osasuna have reached the final after eliminating Athletic, Valencia, and Real Betis in previous rounds. They will face a formidable opponent in Real Madrid, who are the reigning Spanish and European champions and have won 19 Copa del Rey titles.
Speaking to the media today, Sabalza acknowledged the difference in resources and experience between the two clubs, but said that Osasuna will play with passion and hope.
“For Real Madrid it is a final, for us it is the final,” he said. “We know they are very superior to us, but we have illusion and faith. We will give everything on the pitch and try to make our fans happy. We are not afraid of anyone.”
The president also thanked the thousands of Osasuna fans who have travelled from all over Spain to support their team and asked them to enjoy the occasion and respect their rivals.
“Ilusion we have plenty of, we have it all. Not only me, but also the players and all the people who are here,” he said. “We ask them to come calmly because whatever happens, Osasuna continues and we have to go back to El Sadar.”