The Manomanista champions discuss the final between Ezkurdia and Laso

The last time was the May 31, 2019. So the word pandemic it was just another entry in the dictionary. Of course, covid-19 it seemed like a term born out of a novel by Philip K. Dick or Dan Simmons or a movie by Steven Spielberg or Ridley Scott.

There were three years of drought. The health crisis caused the traditional Manomanist Champion Meal It will be suspended until this Friday. The call brought them together again around a table in the Maipu restaurant in Sondika.

There is a notable lack of the 2019 snapshot, that of Jesus Garcia Arino, the first champion in the history of Bizkaia. It was in 1957. Within a golden saga, the one formed by his brothers Ángel and Roberto, he debuted in 1953. In 1956 he got into his first heads-up final. He won the title against Pepe Arriaran 22-11 at Deportivo de Bilbao a year later. The one from Arrasate retired with 16-11, injured knee. Between 1956 and 1964 he was in six dates for the biggest txapela of the year. The second came in 1963. Then, the one from Atxondo knocked down Hilario Azkarate 22-2 at the Beotibar in Tolosa. After him, Elorrio’s man ended up being the owner of the scepter six times. Monarch.

The ball at hand went into mourning just six months after that photo, in which they were also Beloki, Bengoetxea VI, Gorostiza, Altuna III, Aimar, Atano X and the finalists Urrutikoetxea and Irribarriawho ended up winning the txapela. Jesus passed away at the age of 85. His smile and wisdom are missed.

It happens that photo albums, like meetings of old comrades, companions, rivals and champions, act as a catalyst for memories, which are clustered on the surface and dressed like goosebumps. And the hugs accumulate, the pats on the shoulder and many “hello! How are you?” and how long!”. Not only between the protagonists, but also between the satellites that orbit around the ball at hand. And the snapshots that speak of a Manomanista final end up becoming an absolute discourse on the river of life. Like Manrique’s couplets. In the background, the sea awaits.

In the same postcard of 2018 was Don Miguel Gallastegi, the legendary champion born in the Asoliartza farmhouse in Eibar. He was a food fixer. “Don’t treat me like you, I’m still young,” he said. He always answered with a snarl and recounted one of his thousand adventures. So, everyone listened. Genius and figure. The last Don went to play heads up in heaven on January 4, 2019 at the age of one hundred. Surely he has already pocketed some txapela.

In the middle of the 2022 image is Luciano Juaristi, Atano X, 89 years old. It will make 90 on December 19. Talk about the end between Joseba Ezkurdia Y Unai Laso this Sunday at the pediment Navarra Arena, but it is an excuse to chat about the rest. It’s just another game to play. They always say those who know that one is on the field as it is off.

ATANO XY GOROSTIZA: “IT IS A DIFFICULT FINAL TO PREDICT”

Questioned about the appointment between Ezkurdia Y laso, Athan X, champion in 1966 and 1968, explains that “it is more difficult than ever to predict, because with these balls, compared to the ones before, very large shots are made”. The legendary manista from Azkotia says that “I don’t have a favourite”. “The two are very different. Ezkurdia is powerful and against Jaka he had a frightening match. If he plays like that, that he hit him left and right, it’s a bad opponent for everyone. He was cool,” he declares.

Inaki Gorostiza, champion in 1977 in a memorable final against his neighbor Roberto García Ariño (22-12), the only one disputed in the Adarraga fronton of Logroño, comments that “it is very open”. “We’ll see how each one withstands the pressure,” specifies the man from Atxondo, who reflects that “Ezkurdia showed in the semifinal that he is very strong, but I don’t know if that is positive for him. He may have more pressure.” “The key will be in how the final begins. If you make a few goals and break, you gain confidence and force the rival”he warns.

ARRETXE, EUGI AND BARRIOLA: “IT SEEMS THAT WE NAVARROS HAD DISAPPEARED, BUT…”

Fernando Arretxewho won the heads-up in 1994 and 1997, holder of scepters in the three modalities and, therefore, one of the most complete manistas in history, confirms that “it is very even”. “There is no clear favourite, although they are pelota players with different characteristics. Ezkurdia is into a powerful ball and Laso, on the other hand, a livelier one that moves easily. I see them with game”, recites the one from Luzaide. “That it is in the Navarra Arena I don’t think it supposes an added pressure. It’s a historic day,” he concludes.

Patxi Eugi was crowned in the 1996, 1999 and 2000 editions. He says that he expects “a great game”. “They are the two best at the moment. Laso has revolutionized the ball and Ezkurdia, despite being a bit stale against Zabaleta, gave an exhibition in the semi-final. He showed what he can play hand-to-hand”, explains Agoitz’s man. “Joseba has not been champion before because he did not enjoy with the right and in Eibar he enjoyed it. If he touches the ball like that, he can be dangerous. Laso is aggressive and puts the ball in his hand”, he wields. “It seemed that we Navarrese had disappeared from the Manomanista and now there are two in the final. That is important, even more so being the final at the Navarra Arena“, ditch Eugi.

Abel Barriola he stood out in the manista elite with the victory in the Cuatro y Medio in 2001. A year later he won heads up. It took him twelve years to complete the Triple Crown. He is legend. “I see an open end. I prefer Ezkurdia a little more, because in the two finals he has had in the Navarre Arena he was not a favorite and ended up winning the txapelas. It is a field that suits him well. In addition, it is in a very dangerous moment. I don’t know if he will have the opportunity to play more Manomanista finals and it is the title he is missing”, dissects the leitzarra.

PATXI RUIZ, OLAIZOLA II AND BENGOETXEA VI: “IT WILL NOT AFFECT THE PRESSURE”

The last Manomanista champion defender was Patxi Ruiz. It was in 2003 against Aimar Olaizola. “Laso has a brilliant shot and he is still a bit of a favourite, but, from my point of view, I see Ezkurdia as a bit better. I see him mentally strong, settled and with a punch“, reveals that of Lizarra, who predicts that “there will be a terrible atmosphere and it will be beautiful. It’s positive pressure.”The key will be in Joseba. If he doesn’t leave the game, he can do a lot of damage“, Add.

Four txapelas (2005, 2007, 2012 and 2013) adorn Aimar Olaizola, sports manager of Baiko Pilota. “Two pelota players arrive in very good shape. Small details affect a lot. It’s an open game,” recited the goizuetarra. “If Laso does his thing, he’ll have a chance of winning. He’s in the game”the Navarrese ends.

Oinatz Bengoetxea won twice in the modality, in 2008 and 2017. He is the last champion of Baiko Pilota. “It is the first Manomanista final for both of them, but Joseba has four txapelas. Unai already knows what it is to play finals and he has played them very well. I don’t think the pressure will affect them. The key will be in the one who hits the most and the one who takes advantage of the serve”, considers the Leitzarra, who has never played in the Navarra Arena. “It’s a shame I have. It’s a fast pediment, “he says.”I don’t think it will be a tough game. It will be equal, yes“, concludes Oinatz.

URRUTIKOETXEA, IRRIBARRIA AND JAKA: “WHOEVER LEADS THE INITIATIVE HAS A LOT OF GAINS”

Bizkaia took 38 years to recover the Manomanista txapela. It was Mikel Urrutikoetxea in 2015. He succeeded Gorostiza. “Both of them are in a good moment of play. In a final anything can happen. With the serve and the rest, a lot of damage is done in heads-up play. It will be key”, argues the man from Zaratamo, who adds that “there is no favourite. Ezkurdia has been showing for many years that he is at the top. Anything can happen to a game. It’s an open ending“. “Whoever takes the initiative will have a lot of livestock”, says the Biscayan.

Iker Irribarria dazzled in his first championship, in 2016. He is the youngest manista to win the scepter, at 19 years old. Afterwards, he took the title again in 2019.”It will be a tough final. Joseba has given a great show. She has impressed me. She was a while without playing and has responded well. lasso He is a tough ballplayer. I expect a good match, although it is difficult”, maintains the one from Arama. “I have played three or four times in the Arena. It is a hard fronton: it has a front exit and the ball goes on the ground. It can benefit Joseba, but it will not be decisive“, bone scan.

Erik Jaka took out the txapela in 2020 in a tournament in which he came out. In the present hand in hand suffered the two finalists. “It’s an even final. The previous weeks perhaps Unai looked better, but now everything has been balanced,” says the lizardzarra, who concludes that “The differences are marked at the beginning. It will be important. Each one has their weapons”.

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