On March 18, 1971, Valencia sang the alirón at the Sarrià stadium, despite losing that match. The tie between Atlético and Barcelona (1-1), the other two contenders for the title, at the Manzanares stadium proclaimed him League champion. Pepe Claramunt, the star of that team coached by Alfredo di Stéfano, recalls with AS, 50 years later, the history of that League.
-How’s everything going?
-Very well. The aftermath of the years as a footballer remain: the knees, the legs … but generally well. About the Covid they have already given me the first vaccine and well, calm down.
-50 years of the League of 71 Why is that League so remembered?
-It was a League that cost a lot to win, we did not count to win it. We were a squad that was made with few signings, with people from the quarry … We had Di Stéfano in Valencia and the image he had … I think it is because of the emotion that was there until the end and because we managed to win it when nobody trusted to do it against teams as strong as Atlético and Barcelona.
-And the alirón arrived despite losing in Sarrià due to the draw between Atlético and Barcelona at Manzanares …
-As there was not a big difference between the teams, anything could happen. That emotion was until the end. More or less how LaLiga is this year. Although we never stand out much. We were all in a pineapple until the end. This made the people of Valencia turn more to the team, push and participate so much in that title.
“Nobody trusted in winning the League against Atlético or Barcelona”
-How was that return on the bus from Barcelona after winning the League?
-Already at the entrance to Benicarló, Castellón… all the people were in the street, cheering for the team… they were seen with immense joy and satisfaction… And then we started in Nules, which was Nebot from there; Almenara, the town of Forment; Puzol, which was ours… All the towns were on the street, waiting for us on the side of the Barcelona road from Nules to Barcelona. It was very emotional and something that will not be forgotten.
-You played a large part of the season injured …
-They broke my toe in the game against Elche. From there I played every game with a broken finger until the end. Di Stéfano wanted me on the pitch in whatever way. I couldn’t refuse to be in the field. He told me that if I was not on the field I did not see a chance to win. A little forced me to be. And I couldn’t refuse. With the injury, I couldn’t train all week, I was resting or doing sit-ups. And then on Sunday I would play with a boot that had been broken so that it wouldn’t put pressure on my foot. At the end of the game my foot swelled… Of course, I lost my physical form because I couldn’t train and couldn’t run. It was a great effort but I participated trying to do what I could.
-Which current player is most similar to Claramunt?
-The comparisons are hateful. I played in the center of the field but I traveled the entire field. He was in defense, in the middle, in the forward … He was defending as well as attacking or organizing … He scored goals. In my career I scored 79 goals. It could be that it had some Deck although comparing players from one era to another… The speeds were different. Nobody invents anything here. We all have something of everyone.
-You were captain of the National Team and played only 23 games. Before it was impossible to reach 100 caps as it happens now?
-Yes. I, with the years that I was in the National Team, could now have 80 or 90 caps. There were years that we played one or two friendly matches. I made my debut at 22 and left the National Team at 30. All the coaches called me. I started with Balmanya and ended with Kubala. Now more games are played than then.
-What do you think about Sergio Ramos leaving 5 minutes, injured, to add one more internationality?
-Sergio Ramos has earned it. Nobody gives you anything. His career has made him a creditor that the coach can give him that award. I think he deserves it. I think it’s correct.
“Di Stéfano was a winner and he was a shock for us”
-Let’s go back to 1971, what was Di Stéfano like?
-He was an ambitious man, a winner and who conveyed that desire to win. It was a shock. He was a very understanding man with young people and wanted to help them. He was a person who you saw him train and made you want to train. He always wanted to win even in training. That spirit was transmitted to the staff. He built a pineapple that made us all do more than the capacity we had.
-They say that that League resembled the first of Benítez …
-Yes, we had a system and a similar way of playing. We had a very strong defensive system. Balanced in defense and attack… We were also very humble. At first we didn’t think about winning the League. Until the last game we did not believe it. We knew there were teams much better than us. But things were working out for us and in the end we got the victory with a huge effort. We did not have a squad to be champions but thanks to humility and effort we succeeded.
-Every year Forment’s goal against Celta is celebrated. Was that the goal of the League?
-That goal and Antón’s against Sabadell were momentous. There we began to believe it. If we won those games, we opted to win until the end. The one from Forment, against Celta, was key because in that match they had annulled us two goals and it seemed that we did not achieve victory. And at the last moment, on the last play, the goal is scored. People exploded with enthusiasm and began to believe that we could get a degree.
-Abelardo was also key. He stopped two penalties that were worth the League …
-For me, he was the best goalkeeper in the league that year. In fact, he won the trophy for the least thrashed. It was sensational. And also the entire defense… The entire squad was at an extraordinary level.
-And his brother was also on that squad: Enrique Claramunt …
-It was also important. He came up from the Mestalla and scored five goals in that League. Young people had easy access to play. Di Stéfano did not marry anyone. He wanted the best for the team. He had no problem putting up a kid who came from the Third Division.
-Do you like modern football?
-Before football had moments that excited you. Today, soccer is played faster, people are better prepared… there are things that I love about current soccer. I don’t go to the field but on Saturdays and Sundays I enjoy all the games.
-Do you suffer a lot with current Valencia?
-Unfortunately this year we are suffering. We started with many doubts. I was very afraid that this year we would be in the low zone and with the doubt that it could even go down. It seems that the thing has been fixed a bit. The game is not very bright and the irregularity has meant that I never had a level to aspire to more. I think they lack conviction in themselves. They have quality to achieve more important things. Let’s see if we save the season and next season we are where we need to be at Valencia, in Europe.
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