Many years have passed since then, but there was a time when Pontevedra led LaLiga. It was more than just a flash in the pan. It was the high point of a steady upward trajectory, a gargantuan effort by a city and its club to muscle in on the elite. That Pontevedra team, it was said, was a really tricky proposition - a tough nut that “you’re going to have to crack”, they would say up there. That phrase became the hallmark of that Pontevedra side. With their red-wine shirt, blue shorts, and intelligent play by their midfielder Neme, they were a singular presence in Spanish football, and had a big say in deciding who won the title.
Their players were popular. One of them, the centre-back Batalla, won the football pools in peculiar circumstances: he had put down Zaragoza-Pontevedra, the final game of the matchday, as a draw. Pontevedra were 2-0 up with time running out, when two mistakes by Batalla allowed Zaragoza to pull level. But such was the general faith in that side’s integrity that nobody complained. Just one of those things that happen in football, was the general opinion. I can corroborate that. I watched the TV coverage of the game, which announced at half time that Batalla would have all 14 results right in the event of a draw. No-one saw anything other than genuine errors.
The captain of that Pontevedra team was Cholo, the left-back, who I can still remember fighting like a lion to win the ball off the likes of Amancio and Ufarte when they took him on. He was a good honest pro at a club of good honest pros. It’s said that when Pontevedra were top of the table, the Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda boasted that the capitalist Spanish league was being led by a team whose captain was a tram driver. And it’s true, that’s what Cholo was, having followed in his father’s footsteps. That was a long time ago, of course; football is very different now. But it’s worth paying tribute to those who brought us here.