Euro 2008: Palop's tribute to a legendary goalkeeper (Arconada)

Ciudad del Fútbol 22 Abr 2014
Andrés Palop's gesture of wearing the shirt worn by Arconada at the 1984 European Cup when collecting the 2008 Euro in one of the most moving and exciting acts in the history of the Spanish National Team

Palop's tribute was for all those generations, like that of Luis Miguel Arconada, who finished inches away from a dream. It was also a claim to the players who excited a whole country (in the European Cup of 1984) but they could not come true, even though they'd sought it for so many years. 

When Palop, a great admirer of the Real Sociedad goalkeeper, faced the rest of his teammates to recieve the gold medal and the champion cup he did not think twice and did so wearing the shirt that Arconada defended at the 1984 Euro final, where Spain lost 2-0 against the hosts, France. 

The irony of the story is that the man who stopped the National side in 84 in the Prince's park, Michel Platini, would be the same person to hand over the champions cup to Iker Casillas in Vienna 2008. However, Palop was there to recall the important list of great Spanish goalkeepers (from Zamora to Casillas, including Ramallets, Iribar and many more) which includes Arconada. 

"I wore this shirt to celebrate is as a tribute to Arconada, because everyone seems to remember him for a mistake he made in a given moment, but we have to recall him for much more, for the great goalkeeper he was and what's his shown a great generation." This is what Palop explained regarding his gesture on that date in 2008. 

Later, perhaps more calm, he pointed out the feelings of that night which was decided in the locker room of the Ernst Happel stadium in Viena and where he chose to wear the green and black jersey that Arconada wore back in the day. 

The gesture summarized the collective frustration felt by all the Spaniards and especially for all those children who watched the final: "I remember the semifinals of the '84 Euro against Denmark, where Arconada was key in sealing Spain's pass to the final with his saves. So I really expected to see Arconada lift that trophy. I honestly thought Spain could become champion due to the year they'd been having, but I also knew France was a strong national side and that it would not be easy. Those hopes of seeing them lift the trophy were shattered with that defeat in Paris. It was precisely that final which is remembered because of Arconada's mistake. I started to cry. I was a ten year-old boy at the time, but I remember it perfectly." 

Andrés Palop: "I had the chance of paying a small tribute to Arconada when I won the EURO final, a gesture to clear things up. You can't judge someone for one mistake... you have to look at their entire career, their titles and successes. Arconada has done a great deal more than that one mistake. That is why I remembered him."

In the 80s many children wanted to be goalkeepers because of a man like Arconada, prototype of elegance in goal: " Arconada is remembered because of that mistake. That is something which has always bothered me. I had the chance of paying a small tribute to Arconada when I won the EURO final, a gesture to clear things up. You can't judge someone for one mistake... you have to look at their entire career, their titles and successes. Arconada has done a great deal more than that one mistake. That is why I remembered him."

But, how did the idea come about to pay that tribute? Palop remembered that "I had thought of sending a message to Arconada, so that he would be remembered for the great goalkeeper he is, a keeper who transmits the values and hopes of many youths. I spoke about it to the press in Seville and there was a journalist who was a great follower of Arconada and a great friend of his. He had a shirt of his at home. A good friendship between us came about through Arconada. Later on, at the EURO, I thought we should do something special in his honour. After the semifinals I called him and told him that if we won the final I'd like to wear Arconada's jersey and whether he could lend it to me. The journalist was ever so pleased given that he also believed that he deserved it, so via some friends from Seville they brought it to the hotel and I kept in my kit bag. After the final whistle I went to look for it and wore it. That's why there are photographs of me wearing it with the trophy."

The most outstanding thing was that Palop did not know that in that Vienna stadium, watching the final, was Arconada himself: "When the moment of collecting my medal came, I spoke to the UEFA President, Michel Platini, to tell him that I wore the shirt in honour of Arconada. From that moment when Platini scored a goal on Luis, I always wanted to pay tribute to him, because I thought he deserved to win the trophy. Platini said that he had invited Arconada to that final and that he was at the stadium. I am sure that he was pleased with the gesture. With all the humility of the world, I think the image of Arconada has been much more positive Arconada is now known for the work he carried out to inspire a generation, not because of a mistake."

It was exciting for everyone who saw their dream on the floor in 1984 much more than the protagonist of the time, it was Arconada who confessed that he could not believe what he was seeing: "I was shocked. They told me, look, look. It was a joy to see the shirt with which I could have collected the trophy that we could not correct many years." 

Now that Palop says bye to football, many things that are going to remain in the memory of the great goalkeeper (who does not remember the saves in the UEFA penalty shoot out in the final against Espanyol), fighter (as he demonstrated in his goal against Shakhtar Donetsk in the knock out final of the UEFA Cup) and a great person, condition that with the tribute gesture to Arconada don't ratify it.