–The Lérida, Armando, the Lérida.
He does not ask for so many goals for this afternoon, against Girona. He says that Sporting “I only ask for grit, that can never be lacking”. Armando Menéndez Medina (Gijón, 9-30-1932) is Sporting’s living history. Red-and-white soccer player for fifteen seasons, he is the longest-serving player from Gijón in life of those who were in the game of “the three crosses of Ortiz”. The one that threatened, in 1961, to lose the honor of being among the nine teams that have never been out of the First or Second Division (the list is completed by Madrid, Barcelona, Athletic, Atlético, Valencia, Espanyol, Sevilla and Real Sociedad). “Honor our history,” Medina asks Abelardo’s team before the first of the three remaining finals to tie the permanence.
The years put his memory to the test, but the same person he leans on to get up from the sofa, his wife Acacia Peláez, clears up his doubts when it comes to remembering details of his stage as a footballer. “Altisent, Montes, Biempica, Ortiz… That season we had a great team, yes,” Medina underlines about 1960-61. His son Alejandro intervenes. “It happened to them a bit like now, that people expected them to be fighting for the top positions and in the end…”, comments who has inherited the red and white passion from his father -he is part of the Sporting Fan Club- and also the knowledge of many of the anecdotes that he was hearing at home. In a corner, Eloy, Alejandro’s son and one of Medina’s three grandchildren along with Deva and Andrea, follows the conversation attentively with a smile. “I hope that he is not in as much trouble as that time,” he points out after confessing that, despite being a sports fan, he is the least football fan of the family.
“We will free,” says Medina, who already finds it difficult to follow Sporting’s matches live. “He gets very nervous,” explains Acacia, the person in charge of informing the red and white legend of the result and the departure of the team. The room, a small museum plagued with images of the Gijón stage as a footballer, does the rest. There are photos with Kubala and Luis Suárez, and also captaining the team on one of their visits to the Santiago Bernabéu. “I rarely go out,” confesses Medina. “Sometimes we go for a coffee and have a chat with Pocholo, Echevarría or García Cuervo”, his son expands on the Sportinguista circle that maintains who was a brave midfielder and also a Sporting defender between 1951 and 1966.
The conversation returns to intensity, to the need for Abelardo’s Sporting to recover the aggressiveness that historically made the team from Gijón a vertical and sticky team. “He was intense playing, but he never injured anyone and in his entire career he was only sent off once, against Sevilla, and for defending Molinucu,” Acacia points out before her husband’s complicit smile. They, who met at school in La Calzada, where they also studied with the recently deceased José Fernández, father of the current Atletico president, know like few others what Sporting was and should be. “Although we are not doing very well, I am still very sporting”, concludes Medina.