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The Costa Brava reunites Geli and Zago thirty years after they met

The Albacete 92/93 squad with Geli, Zago and Balaguer. | DON BALLÓN

Girona face Bolívar today in Palamós in the penultimate pre-season test. A game that will be greatly encouraged by the return of captain Àlex Granell two seasons after leaving Montilivi. The Costa Brava will also be used to see another special reunion. It will be the one starring the president of Girona, Delfí Geli, and the coach of Bolívar, Antonio Carlos Zago, who shared a dressing room at Albacete and became good friends in the 1992-93 academic year. It’s been twenty years since they saw each other and thirty they met in La Mancha, in the historic Queso Mecánico, already in the post Benito Floro era who had made the jump to Real Madrid. Geli lived there in his second season after leaving Barça and Zago landed there that summer as a young Brazilian talent. They immediately became and established a good friendship. “Delfí was rather shy and a bit introverted. I’m also quiet, reserved in a good way, and I don’t talk much. That’s why we were always together. I often went to his house for dinner and he came home. We got together a lot and made a big group with Zalazar and Catali, who were the funniest in the dressing room and talked all day”, describes the Brazilian Bolivar coach thirty years later. Now they will meet again in Palamós, one in the box office and the other on the bench. “It is important that players can continue to work and be linked to football once they retire,” says Zago. As for the game, the Brazilian emphasizes the importance of Bolívar’s European tour, which played against Boavista in Porto on Wednesday and today against Girona. “It is a unique and unusual opportunity to be able to come and play in Europe for us. It is important to put ourselves in the window and let it be seen that good work is being done in Bolivar and Bolivia. They are very relevant matches for the country”, details Zago, who says that Granell is “a leader” for Bolívar and who acknowledges that one of his dreams would be to “train in Europe” one day.

Geli and Zago met three decades ago and haven’t seen each other for two. The last time was in a UEFA Cup match between Alabès and Besiktas (2002) in which the Turkish team, with Zago in the eleven, eliminated the Basques, with the Saltenc. Previously, they had also met in a duel between Altetic de Madrid and Roma (1999), when Zago was one of the leaders of the Italian side that won the League, Coppa and Supercoppa in 2001. Zago was capped 37 times by Brazil, with who was champion of the 1999 Copa América and only an ankle fracture “in the last League match with Roma” prevented him from being in the 2002 World Cup. “They had already told me that he would be on the final list”, he recalls. Be that as it may, those months in Albacete brought together two players, of the same age, who years later would sign great careers and win titles, one with Atlético and the other with Roma. From that time, Zago remembers “mainly” one match: the 3-3 draw against Barça at Camp Nou. “At quarter of an hour we were already losing 3-0. It was a match. However, we scored a goal before half-time and in the second half I scored to make it 3-2. Zalazar then equalized from a free kick at the end. When we arrived in Albacete, the fans were waiting to welcome us and congratulate us. It was very beautiful.” In January 1993, Zago was signed by the company Parmalat, who sent him to Palmeiras, from where he would go first to the Japanese Kahisma Antlers before making the jump to Rome and living the best years of his career. In that Albacete of 1992, Juan Carlos Balaguer, Girona’s goalkeeping coach and who will also meet Zago tomorrow in Palamós, also played there.

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