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The great footballer who preferred to be a farmer

I met Isidre Sala, in “Sidro”, as a child, long before I started my journalistic career. Like most farmers in Alt Empordà, Isidre Sala went to the Figueres Market on Thursdays. After work, I had breakfast at Bar Ricardo, on Calle Sant Antoni, owned by an uncle of mine. Every summer, I spent a few days of vacation there, and they let me have breakfast at Sidro’s. Imagine the joy of a 12/13-year-old boy, who was my age, being able to serve breakfast to the great figure of Girona FC, to the idol of all the fans, as Stuani is now! A few years later, fate brought us closer together. In August 1976, I already journalistically covered the tribute to his retirement, the last great farewell that has been given to a footballer in Girona, and then I dealt with him for several years when he coached teams such as Lloret and l’Olot, in the Third Division.

Sidro’s football history is unique, unprecedented. He stayed all his life at Girona having the conditions to play in Primera: thirteen seasons, an unmatched record. He was a fine and elegant central defender, nothing to do with so many axe-wielding defenders of his era. That he was a great centre-back was demonstrated by his participation in the Olympic Games in Mexico 1968. The selector, José Emilio Santamaria, who had precisely been a historic central defender for Alfredo Di Stefano’s Real Madrid, must have seen something in him. And in that selection, he formed a tandem in the center of the defense with none other than Goyo Benito, another legendary central defender of Real Madrid. Asensi, Toni Grande, Alfonseda, Crispi or Pere Valentí Mora also played there. Most of his teammates played years in Primera.

Every summer, it was rumored that Sala could leave Girona to sign for a First Division team. He was close to going to Espanyol on several occasions, but those were other times. The current figures were not paid and Sidro preferred to combine football with his family’s farming and livestock operations in Vilamalla. And so he could also go hunting a couple of times a week, one of his great passions, I dare say more than football. Now, it would be impossible for a player of his level to give up playing in a First Division team. He preferred to stay at Girona, where he became the player who has worn his shirt more times. A record that will be difficult to equal.

The last time I saw him was shortly before the pandemic, at the Pi i Sunyer Residence in Roses, where he lived the last years of his life away from the real world, and where an uncle of mine also resided. He didn’t recognize me, but we talked for a while about his subjects: Girona FC, the Olympic Games, hunting, Martín Vences (famous coach of Girona between 1969 and 1972). He remembered this as if it were now. With the death of Isidre Sala, a great person, we close a black year for football in Girona. In just over three months, we have lost Xavi Agustí, Pau Garcia Castany and Sidro. Three different trajectories; three legends

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