Throughout football’s long and patterned history there has always been drama, excitement, heartbreak and jubilation. The Uefa Cup Final in 1995 when Nayim ridiculously scored from the half-way line past a disbelieving David Seaman; the 1999 Champions League Final where Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s right foot will forever be etched into the memory of Manchester United fans.
In 1981 there was a goal right at the death that was of such significance, not just in football terms, that should be on every top 10 list of goals scored in the closing stages of games. Step forward Jesús María Zamora and Real Sociedad.
With Sociedad going into the game against Real Sporting de Gijón needing only a draw to clinch the La Liga title expectations were high. Torrential rain was drenching everything and everyone inside the El Molinón in April 1981 and the dismal weather was soon a mirror into the souls of everyone connected with Real Sociedad as with seconds remaning they were losing. The grim outlook was not just limited to the weather forecast it was evident on every players and supporters face. Déjà vu was setting in as Sociedad had lost the previous years title (1980) on the final day to Real Madrid. Indeed Los Blancos were already getting into party mood as they were 3-1 up away to Real Valladolid.
In a moment, a flash of brilliance, a unexpected illumination appeared from the downpour that ensured Déjà vu was indeed, not happening. Bixio Gorriz’s miss hit fell straight to Zamora and, in his own words, he “just clouted it”. In the space of literally 12 seconds Real Sociedad went from dismay to bliss; but this title win had a more far reaching consequence. As part of the Basque country, Real Sociedad like Bilbao and Barcelona in Catalonia suffered at the hands of Franco. Their regionalism was obviously loathed by a man bent on centralising Spain to Madrid. Franco’s rule from 1936 up untl his death in 1975 the league had been dominated by Real Madrid with Atheltico and Barcelona and occasionally Valencia winning the odd title. Bilbao achieved the feat in 1943 and 1956 however up until Sociedads win in 1981 the establishment generally prevailed.
What was so important about this victory was not just that it took the title back to the Basque Region but that it signaled a shift, if only temporary, in Spanish football as Real Sociedad went on to win the title again the following year and Bilbao the 2 years after that. A region so persecuted under Franco were now celebrating a victory over the team that came to represent Franco and the centralised Spanish state – Real Madrid.
It was a last minute goal a lo grande.