On Wednesday, following Xala’s surgery for appendicitis, the League of Empresas took the controversial decision to remove the ailing forward from the Manomanista final, and give his place instead to Oinatz Bengoetxea, one of the losing semi finalists. They cited the danger of Xala returning to training and competition too soon after the procedure, risking further injury as well as making the final worthless and one sided. Many people judge the final to be worthless now anyway however; it is clearly not a satisfactory situation for Aimar Olaizola, there through merit, to have to play the same Bengoetxea whom he defeated in the semis, in the final. It seems, however, that the decision is set in stone, given the backing of Xala’s empresa, Aspe, who ratified the LEP.M’s decision.
Xala and his supporters have not given up hope, despite their bleak predicament. The man himself today gave a press conference, accompanied by his lawyers and medical staff, asserting his right to play in the final which he had reached through toil, sweat and brilliance. As Carlos Zuluaga’s video at manista.com shows, Xala is not afraid to bear his emotions on the issue, and support from the press in the room seemed overwhelming. Fans have jumped to his defence, chanting his name at matches, and setting up Facebook groups in his support. Today, in addition, came the news that a petition has been signed by a whole raft of top pelotaris, demanding that the final be decided on sporting merit, respecting both the professionals involved and everyone who loves the sport. Those who have signed so far include:
Jon Apezetxea,Asier Arruti,Abel Barriola,Cecilio,Miguel Capellan,Aitor ElKoro,Patxi Eugi,Sebastian Gonzalez,Fernando Goñi, Gorka, Mikel Idoate,Aritz Lasa, Oskar Lasa,Aritz Laskurain, Larrinaga,David Merino,Miguel Merino,Peio Mtez. de Eulate, Juan Mtez. de Irujo, Aratz Mendizabal,Alberto Ongay ,Julen Retegi,Julian Retegi,Mikel Olazabal, Jose Javier Zabaleta,Aitor Zubieta and Augusto Ibañez “Titin III.
This story will rumble on, but it seems there is little hope for Xala. Barring a protest to rock the heart of the sport, the final will be contested on Sunday between Aimar Olaizola, the best player of the year, and Oinatz Bengoetxea, a losing semi finalist.
Xala: still determined to play
Image from Noticias de Navarra, by Oskar Martinez