Yves Salaberry has achieved the seemingly impossible and persuaded the LEP.M to overturn their controversial decision to hold the Manomanista Final on the original date, with Bengoetxea as a substitute. The board of directors met on 15th June, and agreed overwhelmingly to accept the arguments of Xala, his lawyers and his medical team, who asserted that there was no reason why he would be unable to play a match on 3rd July. The final will now take place on that date, in Bilbao, and in the event that Xala is not fit, Olaizola II will be awarded the title outright.
The pelotrari from Lekuine was jubilant after learning that his struggle had not been in vain, calling it ‘the most beautiful match’ of his life. Quoted in Sud Ouest, he stated:
‘Since this issue started, I have felt very humiliated. They have had no consideration for me….at times I asked to speak and was prevented. I left the competition in a way which was unacceptable. I felt very bad, but fortunately had the support of so many people. I have achieved this because many people love pelota.’
He spoke of his ten year struggle to reach the pinnacle of the sport, and his satisfaction of showing that the few people who make the decisions were unable to deny him his chance for the highest honour of all. He also thanked the people of Iparralde for standing by him.
This has been a damaging week for the sport of pelota, one in which the principle of fair competition between players, who achieve their progression on merit, was put under threat. The possibility of a player who lost in the semi final becoming Manomanista Champion seemed both ludicrous and deeply dangerous for the integrity of the sport. That justice triumphed in the end is due not only to the passionate and articulate pleas of Xala in defence of the sport he loves, but to the fervent support of his playing colleagues and the fans. We now have the final which we all, players and supporters alike, deserve.
Image from Deia