58 years from the first ‘Santiaguina’

58 years from the first ‘Santiaguina’


Santiago Bernabeu was one of the most celebrated presidents in Real Madrid history. He’s remembered, among other things, for the speeches he would give the players when things went wrong. These speeches were so frequent, they would end up calling them ‘Santiaguinas’. November 13th marked the 58 anniversary of the first one.

That day in 1956, Real played the second leg of first round of the European Cup against Prater Vienna. Los Blancos were the reigning champions of the competition, and they were confident ahead of the game, having won the first leg 4-2.

However, the game didn’t start well for Los Merengues as centre-back Oliva suffered a bone fracture in the first minutes. Since there were no substitutions back then, Los Blancos had to play the whole game down to ten men. Their bad luck would not end there, and goalkeeper Alonso suffered a hand injury and had to play under pain the rest of the game.

Those injuries and Rapid’s good game helped the hosts lead 3-0 at half-time, a result that would earn them the qualification for the next round. That was when Santiago Bernabeu entered Real’s dressing room and, as Alfredo Relano reveals in his recent book, he told the players: “Ladies! What are you doing here whining? I’m ashamed to see you like this, but I was more ashamed seeing you on the field! Do you know how many Spanish workers are on the stands? Do you know some have come from afar and they will be mocked tomorrow? Do you know the sacrifices those people make? You are undeserving of all that, ladies!”

After exchanging a few words with Zarraga, he finished his speech: “If you still have some sense of shame, get out there and behave as men, don’t make me feel ashamed.”

That ‘Santiaguina’ touched the players, and despite Rapid trying hard to score more goals, Los Blancos netted one in the second half and forced a third game thanks to that 3-1. Bernabeu was so pleased by their player’s attitude that he apologised for everything he had said at half-time: “I come to apologise for my words. You are true men.”

‘Santiaguinas’ were born that day, and that one was key for Los Merengues to overcome a moment of great adversities and end up winning their second European Cup six months later.

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Alvaro Heralta is a Spanish journalist specialising on sport, and more specifically, on football. He has worked as a sports reporter for various Spanish media outlets such as Radio Marca, Eurosport Spain, Onda Madrid, Teinteresa.es and LaSemana.es. Since 2009, he has written a blog in Spanish called La Medialuna, in which he covers unusual stories and curious historical facts about football.