The old guard says goodbye with honors in quarters


Special Envoy to Tokyo

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The old guard he says goodbye with the pride of not having bargained or the last drop of sweat. Today five players have said goodbye to the national team who have marked an era in Spanish hockey and who achieved the feat of becoming familiar names even to many spectators who do not regularly follow this sport: Quico Cortés, David Alegre, Pau Quemada, Josep Romeu and Roc Oliva retire. Between all of them they add 1,221 international matches. At the end of the game, exhausted with fatigue and with eyes glazed with emotion, they sealed their farewell to hockey in a beautiful setting, the Oi Stadium in Tokyo, and in the most important competition: the Olympic Games. The dream of having done it with a medal around his neck has vanished in the torrid Tokyo afternoon against the strongest team in the world, Belgium.

The five of them crossed the field. Quico Cortés made stops of great merit again and Spain cherished the dream of the semifinals during the first half, thanks to a compact defensive wall against which the Belgian attackers crashed time and again. The ‘red sticks’ even went ahead on the scoreboard, thanks – precisely – to a shot by David Alegre that deflected Belgian Gougnard to his own goal. That 1-0 at halftime fed the expectations of a man who would have put an epic icing on the farewell of this formidable generation; but in the resumption Belgium imposed its forcefulness in the penalti-corner (some very doubtful) to establish the 3-1 in the scoreboard.

Thus ends the story in hockey of five men who will forever appear in the honor books of this sport. It could have been better, but it is not a bad ending at all: in the quarterfinals of the Olympic Games, against the best team in the world and after selling the defeat dearly. As Pau Quemada warned at the end of the match, “sport gives you more sadness than happiness; you have to take it that way … and whoever doesn’t do it is very wrong ». The Riojan-Catalan striker confessed his immediate goal: “Now what I really want is to get home and hug my friends.” Along with him, his inseparable friend Quico Cortés, who today has shown that he could continue his decades in goal, offered a lesson for the new generations: “I would only tell people who play hockey to go out and enjoy themselves; Keep them that kid who chose to play hockey. You have to look for that child every day.

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