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12.05.2009 16:27

Hesp: Barca’s last Cup winning hero

Txemi Terés

On 29th April 1998, Ruud Hesp became a part of the club’s history when he saved Eskurza’s penalty in the shoot out to win Barca the Spanish Cup and their first League and Cup double for 39 years.

Even though Barca came out on top, Hesp remembers it as a very tough game in which his opposite number Carlos Roa was probably the man of the match with his excellent performance to keep out the rampant Barca forwards.

Thinking back, what’s the first image that comes to your mind from that game?

“It has to be the image of the rest of the team racing towards me when I stopped that last penalty. I can remember the hugs and the shouts, but after that it’s all a bit of a blur”.

Can you remember anything after that ?

“Yes, I guess so. There are some images I’ll never forget – the lap of honour, the faces of the fans full of tears of joy…. especially the older fans – that was very striking. It brought home to me what we had achieved”.

Apart from the fans, what else passed through your mind then ?

“Well, yes, my parents – seeing those older fans crying, it reminded me that my own parents were at the game. That moment was also thanks to them – they helped me so much to become a footballer. This was the high point of my career, winning a title with a club like Barca, it was one of the most emotional moments of my life”.

The emotion must have been even greater after such a tense game

“Of course, it was a very tense game, they took the lead and it was a tough game. We were the favourites, but Mallorca had a really competitive team back then, they were very hard to beat- as they showed in the final. They were very strong at the back”.

Was there any player in the Mallorca team who stood out for you ?

barxa.jpg“If any player really stood out in that game it was Roa. We put in a great team performance, but he was just brilliant, he seemed to stop everything we threw at him. I’d always thought he was he was a good keeper, but that day he really excelled himself. Maybe the fans remember me as the hero that day, but it was Roa who was the best in the game. Even in the penalty shoot out, I think he stopped three, more than I did. He was incredible, but we took the cup. That’s football for you”.

Just shows there are no favourites in a final doesn’t it?

“It does, yes. You can be much the better side on paper, but if you don’t come out from the start with the concentration and focus you need, you’ll have a bad time. You’ve got to be at least as up for it as your opponents - only then can the quality of particular individuals come into play”.

Something Barca should be aware of in Valencia on Wednesday then?

“I think Barca are the clear favourites, but again, they have to show it. If they come out and are focussed from the off, then they won’t suffer, but if they let Bilbao start to believe, then things could turn difficult. Even so, after their recent results I think they are the team with the best resources in the world and I think that’ll be enough to win them the cup”.
Hesp: Barca’s last Cup winning hero
You were a team mate of Guardiola’s. Has his success this season surprised you?

“I know that everyone says this, but it’s true, When Pep was a player it was clear that Pep would end up as a manager and a good one at that. As a player, he took on the role of a leader and a captain and now he’s showing he can do it a s a manager too. He couldn’t play in that final, but I remember him in the dressing room urging us on to win - that’s what he was like as a captain”.

Apart from Guardiola’s qualities of leadership, what do reckon to the keepers he’s got for the final in which they could be decisive?

“I don’t think there is any need to worry on that score, I know Pinto is the keeper in the Cup and even though I don’t know him too well, he seems very safe. I know Victor much better and I know he’s a top keeper. His performances against Chelsea proved that, he was just top draw!”

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