Friday, May 29, 2020

Jones, the Guinean who could play for Athletic

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The non-signing of Miguel Jones, who died this Wednesday at the age of 81, by Athletic is a chapter in a story that is told from generation to generation completed by similar episodes that starred Eulogio Garate and Chus Pereda. The trilogy could well be considered the cornerstone of the so-called philosophy interpreted from the strictest of orthodoxies. In the passage from the fifties to the sixties, Athletic (Atlético then) let three footballers of undoubted category leave due to a fidelity to their idiosyncrasy that, let’s not kid ourselves, was much easier to sustain than in these times. We talk about the time of the final of the eleven villagers. Let’s say that when those decisions were made, Athletic had plenty of talent. Later, the desert crossing of the sixties, until the 1969 Cup, fueled the controversy with retroactivity.

In the case of Miguel Jones, the story has been accompanied by an accusation of racism that the protagonist himself always hastened to deny, remembering precisely the names of footballers who did not play for Athletic because of their birthplace and not because of the color of their skin.

Jones was born in Santa Isabel, (today Malabo) Equatorial Guinea, in 1938. The family moved to Bilbao in 1943, when Jones was five years old, where his father Wilwardo dedicated himself to the commercialization of wood from Guinea, then a Spanish colony. Miguel was an intern at the Lekaroz school, belonging to the Capuchin parents, and studied Economics in Deusto, alternating books with athletics. Jones had the physical conditions to be a good sprinter, a virtue that he later exploited in soccer.

He caught the attention of Daucik, who led him to train with Athletic and even made him play a friendly match against Indautxu on the day of Kings in 1956. It was the first and only time he wore Athletic’s red and white jersey. The other, that of Atlético de Madrid, would dress her in 129 games over eight seasons, scoring fifty goals and winning a League, three Cups and the mattress makers’ first European title, the Recopa, in whose final, against Fiorentina, the marker would open.

Jones trained at San Mamés, but did not arrive at the Bertendona offices to sign the contract. Enrique Guzmán, the president who proclaimed “with eleven villagers we have passed them by stone,” did not compromise, nor would he compromise with Pereda, a native of Medina de Pomar. So there was no discussion of philosophy in Athletic.

A transfer of 2,404 euros

Miguel Jones finished that year at Barakaldo and returned the following year to a field from which he could see San Mamés daily. In Garellano, in the ranks of that historic Indautxu chaired by Jaime Olaso, he found the catapult to the highest category along with several companions such as goalkeeper Cobo, who went to Seville; Eusebio Ríos, to Betis; Isasi, to Zaragoza of the ‘magnificent’, and Pereda to Real Madrid. That Indautxu would finish fourth in Second Division.

Jones went to Atlético de Madrid in the summer of 1959 precisely claimed by Daucik. Its transfer cost 400,000 pesetas (2,404 euros). On the banks of the Manzanares he spent eight seasons competing for the position with people like the recently deceased Peiró, Collar, Vavá, Mendonça or Ufarte. His versatility, he could play throughout the attack line, gave him the role of wild card. His career as a footballer at Osasuna ended. When he hung up his boots, he returned to Bilbao, where he spent fifteen years as a director of the Indautxu. Athletic member, he could be seen in the Pozas area, alternating with his friends and remembering old times with anyone who recognized him, and they were not few. Despite having made his career at Atlético, Miguel Jones was always a lion from Bilbao who had been born in Guinea.

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