Enrique Orizaola

The club was saddened on Sunday to learn of the death in Albacete at the age of 91 years of Enrique Orizaola Velázquez, who managed Barça to its first ever European Cup final in 1960/61

Born in Peñacastillo (Santander) in 1921, Orizaola was a skilful midfielder who made his mark at hometown club Racing over seven seasons (1941-1948). He later went into management and came to FC Barcelona in 1960 to serve as assistant to Croat Ljubisa Brocic.

Manager in Berne

Although the team had some major stars in Ramallets, Segarra, Gensana, Kocsis, Kubala, Czibor, Suárez and Evaristo, Barça were not getting the results, and Brocic was sacked on January 12, 1961. It made sense for his place to be taken by Orizaola, who had quietly stayed in the shadows but had gained the respect of the first team players. The Liga was already out of reach, so the Cantabrian focused his efforts on the European Cup instead, where FCB had knocked out five-time champions Real Madrid in the quarter finals. The Catalans went on to beat Spartak Hradec Kralove and Hamburg, not without many difficulties against the latter, to make it into the final for the first time ever.

So Barcelona were off to Berne to play Benfica, and went into the game as favourites. But May 31, 1961 was a day when the gods were not on their side. They lost 3-2, having hit the woodwork four times and after Ramallets has scored in his own net. After the game, a visibly upset Orizaola said “I’ve never seen anything like it, we are the champions of misfortune”.

Barça and Cantabria in his heart

He left Barça at the end of that season and went on to manage a number of different clubs in Spain: Osasuna, Oviedo, Levante, Deportivo and others. In 1983 he returned to FC Barcelona to work as a scout. Seven years later, he joined the executive at Real Zaragoza and in 1993/94 he ended his final professional role as technical secretary of Albacete.

Orizaola was widely respected for his profound knowledge of the game, and could have been famed for leading Barça to one of its most glorious nights ever had luck been kinder in Berne in May 1961. Although Cantabria was always his homeland, for the remainder of his days, he also found plenty of room for FC Barcelona in his heart.

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