Prior to their UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg, Athletic Club captain Andoni Iraola joined FC Schalke 04 counterpart Raúl González to take part in an 86-year-old tradition at San Mamés honouring striker Rafael Moreno, more commonly known as 'Pichichi'.
In a ceremony that has been carried out since 1927 for each team visiting San Mamés – or 'La Catedral' as Athletic's home is known – for the first time, flowers are laid at the bust of the striker who scored the first goal at the famous ground, against Real Unión Club de Irun in 1913. It is estimated that tonight is the 194th time the ritual has been carried out.
"This will be a very special moment for me," Raúl said ahead of his 15th appearance against Thursday's hosts. "It has been an honour to play at this stadium, where I've always enjoyed the intense atmosphere." The 34-year-old is widely revered in Spain and above all at former club Real Madrid CF, where he scored 228 goals in 550 league appearances. He twice won the Pichichi award for the Liga's top scorer during his time with the Merengues.
The man after whom the trophy is named was also widely known as a prolific goalscorer until his untimely death from typhus at the age of just 29 in 1922. Pichichi's bust was put in place in the north stand at San Mamés before being moved to its current location in the main stand prior to the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain.
Thanks to their UEFA Europa League run, Athletic have carried out the ceremony five more times this term, with Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Salzburg, ŠK Slovan Bratislava, FC Lokomotiv Moskva and now Schalke all taking part. CD Mirándes also enjoyed the honour of playing at the home of the Leones for the first time in this season's Copa del Rey.
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