Atlético de Madrid had not won a La Liga title since 2014. Nor had anyone else except Real Madrid or FC Barcelona. With Real Madrid beating FC Villarreal in a simultaneous match, the title would have gone to them had Atlético tied or lost to Real Valladolid.
Featured & written for IMAGO Zine #3 | La Liga. Get your copy and subscribe to our zine series here.
At the bottom of a pile of red and white, Luis Suárez celebrated the goal which brought Atlético de Madrid to victory. It was their 11th La Liga title, still less than half of that of Real Madrid or Barcelona.
In a stadium with no fans but plenty of champagne, photographer Jose Breton documented the decisive match. IMAGO spoke to Breton about that night and the role of sports photography during the pandemic.
Being on the front lines, what was the atmosphere throughout the match especially considering the empty stadiums?
During the whole season, the intensity of the game has been lost because of the lack of fans inside the stadiums. During this last match though, the tension was noticeable. Real Madrid vs Villarreal was being played at the same time and was followed by the players on the bench via mobile phones; the chants of the Atlético fans who had travelled to Valladolid could be heard from inside the stadium.
Do you think that La Liga has entered a new era since this last victory, considering Messi leaving Barcelona and Real Madrid failing to win any trophies?
I think that in sports there are cycles. Although Real Madrid and Barcelona are always the favourites to win the league, there are other teams that can win it if these two are not doing as well as they are supposed to. Atlético won the 13/14 league against Cristiano‘s Real Madrid and Messi‘s Barcelona.
La Liga has lost a lot of level and cash with the departure of these two players, but it is also true that they have left at the end of their careers and younger players will replace them.
Did your role as a sports photographer change when fans were taken out of the equation during the pandemic?
Of course it did. Not only because part of our job is to document what happens in the stands and around the stadiums, but also because the players didn‘t have the same intensity in the game and the celebrations.
In Spain during the whole season, we photographers were placed in the stands, absolutely limiting our ability to do our work with our experience and creativity.
What was your experience photographing Luis Suárez and Atlético’s victory compared to photographing previous seasons?
It‘s always exciting to see how a person who has won everything with Barcelona can cry tears of joy for winning another league. I didn‘t expect that reaction at all.
I think it was really special for him to be able to show that he is still a top striker at a world level, and maybe with Barcelona he was more obliged to win the league and that‘s why they didn‘t appreciate it as much when they won it.
Featured and written for the IMAGO Zine #3 | La Liga. Get your copy and subscribe to future issues.