Throughout the history of Basque pelota and across the courts of Gipuzkoa which play host to the sport, players representing Real Sociedad have been a constant fixture. Indeed, the club's players have been involved at the openings and events held at our province's most prestigious Basque pelota courts, such as the Frontón Anoeta (renamed as the Atano III), the Galarreta Jai-Alai, the Carmelo Balda, the Frontón de Azpeitia and the courts at Aretxabaleta and Hondarribia, amongst others.
Real Sociedad's Basque pelota team is made up of approximately 20 players across the following modalities: pala (paddle) pala corta (short paddle), paleta cuero (leather paddle) and paleta goma (rubber paddle), whilst not forgetting the paleta cuero en trinquete (leather paddle played on a trinquete court). The club is one of the leading lights in the various championships hosted across Gipuzkoa, within the rest of the Basque Country and the select group of clubs involved in the Spanish Championship.
Season upon season, the Real Sociedad squad provides players for the local and provincial teams in inter-village competitions and at GRAVNI (an amateur championship contested between the federations of Gipuzkoa, La Rioja, Álava, Biscay, Navarre and the French Basque Country) in the various different modalities. The Txuri-urdin DNA means that our competitive and committed athletes defend the club's badge each and every time they take to the court. Each week, competitive games take place at the Atano III, with free access for all spectators.
In an effort to keep this highly attractive native sport, which has such close links to our community, alive, we have launched the Pala Eskola (Paddle School) which is open to children wishing to learn about and enjoy the sport through an introduction in the use of rubber and leather paddles.
*Photos courtesy of: Real Sociedad, Jaunsar, A.Alonso and Fototeca Kutxa
Amongst those players who have represented the club, there are several figures whose feats deserve particular recognition:
Jesús Gurruchaga After having claimed several national titles in remote, both as a forward and a defender, Gurruchaga decided to switch specialities, a change which saw him become a world champion in pala larga in Hossegor in 1952 (the only time that this title has been contested); and runner-up in paleta cuero in Pamplona in 1962. During the final years of his career he switched between both instruments and even managed to win two thrilling finals on the same day. His trophy haul also features countless national and provincial titles.
Lucio Unanue secured the pala corta world title in Montevideo in 1966 and was a runner-up in paleta cuero alongside Gurruchaga, whilst he also claimed a number of provincial and national titles.
Juan Cruz Artola lifted two pala corta World Cup titles, in San Sebastián (1952) and Montevideo (1955), as well as a host of provincial and national trophies.
Jose Eugenio Fernández was a national and provincial champion in pala and pala corta and featured for the national team at the World Cup.
In addition to these leading players, the following figures are also worthy of mention:
In the mano (hand pelota) modality: Ayerbe, Garmendia andUrriolabeitia.
Etxeberria, Balda, Nestor, Okoki and Ramón Ezkurdia.
Macazaga, Nieva, Irastorza, González, Muñoz, Aguirre and Azúa.
In pala and pala corta: Paco Bengoechea, Yurramendi, Torres, Paredes, Anza, Carrasco, Valle andCanellada.
Trinquete: Óscar Herrera and Javier Letamendia, whose achievements in securing the national title saw them called up to the World Cup squad.
Whilst no doubt there are other distinguished players who could be listed, we'll limit ourselves here to the most recent players to have achieved professional status.
Aratz Mendizabal: Zaldibia-born 'Mendizabal I' made his mano debut for ASEGARCE in July 2003 at Aritzbatalde (Zarautz). He claimed two Second Division titles: in doubles and a four and a ½.
Íñigo Navarro: Navarro made his professional debut with EUSKO BASQUE in December 2002 in a fixture played at Club Deportivo de Bilbao's court. His status has currently changed and he has returned to represent Real Sociedad as an amateur player.
Íñigo Oiarzabal: Oiarzabal made his competitve pala bow in January 2009 at the Deportivo de Bilbao court and turned out for INNPALA. Oiarzabal is a regular commentator of pala games for ETB (Basque television).