Atletico can shed self-pity for good with a Cup double
Madrid: Atletico Madrid shook off a debilitating inferiority complex to win the Europa League on Wednesday and could bury it for good with a triumph in the King`s Cup final next week.
Atletico are used to living in the shadow of nine-times European champions Real Madrid, but relegation in 2000 followed by eight years of under-achievement back in the top flight have taken their toll on Spain`s third biggest club.
Their fans had started to revel in the nickname "the sufferers" and had to look back to 1996 for their last glimpse of silverware when Atletico won a league and cup double.
The club even used the idea to help promote season-ticket sales with a television advert that saw a child ask his father: "Daddy, why do we support Atletico?"
His father was unable to offer a reply.
"They have been living with a pathological pessimism," Santiago Segurola wrote in sports daily Marca.
"Now they have the opportunity to bury the ghosts and their fears. It`s moments like these, full of happiness, that push them into believing, to progress, to return to a level that corresponds with their history."
True to their recent past, Atletico did not do it the easy way in Hamburg and needed a goal from Diego Forlan, four minutes from the end of extra-time to secure a 2-1 victory over Fulham.
"We deserved to win although we went through some bad moments, but Atletico are like this," 19-year-old goalkeeper David de Gea told reporters.
Coach Quique Sanchez Flores has been the architect of Atletico`s turnaround in fortunes, taking over a side that were bottom of their Champions League group and 15th in La Liga last October.
He kept a low profile in the celebrations: "This is a moment for the players. I prefer to watch from afar.
"I asked them to be daring and to remember the footballer inside them that dreamed of winning titles."
He added: "It`s difficult to control (the euphoria) and I`m not going to try."
Atletico will do an open-top bus tour through Madrid`s city centre to show the trophy to the fans later on Thursday and then have one meaningless league game left at home to Getafe on Saturday (1800).
Then they have a second Cup final against Sevilla at the Nou Camp next Wednesday.
Sports daily AS helped out the father who was unable to answer his son from Atletico`s well-known advertising campaign.
"Son, this is why we support Atletico," they said above their write up of the match on Thursday.