Gonzalo Anton's is a typical rags-to-riches story. Phil Ball tries to establish exactly who he is

Distinguishing Features Tubby but tough, slicked-back hair with blazer and tie – more British Legion than Savile Row. With the flattish nose of an ex-boxer, not the sort of chap you’d cross too often. Cuts a respectable figure, without looking as though he’s been dressed by his wife. Anyway, he’s divorced.

Habitat Yet another of the rags-to-riches brigade, he started out as a waiter in the working-class town of Miranda del Ebro and was soon running his own eatery. Now owns an enormous restaurant in Vitoria called Zaldiaran, where the teams that play Alavés are ritually obliged to eat their pre-match lunches and post-match suppers. Win, lose or draw, Antón usually manages to be photographed supping with the enemy, although it is unclear who foots the bills. Each year he runs a “Gastronomy Week” at the restaurant, to which the well-heeled and famous flock. Antón’s wheeze is to return to his roots on these occasions, serving as a humble waiter.

What use is he? When he arrived in 1995, Alavés were in the Second Division and going nowhere fast. The previous president, Arregui, had spent most of his fortune in a futile attempt to set up a safari park south of Vitoria. His legacy was a few shivering beasts in a farmhouse garden and a football club whose crumbling ground was in need of urgent repairs. Antón set about the task with relish and within three years the team were back in the top flight after an absence of 42 years. Their council-owned ground, Medizorroza (“Serrated Peak) is completely refurbished and, in case you hadn’t heard, Alavés are in the UEFA Cup final.

Who remembers his birthday?
Probably not the players and supporters of Kaiserslautern, not to mention Internazionale. The folks of the smallish town of Vitoria seem to like him, despite the fact that he does not hail from the region. They will tell you he is a “working president”, a phrase which means they could not imagine the likes of Joan Gaspart or Jesús Gil rolling up their sleeves to work in the kitchen of a Sunday lunchtime. This is undoubtedly true, but no one knows yet how he will fare if there are leaner times ahead. The rumours that star turns Javi Moreno and Cosmin Contra are off to Valencia, along with the manager, might end the honeymoon come next season.

Quote unquote “A good club is like a good meal – one thing must complement the other.” Yes, he really did say that.

Other offences to be taken into consideration He’s not a Basque, but they’re not too worried about that in Vitoria. It’s the administrative capital, not the spiritual one. He’s not very rich, which seems to have contributed to his success rather than the opposite. His true talent seems to have been to persuade the council to subsidise a club that has always played second fiddle to Tau Baskonia, the town’s successful basketball team. It’s not known if he really likes football, but no one cares at the moment. Whatever, if Liverpool lose, at least they won’t have to eat in his restaurant.

From WSC 172 June 2001. What was happening this month

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