Ponce, the footballer who robbed two banks

Ponce, the footballer who robbed two banks
Initial formation of Real Murcia 1973-1974. Ponce is the second starting from the left of the footballers who are standing (Football teams)

One of the memories that most marked my soccer childhood was the arrest of Ponce, a footballer from Real Murcia, player who was a regular in the sticker collections of the seventies of which I was a true fan.

José Luis Ponce he was a paprika defender, emerged from the quarry of the Real Murcia and converted from center forward to right back. To get to the whole grana, back then a elevator equipment, on horseback between First and Second Division, it wasn't easy. Finished his youth stage he was discarded and had to carve out a future in "minor" teams. First, the eagles, Third Division team from their Murcian land and then the Orense, at that time in the Second Division.

His transfer to the Galician club was a bet from the Biscayan coach José Luis Molinuevo, what I saw in Ponce to a promising center forward that could serve as a future alternative to the incumbent, Abel. The offer was good, 60.000 pesetas more 2.500 monthly salary. A) Yes, the young man from Murcia embarked on his Galician adventure full of illusion, barely nineteen years old and supported by a coach who saw the footballer's potential. But things in the world of soccer don't always go fast.

Trust in Abel was absolute and Ponce he only played two league matches that year. Orense had a good season and that led to Molinuevo leaving the club and signing for Sporting de Gijón. His mentor left, but so did the center forward who blocked his path in ownership, Abel returned to Racing Santander, club that had its federative rights and had transferred to the Galician team.

He had the expeditious door for the Murcian to take the title position, but the new coach, Juan José Urquizu, He did not trust him excessively and in the preseason itself the footballer already adopted a secondary role in the team. He closed the year with only 8 games played and only one goal in your private account. The Pray he was dropped and the footballer began a journey through different Third Division teams. First in the Albacete, where was a season without too much personal success, although the club was proclaimed champion of its group, and later in the Balearic group of Inca's record, where he was converted from center forward to right back and started a new and successful stage in professional football.

Two years with very good performance in the Inca set, made a First Division notice him. The Elche payment 800.000 pesetas for his transfer and the player made his debut in Primera, something that already seemed like a chimera. He did it by marking, no more no less, what to Paco Gento at the Bernabeu. Things did not go too well for the illicit team, who was defeated by 4 a 1 (with double of the Cantabrian end), but there he began a professional career that led him to play in historic clubs in First and Second Division.

After Elche he passed through Córdoba, Calvo Sotelo and Hercules and hence, at last, and thirty years old, to your land team: the Real Murcia, then in Third and where he lived the best sports stage of his career, being the undisputed starter and achieving two consecutive promotions: from the bronze to the gold category. Ponce became a key factor in the sporting aspect of the club, but the news of his disordered life reached the ears of coach, Felipe Mesones, and managers, and despite having disputed 24 matches as a starter in the First Division of the season 1973-74, missing only some in which he had physical problems, it was chosen not to renew.

Real Murcia 1973-1974
Match between Real Madrid and Real Murcia played at the Santiago Bernabéu (hemeroteca RMCF)

Ponce he had immersed himself in the world of drugs, specifically in the one of the pills that were very fashionable in those days: Centramines. After dissociating himself from the team of his loves, accepts an offer made by a representative. He promised him that he would play in French football, at Olympique Marseille, a team of the highest category of French football played by some renowned footballers such as the central defender Marinus Trésor or the striker of the Brazilian team, Jairzinho.

He traveled with his representative to France, but there everything fell apart. The news about his "bad life" had come to light and the reports received from Spain made his signing inadvisable.. The representative tried to negotiate a test that the French club did not accept either. After a couple of days in the city, Ponce broke up with his agent and returned, accompanied by a woman, to Spain, stopping in Andorra where bought a shotgun and a revolver, with whom he managed to cross the border.

He used the gun to commit two robberies, one the 7 October in Murcia, at Iberian Bank, and another one 23 December in Orihuela, in the Rural Box, getting loot from 1.070.000 and of 204.000 pesetas, respectively. It was this second robbery that he fell for. The employees of the box did not believe that the gun was real and pounced on it, causing injuries to his face and forcing the footballer to use his weapon, firing three intimidating shots. It was the wounds on his face that precipitated his fall. Five days after the robbery the news of the arrest of the well-known footballer José Luis Ponce for the robbery of two banks it sounded innocent, but it was real.

The 28 from December to 1974 he was arrested in Córdoba and confessed to being the author of both criminal acts. Tried and sentenced to six years in prison, after serving his sentence, he managed to completely rehabilitate himself and his history was recorded as another obvious example of the professional footballer who, having a good life at your fingertips, ended up falling into the deepest well of alcohol and drugs.

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