the most popular man in Zaragoza
Álvaro Arbeloa opened the Fiestas de Nuestra Señora del Pilar last night in Zaragoza, calling it “a honor and a privilege” to be able to do so.
Álvaro had spent the day in Zaragoza. He had lunch with his family, and arrived at the town hall around 19:30 (tweeting along the way) to attend a presentation of medals and distinctions to illustrious citizens of Zaragoza. At 21:00, the time came to go out on the balcony to open the fiestas. It was raining hard outside, but thousands of people were awaiting. And out came Álvaro, World Cup in hand (guess he did get permission to bring it after all!) to the tumultuous cheers of the crowd. He first thanked “everyone, the mayor, members of the town hall, maños y mañas (people from Aragón), Aragoneses, and friends who had come from all over.”
He then opened his speech by saying, “I bring something [the Cup] that is as much yours as it is ours. I’m a little embarrassed because it should be Iker Casillas here, but he lent it to me for a bit so that I could show it to all of you.” Then, “I was so young when I arrived in Zaragoza that my first memory and all of those of my childhood are linked to this noble land. I felt that it was mine from the first moment. Here, I found my wife, my friends and my profession. Who would have thought that a four-year kid, who first kicked a football in the Miraflores Park, in Jesuítas, his school, would end up realizing his dream of becoming a footballer? This was possible thanks to this city and its people, who impressed upon me their principle values of sacrifice, tenacity, humility and pride. I’m so proud to be able to be here on this balcony opening the festival of my city. I have great memories of it, although, due to my profession, I won’t be able to enjoy it once again. But football has given me many other things, such as the two great triumphs with the national team, the Eurocopa and the World Cup. I want to share these successes with you because without you it wouldn’t have been possible, especially all of you here in this magnificent plaza, all of you who live in this beautiful city and in this proud region. Only when one returns home is he conscious that what is really valuable is not success, but having people to celebrate it with.”
More from Álvaro, including pictures, tweets and an interview where he talks about Joan and Pepe! You’re only about a fifth of the way through a mega-Álvaro Arbeloa post!
Álvaro then closed by saying asking for a round of applause for José Antonio Labordeta (a singer-songwriter/politician who had opened the festival last year and who had passed away on Sept. 19), “a universal Zaragozan and Aragonés, who left us recently, but whose memory is still very much alive in us.” Then it was “¡Viva Zaragoza! ¡Viva Aragón! ¡Viva la Virgen del Pilar!”
How did the day unfold in the Arbeloa twitter world?
First, Álvaro said he wasn’t nervous. He then reported he was already at the Plaza del Pilar, attaching a photo.
Then Sergio tweeted Álvaro to say that he wanted to congratulate him because “today is a very important day for him – he’s the pregón in Zaragoza – congratulations.” Álvaro tweeted back, “thank you Sergi!! Take care since we need you at full strength on the wing on Tuesday! A hug, friend!”
Later on, Álvaro’s brothers, both big tweeters, had this to say. Yago said, “the view from the balcony is impressive! My hair is standing on end!” And Raúl tweeted, “I loved the pregón! But of course, what else could I say…”
And Xabi Alonso also congratulated Álvaro, calling his trufas once again! I love the one English word in his tweet!
Now, let’s talk about his shirts. We know that Álvaro Arbeloa loves his D&G movie star shirts. Previously, we had seen Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, and just Tuesday when he showed up at Las Rozas, James Dean.
Yesterday, he debuted another these shirts! As you can see in the picture from the Plaza del Pilar, he’s wearing an Al Pacino Scarface tee. I’m pretty sure the one he’s wearing on the balcony – which he has worn before – is another one along these lines, but I can’t see it too clearly, so if anyone knows, leave a comment! And during the pregón, he was wearing another Marlon Brando shirt, his second that we know of (there might be more in his closet though).
I can’t believe how many he has! Does the Dolce & Gabbana store have him on speed dial? They must call him as soon as they receive a new shipment! (Álvaro then calls Albiol and they go to the store together).
Álvaro was of course also wearing the cachirulo, the red checked scarf typical of the festival.
Álvaro also gave an interview to newspaper Heraldo shortly before opening the festival.
Q: To open the festival, you took the same road as you did in your childhood, from Salamanca to Zaragoza (Álvaro was born in Salamanca).
A: That’s true, although I passed through Madrid. It’s funny that on such a special day I repeated the road I took when I came to live in this city, a trip that has become so important…
Q: In that time, you were four years old and it’s here where you grew up. What does being the pregonero of the Pilar festival mean to you?
A: This is the city where I spent my childhood and grew up, so I’ve always felt that Zaragoza is my home. In addition, I began developing as a footballer here and I know all the football fields of the entire province by memory. I’m just one more person from Aragón, so I’m happy, excited and even nervous.
Q: Nervous? You’ve played in Anfield and the Bernabéu, and the Plaza del Pilar scares you?
A: When you’re on a football field, you have to be concentrating on the game and you forget that there are 80,000 fans watching you there and millions of others via television. When I go out on the balcony and see so many people down there below, I’m sure I’ll get nervous. I hope I’ll be able to talk.
Q: The mayor, Juan Alberto Belloch, must have been even more nervous, since you didn’t confirm your presence until several days ago.
A: We had planned to do it from the beginning, but the calendar said we had to play on Friday, and left us free on the day of the opening.
Q: You must be used to being honored, after winning the World Cup. Last Monday, you received Aragón’s sports merit medal.
A: One never gets used to the tributes, but events like those of that day make so many years of sacrifice and effort worthwhile. And even more if they come from your land.
Q: Was it easy to write the opening speech, or did you have to ask for help?
A: I received a bit of help. In the last few days, everyone has given me suggestions, so I still might edit it a bit at the last minute.
Q: I don’t want to spoil anything, but in your speech, you mention José Antonio Labordeta, who opened the festival last year.
A: That’s something that any person from Zaragoza who goes out onto that balcony would have done. He was a very important person, and it’s possible that all he did from Aragón is still not fully appreciated yet.
Q: Have you thought about doing the Spartans chant?
A: That’s something that resulted from the World Cup celebration, since I had “obligated” all my teammates to see the movie 300. Now the entire world is asking me to do it, we’ll see if in the end if I end up doing it.
Q: How do you imagine the moment out on the balcony to be?
A: I prefer not to think about it. I only hope it will be the start of an unforgettable festival, since for me it’s something that only happens once in a lifetime. In addition, my entire family will be there, and they’re almost as excited as I am.
Q: The sad thing is that on Tuesday you play in Scotland with the national team, so you won’t be able to stay and enjoy the festival.
A: That’s the worst thing, because as soon as the pregón ends, I return to Madrid. It’s been many years since I was able to enjoy the festival.
Q: Would you have liked to invite any of your teammates from the national team to the event?
A: I would have liked to bring Capdevila and Reina, since they’re both lively people. I’m sure that Pepe would love to go out on the balcony to do his “show.” I think I’ll ask him for some advice…
Q: Don’t forget to bring back a scarf from the festival for Mourinho.
A: (Laughs). I’m going to bring him a scarf and some fruit from Aragón, so that he can start to get to know my land.
The expedition met at Atocha to take the AVE to Zaragoza at 9:15 in the morning. Álvaro confessed that he slept about four hours, and kept yawning. He said that he wasn’t nervous… at the moment.
On the train, Álvaro said about the call from Zaragoza’s mayor to be the pregonero, “it was great news, and a surprise. I’m very happy and excited. It’s always difficult and complicated to get recognized in your land, so when they do it, you feel satisfied. I’ve watched the pregón many times from down below.”
As to his speech for the pregón, he said, “I have a bit of it prepared but I’m not going to obsess over it, and I’m going to use a crib sheet so that my nerves don’t get the best of me! I haven’t practiced a lot, only a bit, because being natural is important.”
When the train arrived in Zaragoza at 11h, and as soon as Álvaro disembarked, people began shouting “champion!” His mother Marisol was waiting for him at the station, and she helped him to put on his cachirulo, saying that “this is essential to enjoy the festival, so you have to put it on as soon as you arrive.” In the car outside, a surprise: his wife and daughter Alba, who was already wearing her cachirulo.
(trying not to see the LV luggage…)
The next stop was the Jesús María-El Salvador school, where Álvaro studied from the time he was four until he was 18. And that’s where he started playing football, but as a midfielder. Back then, he never imagined that one day he would be playing for some of the best clubs in the world, and become a world champion with Spain: “when I was small, my friends dreamed of playing in the first division, but I always thought it was just that, a dream.” His idol then was Zidane. He also says that he was a “very good student” and then continued as a “creative” one, and looked back at the school with nostalgia, saying that he spent “many good times” there.
Meanwhile, his mother Marisol revealed, “he was a rascal when he was small. He was very, very mischievous… sometimes his classmates wouldn’t invite him to their birthday parties because their mothers didn’t want him there since he was such a bad kid! He always had band-aids on his forehead and chin and there was a time when he had casts on both his leg and his arm.“ Then, going back to the present, she says, “he’s very happy and excited to give the pregón, but we’re even happier and more excited. He’s going to enjoy it a lot and we’ll all be there by his side. We’re happy.”
Now at the center of the city, at the Nuestra Señora del Pilar basilica, Álvaro says, “it’s marvelous. It’s a privilege to be here. It’s a wonderful site and a reference in Zaragoza…. the people love me a lot and it’s always a pleasure to return home and receive so much affection.”
Then comes lunch with his family, and the pregón. His thoughts on those moments: “when I was going from home to the town hall, it started pouring, and I didn’t think so many people would be there. I looked out and saw the plaza full of people. I was nervous but I don’t think anyone noticed.” Afterward, he rushes back to the train station to take the AVE back to Madrid. His reflections on the day: “I’m very happy. Everything turned out great and I really enjoyed it, which is the most important thing. I hope the people enjoyed it too and that they have a great time at the festival.”
Rest of pictures here!