el mundo en nuestras manos – Chapter 3
It’s time for my headache to reappear… because here comes another chapter of Pepe Reina’s book! Actually, this chapter wasn’t that bad, though I did some editing on behalf of Pepe. By the way, Pepe had the help of Jordi Folqué, a journalist at IDEAL, in writing the book.
Chapter 3: An opened and closed debate
“With the 12, the panther of Hospitalet, the genius, the character. They said that we didn’t get along. Take that! There’s no fucking way that we don’t get along! Víctor Valdés!”
It was one of the most positive episodes from the World Cup. People, or rather the media, had said the training camp would be full of polemics and piques and things like that, but in the end, it was the complete opposite. Víctor displayed exemplary behavior. Víctor Valdés showed everyone that he’s a fantastic teammate.
Since our goal in this training camp was to take the first and important steps towards winning a World Cup, we had to get to work immediately. We had to change our suits for training gear. Put on our boots. And, in the case of the three goalkeepers, put on our gloves. We knew what our style was, from the moment we showed that beautiful football can lead to trophies. In that moment, our objective was to go to South Africa in the best state possible.
The training camp went smoothly from the first moment until the last. One could think that the good results made our jobs easier, but it was in one of those few bad moments that we became even more united.
There was unity between everyone, and even more, if possible, between the goalkeepers, as it had been in the last several years. Iker Casillas topped the hierarchy in the goal. He was the captain both on and off the field, and one of the main reasons why there was such a good atmosphere on the team. And from England, I didn’t understand why people criticized him so much. Just like I didn’t understand those senseless debates in the days prior to the release of the squad list when it was said that Iker and I didn’t want Víctor Valdés to join the team.
Since I was in Liverpool, I didn’t have to listen to the tonterías, but my friends called me about it and there was a debate on the Internet that left me a bit surprised. Time will prove that all those who said these things had no basis whatsoever for these falsehoods.
It was said – and I don’t know where they got this information from – that Víctor Valdés hadn’t been called up for the senior national team in recent years, despite his brilliant performances with Barcelona, because he wouldn’t accept being the second or third goalkeeper. It was said that if he came, it was to be the starting goalkeeper. It was also said, as if I had any sway over the coach’s decisions, that I had vetoed his choice because we didn’t get along when we played together for Barcelona’s youth teams and that even back then we couldn’t stand each other. Me, playing in the Premier and having the power to condition the call-ups of Vicente del Bosque? I was flabbergasted!
We supposed that as soon as it was revealed that Víctor was on the list for the World Cup, these “experts” would no longer have anything to say. It was a big mistake on our part to think that way. Now, the debate was all about how Iker wasn’t in his best moment and that Víctor should be the starter. I was even more flabbergasted.
Meanwhile, in Las Rozas, Iker, Víctor and I went about our lives, training and living together with complete normality.
I have to admit that I didn’t like, or rather, I didn’t understand how after showing my commitment to the national team and being the least-scored against goalkeeper in the Premier League four times in the last five seasons, why I wasn’t part of this debate over who should start, and only Víctor and Iker were mentioned as the possibilities to defend the goal of Spain.
But I forgot all about this “debate” after five minutes. After a few moments of reflection, I understood that they were the starting goalkeepers of the two biggest teams in Spain, and that the Spanish media are always focused on the players from these two clubs. Since I play outside of Spain, my name is not mentioned every day in the Spanish press, and in consequence, the fans know more about what is going on at Real Madrid or Barcelona than at Liverpool. Since this is normal and there was nothing I could – or wanted to – do about it, I ended my internal debate. Those five minutes passed by quicker than any other ones in my professional career.
All we could do was to show our other two teammates that we were professionals, that we respected each other and that we would do everything we could to help the national team. I already knew Iker well, since we had played together on La Roja during the past five years. But I hadn’t shared a locker room with Víctor since I left Barça, more than a decade ago. He showed me that he was a complete professional and a model worker. Our relationship was completely proper in every moment. He made it much easier for the coach to make decisions. There was a great atmosphere in all moments between the three of us, three players that knew that only one could play. That’s how it is for goalkeepers.
The two of us set a good example. We had the bad luck of not being able to participate, even though we both start for great clubs. The Saint of Móstoles showed each day why there would be no discussion about his starting status. No matter how hard those on the outside tried to create controversy, it couldn’t put a dent in the great atmosphere that we had.
The days passed by and it was June 1, and Víctor’s turn to speak to the press. He cleared up this whole debate with one phrase, one that will remain in the heads of both Iker’s defenders and the defenders of the panther of L’Hospitalet: “I don’t understand why anyone doubts Iker.” There it was, clear and rotund.
And if anyone still thinks that the three of us fight internally, consider the fact that I asked Iker to write the prologue and Víctor the epilogue. I was sure they would accept. This should shut up those who doubt that we get along.
Up next: Pedrito.