el mundo en nuestras manos – Chapter 6
Xabi Alonso fans, be prepared to be disappointed with this alleged chapter on Xabi Alonso. While Pepe does say some very nice things about Xabi, he doesn’t go in depth or really give any examples or anecdotes, which is really frustrating! And, he also manages to torture us further by touching upon the team’s leisure-time activities, but once again without explaining anything. Plus, it wouldn’t be a chapter of EMENM without going off on tangents, and this chapter is replete with them!
Chapter 6: A hope-filled plane
“With the 14, the lung, the lung. Look, war wounds, for his country, for Spain… Xabi Alonso!
The most intelligent person on the team, and the one that is the most cultured outside of football. He also has a great intelligence on the field. I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot from him in these five years. In Liverpool, he taught me how to become a better person, to become a more complete person and to understand football better. He understands me very well and we have a very good relationship. He is without a doubt a very intelligent footballer. He’s above all the others.
It might seem a little presumptuous of us to say that we packed our suitcases with the goal of spending one month in South Africa. It was clear to us. And even if this suitcase with enough clothes for one month didn’t mean anything, it made us feel good. We knew that fourth place in Brazil 1950 was the best-ever finish for Spain in a World Cup. This meant that the majority of Spaniards hadn’t even see their team dispute the semifinals. Only those that were older than 70 years old had a memory of his accomplishment.
I had a lot of hope packed in that suitcase. As a professional athlete, I’ve packed many suitcases, not only for trips but also when I changed residences due to football. When I was small, it was from Madrid to Barcelona. Then from the Camp Nou to the Madrigal. Then Villarreal to Liverpool. And I feel privileged to have experienced so little changes in my career. Other teammates change teams every year and don’t even have time to get used to one city before they have to move on.
In this moment, I’m looking at Xabi Alonso. He’s the most intelligent footballer I’ve ever met. He brings all of the culture that he has off the field onto the field for the benefit of the team. But I’m not thinking of him just because I happened to see him on the bus, but because I’m remembering how much he helped me when I came to Liverpool. In 2005, I also filled a suitcase with hope. That foreign city that would become my home was becoming well-known in every corner of Spain. The Spanish Liverpool of Rafa Benítez had just won the Champions and I, a young goalkeeper who hadn’t even played with the national team, was coming to the city of the Beatles. It was a dream for me. And people such as Xabi helped me to quickly see that it was also the reality, and that I should take advantage of it.
Xabi was not only important for me on a footballing and professional level, but he also taught me how to be a better person and to understand, despite not being English, what it meant to play in Anfield and feel that you’re already part of history.
The same thing happened with us. We knew that we could form part of history, as Spain had never done so in 80 years of World Cup play. Due to different circumstances, Spain had never triumphed in this sport.
In our suitcases, in addition to the equipment that a player would need – boots, gloves for the goalies – we also included a lot of hope. In my case, and in those of my teammates, there was hardly room for anything else. I felt like a kid with new shoes who wanted to go somewhere during the summer with his friends and experience something marvelous in a country that he had never been to before. In addition to all that, we also had to pack some things for those hours when we had free time. A computer had become a fundamental object for a concentración, along with a pack of cards. Cards are always a good way to develop team spirit and competition within a group, and to have fun winning money off of your teammates. We knew that downtime was just as important as time spent training, and that when we had to be serious, we would, but that there was also time to be happy.
We were also grateful for all the amulets that fans, friends and family gave us. The last one that I received, the Cruz de Caravaca in Murcia, was the last thing I packed. Believers such as me know that “the Phenomenon” is protecting us from above and that He had to lend us a hand during this trip. That’s why I was excited when I received this cross.
[Pepe then talks about his time at Villarreal. The transition to that is so weak that I’m not even going to bother translating it and trying to make a connection.]
We were trying to secure a place in the Champions. For us, it was a challenge and an important step forward for the club. This was my last game in yellow. We were playing against Levante and the stadium was full. We won 4-1 and earned a Champions League spot. Diego Forlán scored two goals and beat Eto’o for the Golden Boot award. My family was in the stands; everyone had come to see me. I got a surprise after the game, when I looked at them and saw my wife, my brother Miguel, my sister-in-law and my nephew forming the word “P-E-P-E.” They had also made a sign thanking everyone who was leaving the club for our time there. Marcos Senna got the sign and took it into the locker room.
The farewell party was very emotional, but the night didn’t end there. We went out to eat and to celebrate qualifying for the Champions League. We had to go out onto the balcony of the town hall. The fans shouted at me to stay. Some people even sang flamenco to celebrate. I was leaving a modest team that was joining the great teams of Spain and Europe to go to a team that had just won the Champions League several days ago in penalties after losing the game 3-0. Curiously, it was Xabi Alonso who scored the equalizer after catching the rebound of a penalty he had just taken. And speaking of blocked penalties, that year I stopped seven out of the nine that were launched against me.
See what I mean? You can’t make this stuff up! And very, very smooth and completely relevant transition to mentioning Xabi again before the chapter ends. Oh Pepe…