Juan Mata & Andoni Iraola interviews, plus Pablo Hernández Q&A!
A super-interview post: Juan Mata spoke with the RFEF, Andoni Iraola did the same with magazine Don Balón, while Pablo Hernández answered their famous questionnaire!
Let’s start with El Picho. Juanín spoke with the RFEF’s radio station on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of his debut with the Spanish national team, and this is what he had to say (have a listen here).
Two years have passed since you debuted with the national team, and you were able to celebrate this anniversary with a goal and a victory against Lithuania…
Yes, those two years have been great for me, in that I could experience a World Cup and a Confederations Cup. In addition, I was lucky that I was able to score a goal on this two-year anniversary.
Your debut with La Roja came in the Santiago Bernabéu, when you were 20 years old. What do you remember about that day?
I remember above everything else the happiness of my family, who had come to the Santiago Bernabéu to experience this game with me, and I remember being nervous before the match, although once I stepped onto the field I was calm and tried to do my best. Fortunately, we won the game.
How has Juan Mata changed from his debut two years ago against Turkey to this last game in Kaunas against Lithuania?
I have a bit more experience. I was able to play quite a few number of games in these two years with the national team, and I’m really privileged to have been able to take part in a World Cup and win it. Despite the experience, my desire to improve is still the same as it was the first day.
Although it’s important to debut, it’s more difficult to keep getting called up, given the extremely high level of quality of the players that make up the Spanish national team.
Yes, this is very important, because there have been cases of players who debuted, and then for some reason or another, didn’t make it back to the national team. In my case, I’m lucky that the coach continues to count on me, and that’s also a reason to be happy.
When you debuted with La Roja, did you imagine that several years later you would win the World Cup at the age of 22?
The truth is no. When I debuted, I never even thought I would go to a World Cup, much less win it. Just being on the list of the 23 chosen ones was already a reason to be overjoyed, and I really feel privileged for being able to live that experience that has become part of the history of our football.
Everything happened quickly for you: your debut in the first division, your first call-up with the national team, the World Cup…
With the national team, I was able to go from the U-21 team to the senior team, playing in the Confederations Cup at the age of 21 and the World Cup at 22… I can’t ask for more!
Do memories of that experience in South Africa still come to mind, even though months have passed?
Yes, many times. Part of it is because I have many souvenirs at home: shirts, one of the balls from the final… In addition, people always ask you about this, so I think it will be a memory that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
Vicente del Bosque has stressed the need to not be content with what has been achieved. Right now you’re in the midst of qualifying for the Eurocopa, and you’ve won five out of five games.
Yes, this team has the desire to continue doing things well and not live in the past or on memories. It’s fine to remember what you’ve experienced, but you can’t stay there and the team is showing that in this qualifying phase in which we’re leaders and we’ve won all our games.
Do you think the team is capable of winning the Eurocopa and thus three big titles consecutively?
I hope so, I think we’re on the right path and we have the same desire and hope that we had before winning the World Cup and the Eurocopa. We have quality players and a quality coach, and we know what it’s like to win an important title. The problem is that in a tournament like this, it’s not only necessary to have a good team, but also to show it during certain moments of the competition.
Players like yourself or Javi Martínez (!!!) have shown a great commitment to the national team, putting yourselves at the disposal of the U-21 team to help them qualify for the Euro in Denmark.
For our age, we can still play with the U-21 team, and when we spoke about this with Fernando Hierro, we let him know that we would have no problems playing with the U-21 team and that we were proud to do so, because the opportunity to play in the Olympics is once in a lifetime, and to get there we had to qualify for the Euro. When I played with the U-21 team, we had to win four games, which we did, and now the objective is to finish the tournament as one of the top three teams to be able to play in the Games. In any case, there are great generations of players coming up through the ranks and I think the future of the national team is in good hands.
I suppose you have this Euro tournament in Denmark circled in red on your calendar…
Yes, from the time we began the qualifying phase, Luis Milla made us understand the importance of this tournament because it’s the most important one of the year and the one that will give us access to the Olympic Games in London.
What will it mean for you to play in these Olympic Games, taking into account that this is something that many athletes only experience once in their careers?
It’s something totally unique in the life of an athlete, the atmosphere in the Olympic Village. In addition, since Spanish football is in its golden age, I think it would be great if Spain could play in these games, but finishing in the top three of the Euro is a complicated task. We will try.
You’ve won a U-19 Euro and a World Cup with the senior team, you’ve participated in the Confederations Cup and you’ve played in all the lower categories, so you’re the perfect person to explain to us what it means to wear the shirt of La Roja.
For any Spanish player, it’s the most beautiful thing there is, to represent your country in any competition or category. I’ve been lucky enough to have played with all the levels of the national team, from the U-15 to the senior team, and whoever puts on this shirt feels happy.
What are your objectives for the rest of this year?
For the national team, it’s to qualify for the Olympic Games in 2012 and win the U-21 Euro in Denmark.
Meanwhile, Pablo Hernández was the latest footballer to fill out Don Balón’s questionnaire! The cutest answer is that his best friend in football is none other than the man who appears above him in this post, Juanín Mata!
1. Civil status?
2. What were you studying?
I finished up to the ESO (compulsory secondary education).
3. Do footballers make too much money?
4. Should provincial national teams play official games?
5. What would you like to do when you no longer play football?
Teach kids how to play football, dedicate myself to football basics.
6. What is your favorite singer or group?
7. What is your favorite song?
Nolasco’s “Dulce soledad.”
8. Who are your favorite actor and actress?
Will Smith and Sandra Bullock.
9. What movie have you watched the most number of times?
10. What is the best book you’ve read in your life?
“Three Steps Over Heaven” (Federico Moccia).
11. What footballer did your father talk to you constantly about?
Alfredo di Stéfano.
12. Is it easier for footballers to hook up with girls?
It could be.
13. Your best friend in the world of football?
14. What is your favorite TV show?
“Tonterías las justas.”
15. What is your favorite food?
16. A city.
17. Your idea of a perfect night?
A movie, dinner with friends and a game of cards.
18. What place would you like to visit?
19. Your most recent car?
A BMW X6.
20. What is the best poem you’ve ever read?
I can’t remember right now.
21. What is the painting that has impressed you the most out of all that you’ve seen?
“Las Meninas,” without a doubt.
22. Who is the sexiest woman, after yours?
Other than my girlfriend, Megan Fox.
23. Is love necessary for you in sex?
24. Do you all play better on the field after having sex?
It’s not related.
25. Would you forgive a onetime act of infidelity?
I don’t think so.
26. What do you think about the death penalty?
27. How do you kill time in the concentraciones?
Mostly by watching movies.
28. What do you think about gay marriages?
I respect it.
29. In what areas has your footballing improved in the last few years?
In my defensive work.
30. What did you learn from your parents?
To value life and appreciate what I have.
31. What is your latest splurge?
A watch that I liked.
32. What does a footballer do during the afternoons?
Rest and try to enjoy their free time.
33. When was the last time you got drunk?
Many New Year’s Eves ago.
34. What is your dream car?
35. Finish this sentence: It drives me crazy when…
… people oppose me.
36. What do you always have in your refrigerator?
37. Should all immigrants be legalized?
Not all of them.
38. Who were your idols?
I always liked Michael Laudrup.
39. Tell me a historic moment of your club.
The year it won the doblete, in the 2003-04 season.
40. Which country do you support, apart from Spain, in a World Cup?
I always go with Brazil.
41. The Christmas gift you were most excited about.
42. What other sports have you played or play?
Tennis, basketball, padel.
43. Your favorite historical person?
44. What was the last crazy thing you did?
The truth is I’m not one to do crazy things.
45. Do you have any manias before stepping on the field?
Yes, some. I kiss the crosses that I wear, I cross myself and I touch my tattoo of the virgin.
46. Where do you usually go for vacations?
47. Your favorite clothing brand?
48. What was the last time you used public transportation?
The metro, four years ago.
49. If you were the president, what would be the first thing you would do upon arriving at Moncloa?
Everyone would tell me to end the crisis, but I would try and respect everyone’s wishes.
50. What question do you hate being asked by journalists?
When I get asked why I’m not playing.
Five bonus questions
ONE. A dream… to win a title with Valencia.
TWO. A person that you miss. My uncle, who’s no longer here.
THREE. Your lucky number. 19.
FOUR. What would you take to a deserted island? My girlfriend and food.
FIVE. If you weren’t a footballer, you’d be… an F1 driver.
And Andoni Iraola also spoke with Don Balón about returning to the national team (the majority of the interview dealt with his club).
It’s very difficult to do, but you managed to return to the national team, to that group of chosen ones…
I feel privileged for that, for having the possibility to enter into a group that has been the champions of the world, and for which there is brutal competition to enter. It was a very positive experience to return to the national team after more than one year without being called up. I was excited that the seleccionador remembered me.
Did you think that they had forgotten about you?
Everyone knows that getting onto the team is very difficult, but in the last few months I still had hope, because things are going very well for Athletic this season and also for me on the individual level. I thought that I might one day make it back to the national team, and it happened.
A national team with three Athletic players…
That means that the club is doing things correctly. If we players want to be rewarded individually, we know we have to carry the team to the highest spot possible in the classification, which is what is happening this season with Athletic.
Have Javi Martínez (!!!) and Fernando Llorente teased you because they’re world champions and you’re not?
No, whatever! In Athletic we actually tease them more than they us, for the star, but it’s healthy teasing because that star is well-deserved.
Statistics say that Spain won’t win the next Eurocopa…
The fact that no team has won a Eurocopa, a World Cup and then another Eurocopa in a row doesn’t mean anything, only that it’s a very difficult challenge. For this team, this is a motivation and a new challenge, and we know we can’t be overconfident.
You were with the group during the games in Granada and Kaunas. Do these players still have a hunger to continue winning?
Yes. I think one of the secrets of the national team is that they never tire of winning, they’ve become used to it and they want to continue like that. This is of course something positive in the face of the upcoming challenges.
And everything began with Luis Aragonés…
Yes, and in essence, the team is the same with Del Bosque as it was with Luis. Del Bosque has maintained the same playing style, although new players have been introduced into the fold, such as Piqué and Busquets, who became important and fundamental players for the team.
Speaking of fundamental players, Ineista was whistled at in San Mamés…
¡Hombre! It was a circumstance of the game. There was a controversial play which ended with Amorebieta expelled, and that’s why they whistled him. I want to remind you that afterward Xavi was subbed out and he was applauded. The fans in San Mamés have no problems in applauding rival players.