a look back at the World Cup (II)
More anecdotes and memories of one year ago, during Spain’s ultimately successful run in the World Cup.
Rafa Nadal on the Swiss game
I watched the first game of the World Cup, in which Spain faced Switzerland, in the house that I rent each year that is situated a few minutes away from the All England Club of London. In the hours prior to the match, I had my first contact with the grass of the Aorangi Club and it had gone well for me. My uncle Toni and my fisio Rafael Maymó were there. My friend Feliciano López also came to watch the game, as he also rented a house next to Wimbledon and we usually got together to watch Spain play. From my point of view, as a fan of football, the defeat was totally unjust if you analyze all 90 minutes. The conclusion I got was that it was down to bad luck…
Many people asked me the next day if I received any messages from Roger Federer. The truth is no. I saw him on the courts and of course I congratulated him for the victory of his country, but I also told him that there was a lot of World Cup left. During the entire competition, I was in constant contact with the players. They knew what was at stake and had the necessary humility to achieve the goal. They always had their feet on the ground, just like I have my entire life as a tennis player. We should celebrate winning the World Cup because it’s an almost unrepeatable moment in the history of our sport.
Good luck this afternoon Rafa!!
Pedro, the non-pass and shirt numbers
In the semifinal against Germany, there was one play that made many people think of the bad luck that followed Spain in World Cups. Spain was up 1-0 and with nine minutes left, Pedro and Torres were alone in front of the opposite goal. The easiest thing would have been for Pedro to pass to El Niño to shoot, but the Canarian didn’t. All of Spain thought the same thing, “there it is, Cardeñosa all over again, now they’ll tie us.” But it didn’t happen and Spain found themselves in the final.
The next day, some people started saying that the relationship between Pedro and Torres wasn’t good and that Pedro hadn’t passed the ball because he saw it was Torres who was accompanying him. They must know nothing about Pedro to reach that conclusion. Just look at what happened on May 24. That day, the 23 players selected to play in the World Cup met to choose their shirt numbers. The process is simple: the order is based on seniority, so the new players end up with whatever is left. Almost no one wants the 13 (Mata ended up with it) and Valdés took the 12, another unpopular number. Only the 2 and the 20 were left for Javi Martínez (!!!) and Pedro. No one wanted the number linked to the position of right fullback, which had been worn previously in the World Cup by Sanchís (the father), De La Cruz, Camacho, Tomás, Chendo, Ferrer (twice), Curro Torres and Salgado. So there was a draw, and Pedro was the loser.
He was a bit sad, and Torres saw that. A bit later, Torres went up to Albiol and Arbeloa [they probably made it easier for him by being together] and asked them if one of them would mind changing with Pedro, because “the 2 is horrible for a forward.” Albiol, who won the Euro in 2008 wearing the 2, had no problems and so Pedro ended up with his 18.
Víctor Valdés is called up
The day before Del Bosque revealed the list of 23, Valdés received many messages wishing him luck. His response to everyone was the same: “thanks, but it’s impossible.” So, on the day the list would be announced, he went to the doctor with his son Dylan. When the appointment was over, his telephone sounded. It was Andrés Iniesta. Valdés was going to the World Cup. Del Bosque was bringing along the ogre that would threaten the good atmosphere.
But it wasn’t long before everyone could see that nothing was going to happen. The goalkeeper was one more on the team, another hard worker. He knew, as did Reina, that the goal was Casillas’ territory, but there wasn’t one training session in which Valdés didn’t give it his all. On the eve of the final, he told Marca, “I enjoyed every minute of the World Cup like a child.” In South Africa, Valdés worked right next to Casillas, and it didn’t take him long to understand what Iker means for the national team: “he’s everything, a goalkeeper that you work with and later joke around with, and then you think, this guy has already made football history.” His most unforgettable moment of the experience was “when I touched the Cup and I thought, I was part of all of this.”
Del Bosque shows class, again
The declarations of Luis Aragónes after the game against Switzerland were a real torpedo for La Roja. The players were shocked. The majority of the players had been loyal to their former coach and all together they had won the Eurocopa, the greatest achievement up to then in Spanish football history. Del Bosque sensed it immediately. When the team returned from Durban and before the first training session after the defeat, Vicente del Bosque took the bull by the horns. He got the entire expedition together – footballers, doctors, fisios, equipment managers, delegates, the press… he spoke with them using the same mildness as he always does, but with a strong message: “no one is to say anything about Luis.” He asked everyone, when asked about the declarations, to respond by saying, “you have to always respect his declarations. We’re here because of what Luis contributed.”
The next day, while Del Bosque was having breakfast alone in the dining room, Xavi appeared and said, “míster, I just saw the game on TV. I think we played well, I still don’t understand why we didn’t win.” That was exactly what the coach was thinking, but didn’t want to say, so that no one would think he was finding excuses. He had watched the game five more times and had come to the same conclusion. Puyol was the next one down, and he had come to that conclusion too.
Javier Arbizu looks back
Javier Arbizu has spent years cooking for all categories of the Spanish national team. Of all his experiences, the one in South Africa is at the top of the list: “it was the best, a unique moment in my life. For me, it was the greatest thing I’ve experienced since I’ve been in the world of football.” He has many memories of that time: the fisio Miguel Gutiérrez jumping through fire on the night of San Juan, Pepe Reina asking for very rare meat while Sergio Busquets preferred his so well done that it was practically burnt. But above all, he praises the atmosphere of the concentración: “I’ve been to five World Cups with the team and I never saw such a united team as the one in South Africa. Spain wasn’t a team, it was a group of friends.”
When Iniesta scored in the final, he couldn’t contain himself: “I’ve experienced some great things, but I was crying like a child. In addition, both in the Eurocopa and in Soccer City, the players who scored were ones that I’ve seen grow up since they were kids” (referring to Torres and Iniesta). As for Del Bosque, he says, “all of Spain has realized what an incredible person he is. He’s more than a coach, he’s a symbol of the country.” His face lights up when he recalls the ovations the players gave him, more than once, for his cooking. Now, almost one year later, he has had a busy summer: he was with the futsal team in Moscow, then with the senior team in the U.S. and Venezuela, stopping over in Madrid for a mere five hours before flying onto Denmark to join the U-21 team during their Euro run.
Albiol vs. Arbeloa
The hours in The Convent, which is what the team nicknamed their hotel in Potchefstroom, passed by slowly. The night fell fast, the cold was intense and there was nothing to do. The players, once they finished training and having dinner, would get together to disconnect from football. Some played cards – poker overtook pocha as the favorite game – and others played Play. The game room was situated in the Cricket Club, but the games soon became so intense that they were moved into the rooms. Raúl Albiol and Álvaro Arbeloa, who were inseparable, would play against two other inseparable players, Sergio Ramos and Jesús Navas. Albiol and Arbeloa would play as England, and Ramos and Navas as Brazil (and later, Spain).
The competition was so intense that “the English” decided to buy two England shirts online, the 8 of Lampard and the 4 of Gerrard, who had been teammates with Arbeloa in Liverpool (or Liverpúl, as Soledad says). After they arrived, the two of them would wear them each time there was a game, a secret which Xabi Alonso revealed when he posted a picture of them dressed like that on his twitter. Those games could be heard through walls, and various teammates had to ask them to keep the noise down.
The relationship between Arbeloa and Albiol is extraordinary. They both love sports and they also watched the NBA Finals together. This year, they were in Providence during the second game of the NBA Finals between Dallas and Miami. With five minutes left, and the Heat up by 15, Arbeloa convinced Albiol that it was over and so they should go to bed. The next day, when El Chori found out about Nowitzki’s game winner, he wanted to kill Arbeloa.
Good jamón is always a part of the concentración; 55 legs of the best Guijuelo were included in the luggage of the delegation in South Africa. However, this is not part of the diet of the players, since Dr. Celada doesn’t like anyone to deviate from the strict dietary plan he’s made up. That’s why many footballers would secretly go to the tent set up by the Federation for journalists and guests, situated one kilometer from the hotel, to have jamón.
Mostly unfulfilled promises
Each time Marca interviewed the players, they always ended with the player writing on a piece of paper something he would do if Spain won the World Cup. Arbeloa made clear that he was writing something that would be very hard for him, saying, “winning a World Cup is a once in a lifetime thing, so I have to promise something that will really be an effort for me.” He ended up promising to spend an entire year without drinking Coke if Spain won. On Jan. 1 of this year, that year began. He has six months left on that sentence.
On July 13, all the envelopes were open, revealing all types of promises: some that could be kept, others that couldn’t, and some that have been forgotten. Sergio Ramos is still looking for “a discrete place for my World Cup tattoo.” Capdevila said the same thing, but there hasn’t been any news that he intends to go through with it. Andrés Iniesta promised to do the Camino de Santiago, but without saying when. Llorente and Javi Martínez (!!!) promised to go skydiving. Javi (!!!) went further than Fernando by adding, “I’ll dye my hair fluorescent yellow and I’ll skydive naked.” He’s still thinking about skydiving, but dressed [noooo!!!!] and with his normal hair color.
Llorente and the drug test
There was a party in the locker room after the game against Portugal. Spain had taken a giant step forward and the road to the final in Johannesburg suddenly seemed a lot clearer. However, the player who had changed the course of the game, Fernando Llorente, was missing. He had been one of the two Spanish players chosen to be drug tested.
The process is this: in the presence of team doctors, two players from each team are chosen out of all players, regardless of whether they play or not, at the half to provide urine samples for drug testing. These names are not revealed until 15 minutes before the game ends, also in the presence of the doctors. Llorente had gone to the bathroom at the half. And he paid for it later. He just could not pee. Years before, the players could drink beer, but that was prohibited some time ago, though they could drink water, juice and isotonic beverages. Llorente drank and drank, but there was no way to fill the cup: “I couldn’t. I was getting angry because I was missing out on the party in the locker room,” he remembers. When at last he came out of the drug testing room, his teammates gave him an ovation and he was on the receiving end of many jokes.
Posted on July 1, 2011, in campeones, players and tagged albiol, arbeloa, capdevila, del bosque, iniesta, javi, llorente, pedro, puyol, sergio, torres, valdés, xabi, xavi. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.