a look back at the World Cup (III)
More anecdotes, stories and reflections on the World Cup…
Sergio Ramos is the official DJ of the Spanish national team. He took control of the music in the Eurocopa, and was a total success. However, in South Africa, there were players who didn’t like the Caribbean music that Ramos based his compilations on. At the head of the line was Joan Capdevila: “it was quite weak, to tell you the truth,” he said (Joan prefers Barricada and Offspring, but sings Sergio Dalma’s “Bailar pegados” at karaoke). Regardless, Sergio’s music overcame the detractors. One of chosen tracks was Elvis Crespo’s “Píntame.” During the tournament, the players didn’t want to talk about the music they were listening to in the locker room or on the bus, but on the airplane ride back, we found out what was their song of the World Cup, thanks to Pepe Reina, David Villa and Sergio Ramos.
Elvis Crespo himself didn’t know that one of his songs was used to motivate the Spanish national team. It was his wife who informed him. Maribel Vega saw the name of her husband trending on twitter and how it was linked to the return of the world champions to Spain. Crespo told newspaper Primera Hora, “all the eyes of the world were on this team for winning an event as big as the World Cup, and this was also the first time Spain had won. And they were celebrating with my song. I feel indestructible.” The song was written in 1998, when Sergio Ramos was only 12 years old.
Joan Capdevila looks back
Joan Capdevila played his 50th game with Spain against Paraguay on July 3. Coincidentally enough, his first game with La Roja, on Oct. 16, 2002, was also against Paraguay. He said before this World Cup game, “I debuted against Paraguay and game number 50 is also against Paraguay. Cool!” Months before traveling to South Africa, Capdevila became a father. On March 10, Gerard was born. His father said, “I dreamed of being able to tell my son one day that I had won the World Cup and now I can.” Of the final, his most lasting memory is how he found his parents in the stands, amid all the craziness that his “adored” Iniesta’s goal had caused: “I don’t know if it was intuition, but after the final whistle, I saw my parents in the stands. I owe them – Joan and Vicky – so much. When I was small, they sacrificed their weekends for me, to help me become a footballer.”
VDB said after Spain was criticized for their loss to Switzerland, “if I were a footballer today, I would want to be Busquets.” Sergio Busquets’ response was, “I didn’t expect that. I’ve always felt his confidence in me, and he’s always been great with me, but having the coach and such an important person in the world of football that Del Bosque is say something like that makes me feel proud.” In the locker room, he was teased and asked, “are you his son or what?” Fernando Hierro, meanwhile, has always said, “Busi is the míster‘s weakness.”
Busquets didn’t forget all the people who had helped him get to South Africa. On his championship shirt, he wrote on the front, “because you all have achieved it with me” and on the back, “the greatest thing for the greatest people,” with the names of his family members and friends below it. His grandfather’s name was written in capital letters in the middle. Juan was the father of his mother, the one who used to bring him to play every weekend. On July 11, Sergio looked up to heaven to commemorate Juan.
Piqué and his poor face
In South Africa, he broke open his face for Spain. Against Switzerland, he needed stitches on one eyebrow and against Honduras, he nearly lost some teeth. In those two games, Gerard Piqué needed a total of five stitches, causing his teammates to compare him to Carmen de Mairena (do a Google image search, but be warned that the result is scary and can lead to a loss of appetite).
Samuel Sánchez reflects on the World Cup
Note: Samuel Sánchez is a Spanish cyclist from Asturias; he won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games.
I admit I’m not a big fan of football, but I try to always watch big games. I could only catch the second half of the Germany-Spain game, because by the time I finished with the Tour de France stage, went back to the hotel, got a massage and had dinner, the first half had already ended. However, the 45 minutes that I could see were worth it, because tiqui-taca triumphed. It was such a pleasure watching the national team! Pedrito had a great game, he didn’t stop kicking balls into the area the entire night. And when the Germans created occasions, San Iker Casillas appeared. Sometimes the goalkeeper is forgotten, but he’s also important. Puyol’s golazo was incredible.
I’ve had the honor of coinciding in some public acts with the players. After I won a gold medal in Beijing in the Olympic Games, I did the honorary kickoff at a game in San Mamés between Athletic and Sporting. Thanks to these encounters, I can say that I have a great friendship with Fernando Llorente and Javi Martínez. But the one I have the best relationship with is Villa, my countryman from Asturias. I’ve exchanged messages with him throughout these past few weeks, where we wish each other luck.
On the afternoon of July 10, Xavi Hernández’ family, including his parents, his siblings Álex, Óscar and Ariadna (with their children) boarded a flight from El Prat to Madrid, and then to Johannesburg.
Once they arrived in South Africa on Sunday, they headed for the team’s hotel, the Da Vinci. Their idea was to spend a bit of time with Xavi, to eat something and then go to the stadium to watch the final. However, their plans were truncated in the form of massive security at the doors of the hotel, with the guards telling them, “no one is allowed inside.” They had expected this, but thought once they identified themselves, they would be let in. However, the security paid them no attention and there was no way to reason with them. They had to call Xavi to let him know they were there and to get inside. However, even Xavi was unable to get all of them inside, as only two family members were allowed entrance. His parents went in, but five minutes later, they were told that visiting time was over and they had to leave. Xavi protested, but no one cared. End of the visit.
… and Fernando Torres’ “grandfather”
Meanwhile, Fernando Torres’ parents were also trying to gain entry, though the security kept telling them, “no entry.” They were accompanied by Joaquín Martorell, the president of Bahía Internacional, which is the agency that represents Torres (and Navas, Pedro and Javi Martínez (!!!) as well). Flori and José’s request to enter was denied. But when Martorell was asked who he was, he replied, “I’m Torres’ grandfather” without thinking – to this day, he doesn’t know why he answered like that. But those were the magic words, because elders are venerated in South Africa. The security guard said, “Oh, the grandfather, come with me!” and Martorell was in. Inside, he spent his time telling those players that he represents that there were family members outside who weren’t allowed inside and to go help them out, and also spent a bit of time with his “grandson.”
Xabi Alonso looks back
There are moments from the World Cup that become iconic images. Maradona’s hand of God, Zidane’s headbutt…. the final in Johannesburg provided two, Iniesta’s goal and the impressive kick from De Jong to the chest of Xabi Alonso. Xabi says, “I was impressed watching it later on TV. After watching it so many times and in slow motion, I saw that it was so much more violent and aggressive than I had thought when it happened on the field.” However, neither after the game nor with the passing of time has Xabi wanted to discuss Howard Webb’s decision to only give this action a yellow card. He says, “the truth is that it hurt me a few days after but it didn’t become more serious. I was in so much pain… it’s the blow that has hurt me the most in my life. I thought that I had broken something for the pain I was feeling. It didn’t leave any marks, because it was very direct. Luckily, it wasn’t serious.” As for the World Cup, Xabi says, “the Cup doesn’t only belong to the 23 players. Many people worked during a long time to get to this point.”
Pocha was the favorite card game of the players at the Eurocopa, but at the World Cup, its reign was supplanted by poker, and also bingo. The coaching staff, however, was more traditional, and preferred mus. VDB, Toni Grande, Paco Jiménez and Fernando Hierro played the game a lot, with the pairs changing frequently, although the normal thing was to have Hierro and Grande against VDB and Paco. However, there was one rule that was always followed: VDB and Fernando Hierro could never be partners. They played a lot throughout the month, and Hierro said that in all these games, Del Bosque was never capable of beating him. But VDB did win something else: the World Cup.
On June 8, the team knew that they would be in the final of the World Cup playing as the visitors and so they would be wearing their dark blue shirt. Even though this was the shirt they had worn when they beat Chile and Paraguay, the players weren’t happy. So they met and decided to speak with Adidas so that if Spain ended up as champions, they would go collect the medals and trophy with their red shirt, the symbol of the team.
Adidas agreed, but also thought that the red shirt should already have the star on it. They communicated their idea to the captains, who thought it was a perfect plan, as long as the shirts were kept away from the players. It was due to superstition, that the players should not be close to the star before earning it. The same reasoning was behind Iker telling everyone not to touch the Cup on their way out onto the field.
So, Adidas began working on adding the stars to the shirt. First, they had to ask permission from FIFA, which they got. Then they began adding the stars. They had to be careful, as there was a limited supply of shirts and no extra ones could be found in South Africa. The shirts were finally ready at two in the morning on July 11. In the end, Spain won and the team wore these shirts to collect the World Cup.
David Villa will always remember what he saw when he entered the locker room of Soccer City after the game: “I saw grown men crying like babies. In the locker room, we all cried. I got very emotional seeing Iker cry from the time Iniesta scored until the end of the game. He didn’t stop. Pepe Reina was on the sideline trying to console him. He almost went up next to the goal to speak with him…. it was strange seeing the tears of players such as Xavi, Iniesta, who have achieved everything in football. Or Capdevila. He was crying like a little child. He wasn’t emotional, but he was crying like a baby.”