La Roja Por Dentro – Chapter III
So, with this chapter done, we are about halfway through the book, and I’m still not sure the point of the book is, since Silvia’s writing is very confusing. In this chapter, she goes off on multiple tangents, and covers many more things than the concentración. For example, on a section about spending time with Iniesta on the trip to Costa Rica, she speaks not only about that, but also Iraola’s wedding, shopping in the United States, team nicknames, playing bingo and inexplicably, Álvaro Arbeloa as a U-15 player with Aragón’s provincial team. She ends the chapter explaining how one of her nicknames came about (I don’t get it either). And the worst thing is, I haven’t learned anything new about the players or the team!
Chapter III: The concentración.
The residence: the Ciudad de Fútbol in Las Rozas is made up of various football fields, a gym, a press room, game rooms (pool, video games, library), restaurants and the residence. Some of the rooms in the residence are named after players such as Raúl, Fernando Hierro or Alfredo di Stéfano. Antonio Limones is responsible for assigning the rooms: “I do it based on relationships and not hierarchy. If Navas is called up, I give him a room near Ramos’ because I know they’re friends. It’s the same with Arbeloa and Albiol, or Iniesta and Valdés. The players always know which room they get. They take the elevator up, all of the rooms are open and the keys are on top of the bed.” This is how the routine always goes, no matter which hotel the team is staying at.
The diet: the lunches are usually made up of pasta, fish, meat (grilled) and a lot of salad. Óscar Celada coordinates with Javier Arbizu to elaborate the menus. “Arbi” says the national team has become part of his family, and the boys are like sons to him and that’s the way he treats them. He also reveals that Pepe likes his meat rare, almost raw, while Piqué prefers his meat to be well done to the point where the texture is like that of a shoe. Iniesta loves fried eggs because it reminds him of his mother, while Puyol and Xabi like all types of fish. As for Iker, he always asks Arbizu to make tripe after games, as a “good madrileño.” Desserts aren’t often on the menu, although they are Dr. Celada’s weakness, so Arbizu jokes that he always brings out the rice pudding for Dr. Celada once the players have left.
The absent-mindedness of Llorente: Fernando Llorente admits he’s absent-minded. He says, “I remember one day in the Confederations Cup, I forgot about the lunch. I ran to the dining room, but since I had to cross a street to get there from the area with the rooms, a lot of people saw me. You can imagine how it was when I got there. Everyone knows I’m like this.”
[Surely he has other stories to share besides this one, which I’ve heard a million times?]
Xavi and resting: every time you ask Xavi what is the key to his success, he responds, half jokingly, “I usually get up at nine in the morning. I train, I have lunch and then I take a siesta. If I don’t have anything to do in the afternoons, I can sleep until nine, but if I have things to do, I do them, then I have dinner, watch a bit of TV and go to bed.” He loves spending time with his friends from Terrassa, watching movies, watching football and having Japanese food. By the way, you can find a Celine Dion CD in his car.
The training sessions: the training sessions are the only way most people have of seeing their idols up close. The sessions in Las Rozas are usually free and open to the public. One day, my father told me that his colleague Javi had a young son. His dream was to meet Xavi and Iniesta, and in addition, he had recently suffered an illness and it would be nice for me to lend a hand. So, Javi and his father came to Las Rozas one day after school. Javi took pictures with all the players as they left the session. When Iniesta came out, Javi started trembling and he was so nervous he could hardly respond when Iniesta asked him how he was. After Andrés gave him a kiss and left, Javi started crying. As for Xavi, he had been getting a massage. I sent him a message telling him about Javi, and he told me to take him to the residence, that he would be there in five minutes. As we walked there, we saw Xavi, who said, “what’s up Javi?”
This is from the most recent concentración. Xabi looked ungraceful for once in his life, and Sergio did everything he could to distract Fernando Torres while the latter gave an interview. Adorable! And look at the smiles they exchanged!
Javi Martínez and the iPad: I was in the dressing room of Oysho in Madrid when my phone rang and I saw that it was Javi Martínez. He was returning the call I had made to him earlier that morning to ask him about his experience in the World Cup. Javi is very fun, extroverted and good-natured: you laugh the entire time you speak with him. He’s one of those persons who emit joy, who always sees the positive side of things and who knows how to laugh at himself. He told me, “you know all of my anecdotes,” and I asked him if I could tell the one about the iPad. He said yes.
This little scene is from the wee hours of the morning when the team returned from Belarus to Madrid. I guess Javi wasn’t entirely awake, because as he boarded the bus to the terminal, his suitcase spilled open, as he had forgotten to zip it up (by the way, I approve of the fact that he brought along a thick book to read). Instead of helping him out, his teammates laughed and applauded him.
It was the morning of a game day in Johannesburg. I was in the hotel with my colleagues preparing for the news when I saw Spain fans taking the elevator up to the floor where the team’s dining room was. I headed over to see what was going on. Javi saw me and he asked me if I could do a favor for him, to buy him an iPad. I asked him if he was serious and he said yes. He had seen an Apple store near the hotel during one of the walks. He took a wad of euros out of his wallet and asked a hotel employee for an envelope (“excuse me, can you give me an envelope?” [in English]) so that it would be easier for me to put it in my bag. I told him that they used another currency in South Africa and that I would lose money while exchanging it. He responded, “no, no, it’s okay Silvi, please, I’m so bored here. If there’s money left over, buy one for yourself.” I was still in shock when I saw Carlos Rojo, the Adidas representative who travels with the team. I told him to come over because Javi needed him, and I left them. After that, all I know is that Javi got an iPad, and I got one from the Three Kings a bit later on.
The gym: it’s not unusual to see Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos or Puyol (or even the team’s two doctors) working out in the gym. Javier Miñano explains, “Álvaro is a fanatic when it comes to physical training, he works hard to be in perfect form.” The footballers are not obligated to work out in the gym, unless they are recovering from injuries or have been given special exercises to do.
Free time: the players are always accompanied by their mobile phones on the trips, and often use Messenger on their Blackberrys and Whatsapp on their iPhones. They also usually bring along laptop computers and iPads.
Carles Puyol spends a lot of time reading. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and Cita en la cumbre by Juanjo Sebastián are two of his latest acquisitions. The players also listen to a lot of music. Fernando Torres is a fan of Kasabian (he became a fan during his time in Liverpool), especially their song “Club Foot,” which was often heard during the World Cup. Dani Martín, with and without El Canto del Loco, is another favorite. Sergio is one of the players responsible for the “soundtrack” of the team, and during the World Cup, the CD he made was played all the time on the team bus and in the locker room. One of the songs on the CD was “Looking for Paradise” by Alejandro Sanz and Alicia Keys.
Jesús Navas: one day, a friend we have in common told me that one of Navas’ favorite things to do is to head to a park close to his house with his lifelong friends and eat sunflower seeds.
Juan Mata and poetry: he’s one of the most inquisitive players I know. He always likes learning new things and I found out that he has a passion for poetry. On trips, he’s one of those that you will see reading a book instead of playing games. He likes novels too. In fact, when he was playing for Valencia, he took part in a poetry workshop. With two of his friends, the poet Carlos Marzal and language professor Sergio Arlandis, he chose a selection of poems that represented his life. He even recited verses from Mario Benedetti, Francisco de Quevedo, Bécquer, Salinas and Lorca, among others. Benedetti’s “Una mujer desnuda” and “Táctica y estrategia” were chosen, along with “Hagamos un trato” because “it reminds me of my mother and grandmother.” He finished with a poem from Asturian poet Ángel González as “it was like returning to my home.” Juan says, “I’m not the only footballer that likes to read. Many of my teammates like reading as well. It’s not strange. You have to end with these stereotypes.”
Xavi and Arbeloa’s hobbies: the players love watching television as well. One day, Xavi told me, “I love Aida, since it helps to past the time when I’m at home or in a concentración.” He also has many other hobbies that he does with his friends from Terrassa: “I like to play futbolín with my friends or padel. And in the summer, I love playing football on the wonderful beach of Torredembarra.” Another of his passions is mushroom picking, and he says when he goes with his friends, his basket is usually one of the fullest at the end.
Álvaro Arbeloa always has his computer, book or mobile phone. I asked him to write me an account of how he spends his free time when he’s with La Roja. In a few hours, I received an email. It read, “if you ask footballers what is the worst thing about their profession, I’m sure the majority will answer las concentraciones. So when we have big tournaments with the national team, we all arrive with the idea to make the concentración as fun as possible. That’s why it’s important to plan our free time. We have more free time than we do training sessions or games. The fact that everyone gets along and that we have things to entertain ourselves with are very important.”
He also told me, “normally, we spend our free time playing cards or with the PlayStation. The card players include Reina, Guaje, Iker, Llorente, and they usually get together after meals to play pocha, poker or whatever they feel like. Parchís has also gained popularity, as it can be played on the iPad. We also get together in the common room to watch the other games of the tournament and talk about them: what we think of the teams and players, so-and-so played against me two years ago, or I’ll have to defend so-and-so. We also spend time watching television by ourselves in our rooms, and many of us bring along books and magazines. The federation created a small video collection for us, so the movies also help to pass the time.”
The trips: on the planes, the footballers usually always sit with the same person: Arbeloa with Albiol, Valdés with Iniesta, etc. It’s a bit like how the rooms are assigned in Las Rozas.
Parchís: Xavi says, “I’m really addicted to parchís. As soon as we get on the plane, we start playing. We love it. Such a simple game can be really entertaining. I recommend it.” I remember the trip to Prague on Oct. 6, 2011. The flight was delayed for half an hour, so the players started playing parchís on their iPads. Sergio Ramos, Arbeloa and Albiol played together, as did Thiago, Villa, Busquets and Pedro. By the way, Vicente del Bosque has become a fan of the iPad, after receiving one as a gift from the Association of Spanish Dentists.
The music of Sergio Ramos: during the trip to London to play a friendly against England in Wembley, I went to chat with one of the pilots. On the way back to my seat, I stopped to talk with Sergio Ramos. I told him that one day when I was listening to the radio, I heard a song, “Bésame,” by a singer named Canelita, and I really liked it. Sergio told me that Canelita was a friend of his, and “he’s young but he has a great voice.” Sergio also loves la Niña Pastori, José Mercé and Paco de Lucía, especially “Como el agua.”
He also loves tattoos, and I asked him the meaning behind the one on his ring finger. He said, “I have three letters tattooed here because there’s three of us. “R” is for René, “S” is for Sergio and “M” is for Miriam.” He and his brother René share the same interests, and sometimes it’s even difficult to tell their voices apart. René is Sergio’s agent. Sergio is very affectionate, so much so that we call each other “primos,” or he calls me “Barbita.”
The trip to Providence/Boston: Andoni Iraola had to give up taking his honeymoon because he was called up by La Roja. He had married his lifelong girlfriend Itziar on May 28, and in addition to his wedding, he was immersed in European qualifying with his team, a contract renewal, a friendly with the Basque provincial team in Tallinn and La Roja. He said, “I had my bags all packed. I was in Estonia when I heard the list. My teammates began to joke around with me, and I had to call home to see what we were going to do. You can’t say no to this. We’ll go on our honeymoon when we have more time.”
As soon as the players landed in the U.S., they went shopping. Their two favorite stores were the Apple store and Abercrombie and Fitch. I ran into Arbeloa in the mall, looking for the Apple store.
David Villa’s injury: David fractured his tibia on Dec. 15, 2011 while playing against Al-Sadd. Xavi admitted that he cried when he found out the extent of the injury, and Mata, Cazorla and Reina immediately sent messages of support. Mata tweeted a picture of the two of them and “Ánimo Picho” [okay, there was no picture and while Juan does call David “Picho” in the tweet, he ends with “Ánimo Guaje.” Surely this is the easiest thing to verify before publishing? Seriously, Silvia!] I asked David what Picho meant. He said, “it’s an Asturian expression. It originated with Juanele (an Asturian player who played for Sporting and the national team, among other teams). He was nicknamed Pichonín de Roces. Pichonín was for pichón, which is a very thin bird, and Roces was the neighborhood in Gijón where he came from. And Miguel Ángel Angulo (another Asturian player) called Mata and I that during our time in Valencia, since we were also small and thin. From then on, Mata and I have called each other that when we’re with the national team. It brings back great memories of our time in Valencia. We have both left the club, but we still have a wonderful friendship. We were united by the fact that we’re both from Asturias, and we’ve become great friends.”
And now, back to me.
For us, a big part of the concentración is also seeing what the players show up in, no? So here is my take on the fashion (mostly disasters) from the most recent concentración.
David Villa and Álvaro Arbeloa showed up in the SAME DSquared2 shirt, so it was quite lucky they arrived at different times. A while back, I noticed that Gerard Piqué and Álvaro Arbeloa have the same Steve McQueen shirt, and I wondered what would happen when they both showed up at Las Rozas wearing it. This time, Gerard was missing, but David Villa stepped in to fill the void. With that said, I prefer the McQueen shirt, as this one is kind of ugly. And what does “hey, teacher” mean anyway?
But at least it wasn’t this DSquared2 shirt that Santi wore! This one is horrendous, especially the way he paired it with a (matching) DSquared2 belt that has a very unsightly buckle, and studded – yes, that’s right, studded – jeans! Did he travel to Madrid from England like this? If yes, he probably spent half an hour at security, with all that metal. I feel bad for all the people who were lined up behind him. But hey, at least he sort of matches the backdrop at Las Rozas.
Later on during the concentración, David pulled this shirt out of his suitcase. He should have left it in there. Better yet, he should have left it in the store. But at least he wasn’t wearing one of his favorite articles of clothing, the cuffed denim shorts. Pedro took care of that, and not in a good way. In a tremendously horrible way, in fact.
Raúl Albiol turned up wearing a totally appropriate A-Team shirt! Those of you who read my Madrid blog know that’s how I refer to the trio of Álvaro Arbeloa, Raúl Albiol and Xabi Alonso, since all of their last names start with the letter “A” and they hang out a lot together (they also all have daughters whose first names begin with the letter “A” so they’re obviously the future A-Team (and they can start their own fashion line and named it ASquared2, jajaja)).
As for Iker and Javi, they decided to support the competition. The inexplicable thing is that Spain was to play France during this international break, so Iker looked like he was – inadvertently, I’m sure, since we know he often dresses in the dark – backing France.
Continuing with the ugly designer shirts, Jesús Navas showed up in this monstrosity of a shirt. I would hypothesize that it’s a fake, because that would explain the ugliness and the huge “Gucci” letters.
And sunglasses was obviously the first part of his outfit that Sergio put on, because how else can you explain the denim on denim combination? Xabi was also wearing a denim shirt, but he looked good in his, as he combined it with a pair of chinos instead of jeans. Sergio could take a few lessons.
Posted on October 22, 2012, in la roja por dentro, players and tagged albiol, arbeloa, cazorla, iker, iniesta, javi, llorente, mata, navas, pedro, puyol, sergio, torres, valdés, villa, xabi, xavi. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.