La Roja Por Dentro – Chapters IV, V, VI
Here’s the rest of La Roja Por Dentro, which are the last three chapters and the epilogue by Pepe Reina. Speaking of Pepe Reina, this book was just as bad as his book. I really wouldn’t recommend either of them, since I didn’t like the writing, and I didn’t learn anything new!
Chapter IV: The Convocatoria.
In this chapter, Silvia describes each of the players called up by VDB for the World Cup and the following convocatorias. In other words, it’s a boring chapter. Here are the best tidbits from the 57 pages of the chapter, which are not distributed evenly. For example, Iker got eight pages, and Pedro less than half a page.
– Iker is one of the “experts” in coming up with nicknames for everyone. Damián García, one of the utilleros, was named “Tiriti” because he’s a deejay on the weekends and always humming “tirititititi” and Iker heard that. Damián has known Iker since the latter was 15.
– Álvaro Arbeloa’s father is from Carcastillo (Navarra). He lived in Madrid with his family, then for work reasons moved to Salamanca, where Álvaro was born. When Álvaro was four, the family moved to Zaragoza, where he lived until he signed for Real Madrid. He studied three years of business, but could not continue as he was always traveling. He used to wear glasses, but got Lasik surgery.
– Cesc’s father Francesc, who works in construction, revealed that his son is a bit absent-minded: “one day, when he was in London, he called me in a panic: ‘Papá, where is my medal from the World Cup? I’m looking for it for an interview but I can’t find it. I’ve torn the house apart and I have no idea where it is. Can you help me?’ I told him he had left it in Arenys after returning from South Africa, during the celebrations and tributes in his hometown.”
– David Villa and Joan Capdevila both use Paco Rabanne’s “Ultraviolet” cologne.
And that’s it for this chapter…
Chapter V: The Game.
Breakfast, the stroll and the chat.
The plan is organized down to the last detail. The morning call for breakfast is usually early, around nine if the game is to be played at nine or ten at night (which depends on the place where the game is to be played). The players go down to have breakfast, and the menu consists of toast, yogurt, juice, tea, fruits and cereals. There are no saturated fats or caffeine, and there is an emphasis on fiber and natural products.
As for the stroll, that depends on the coach, as well as the security team and what the hotel has around it. If the game is played in Spain, the fans usually surround the hotel and it’s complicated for the group to go anywhere. If the game is outside of Spain, there is less expectation and therefore the players may be able to walk around a nearby park.
The next item on the agenda is the technical chat, where the reports of Paco Jiménez [now retired] and the videos of Pablo Peña are used. The team analyzes the rival for about half an hour. Then they return to their rooms before coming out again for lunch. After that is the traditional Spanish siesta, and before the game, there is time for a snack. The players always get on the bus to the stadium in the same order, though there is no rule about that. In South Africa, they always sat in the same seats on the bus.
They also always follow the same rituals, depending on if the game went well or not. After the game against Switzerland in the World Cup, Sergio Sauca [a TVE presenter] interviewed Del Bosque, and told him to choose one of the La Roja items TVE had gathered together. Vicente chose a braided bracelet in the colors of Spain, and put it on. From that point on, the team kept winning and therefore Del Bosque kept wearing the lucky bracelet. He said after the tournament, “yes, I still have it on, it’s a bit faded already, and you can’t see the colors as much as before, but I’m going to continue wearing it.” VDB also often wears the ties of Aldeas Infantiles (an international organization that helps children), which are designed by children who draw things such as penguins or trees.
Arrival at the stadium.
Del Bosque is usually the first one off the bus when the team arrives at the stadium. In Spain, the fans are so loud that we the press know exactly when the team arrives. I will never forget a 10-year-old girl who managed to get an autograph from Sergio Ramos in Logroño. Lorena had waited hours at the hotel with no success; her mother María asked me if the players would come out and I said it would be difficult to see them, and they would have better luck waiting at the stadium. They had tickets because a family member knew someone who worked at Las Gaunas. So María explained to Lorena that it would be best for them to go home and eat, and then go to the stadium. Lorena didn’t want to leave, because she was hoping Ramos would appear at the window or in the lobby. In the end, the mother won the battle and they went home. I saw them again at the stadium, and María told me Lorena had hardly eaten anything, because she was so nervous about seeing Sergio Ramos, and that she had her heart set on going to this game ever since it was announced, since the local team is not in the first division and therefore Real Madrid never comes. In the end, Ramos heard the shouts of the mother and daughter, went up to them, caressed the cheek of the girl and signed two autographs, one for Lorena and one for her father Andrés who was at home taking care of her younger sister Andrea.
In contrast, Rosa, a girl from Alicante, didn’t have as much luck. I was at the door of the hotel and I saw a girl crying inconsolably. A friend was trying to comfort her saying that there was still one more day before the players wold be leaving. I went up to them, and Rosa told me between hiccups that she hadn’t been able to see her idol, Iker Casillas: “I didn’t see him, and I’ll never see him.” I knew that for security reasons it would be difficult for the captain to come out, but I told her not to lose hope because Iker signs all the autographs that are asked of him. I also told her an anecdote: I had a live interview scheduled with him at Las Rozas between the end of the training session and dinner, which would begin at nine. The training session ran late and so there wasn’t much time left. I waited for him at the door of the locker room, and to get to the set, we had to pass by several fans. We ran towards the set, but some of the fans asked him for an autograph and so I asked him if he was going to stop. He said yes without hesitating and added, “calm down, we’ll make the interview. I have to sign these autographs, they’ve been waiting for a long time, they’re excited, and look, they’re all just children.” I was speechless and watched him sign autographs until his pen ran out of ink. Iker is a reference for millions of children, he knows that and he doesn’t want to fail them.
The work of the security team is very important. Wherever the team goes, they are protected by state security and private security. Between the airport and the hotel, they receive a police escort. In South Africa, the team bus was always accompanied by 20 police cars and another bus in case the official one broke down.
The locker room.
When the players arrive in the locker room, they always find their equipment (clothes, boots, etc.) perfectly laid out. The shirts are on the bench, and the boots and shower slippers on the floor. This is the work of the equipment managers, who lay everything out in the mornings. Each time the team plays, they bring tons of materials with them, and all of these need to be packed and transported.
Before one game, the Federation had presented all of the press with backpacks that were identical to the ones the players were using. We filled mine up with typical Spanish foods such as ham, chorizo, cheese. At the baggage claim in Innsbruck, my cameraman saw it and so we picked it up. We put it on our cart and forgot about it until we heard someone say in an Asturian accent, “what is this? Where are my things? And my cologne? There are only sausages in here!” We saw that Santi Cazorla had our backpack with a look of surprise on his face, and we realized that the backpack we had must contain cologne, deodorant and gel. We didn’t open it up, we just called Santi over and told him that there had been a mix-up. That made us realize how difficult the work of the equipment managers must be.
Toni, Damián and Joaquín are the equipment managers. They know what size each player wears and what their manias and likes are. I remember one day we were filming outside the stadium in Salzburg at the same time the equipment managers were unloading all the materials needed for the Eurocopa game [Silvia wrote this Eurocopa was the “Austria and Poland” one]. Damián saw us and came up to us to say hi. We spoke about the possibilities of the team in the tournament. He said firmly, “we’re going to reach the final.” We looked at him strangely and asked him why he was so sure of it. He responded, “I know it. You can see it in the atmosphere. The míster knows what to do. He’s a great coach and a great person. I believe we’re going to win.”
The equipment managers are not the only ones who get down to work once they arrive in the locker room. The doctors also set up a mini clinic in case anything happens, a desk with everything they may need, including thread for stitches. The fisios also put their things in order. Fernando always goes back to the locker room five minutes before the end of the first and second halves to prepare liquids rich in glucose, since the footballers always come in thirsty, as well as sports drinks or energy bars.
The footballers put in a lot of effort out on the field. Xavi told me he could lose up to five kilograms during a game.
Before the games.
Before the games, the footballers usually go out onto the field to check out the state of the grass, look at the stadium itself or chat with one of their rivals. In the friendly between Spain and England at Wembley in 2011, Xabi Alonso and Pepe Reina spoke with a few of the English players who had been their teammates in Liverpool. Xabi speaks English quite well and it’s said that out of all the “English” Spaniards (Spanish footballers who have played in the Premier League), he’s the one that speaks English the best. He sometimes even speaks in English with his La Roja teammates. Villa and Xavi usually go out onto the field too, and use that time to speak about current affairs, the weather or whatever. They’ve gotten into the habit of covering their mouths with their hands so that nothing they say will be on the news the next day.
Not all of the players go out onto the field. For example, Fernando Torres and Iker Casillas prefer to stay in the locker room to get ready for the game, receive treatment or have a coffee. Puyol drinks green tea.
The 90 minutes.
I watch the games next to the bench where La Roja sits, with a monitor where I can see TVE’s broadcast. This also allows the players on the bench to see replays. Pepe Reina is always the one who pays the most attention to whether a penalty, an offside or a foul has been committed. He gets my attention and whispers to me. Next to me are the equipment managers, the fisios and the doctors, and they pay close attention to the game to react immediately to any situation that may arise. I always ask them what that magic spray that they give players that seems to cure anything is.
Del Bosque usually sits on the bench for 90 minutes with a serious expression on his face and discussing things with Toni Grande. Depending on how the game goes, he may begin to appear on the sideline. He always tries to be as fair as possible, to make sure everyone gets minutes. Whenever I interview him after Spain has lost, he’s always calm and constructive.
I always pay close attention to the face of Javi Miñano. He’s the one responsible for the substitute players warming up on the sidelines. To get his attention, Toni Grande will whistle, and then Javi will read Toni’s lips to learn the name of the player who’s going to be subbed in. Miñano informs that footballer, who runs over to the bench to receive instructions from Del Bosque. Del Bosque always stands next to the player and puts his hands on his shoulders while he gives him the instructions.
I remember when Fernando Llorente came out onto the field wearing a shirt that was different than that of his teammates. I said, “it’s tighter than the rest, it’s very tight.” Minutes later, I got a text message from Luis Cano, from Adidas, who told me that Fernando’s shirt is more tight-fitting because the players can choose from two different models and he chose that one so that the rivals wouldn’t be able to grab his shirt during corner kicks. Fernando confirmed this after the game, and he also had to put up with the jokes of his teammates and the press. After that, he was called “Hulk” during training sessions.
The post-game interview.
I’ve always noticed that Vicente del Bosque takes all the blame when things don’t go well, and he always analyzes the defeat in the most constructive way possible. The captain always faces the consequences and speaks to the press in both good and bad moments. He is normally straightforward and does not beat around the bush, which I am grateful for.
The “hasta luego.”
After the game, Antonio Limones hands out plane tickets and passports, and gets the team bus ready to go. The team normally returns to Madrid, although the Barcelona players and those who play in England may take a direct flight to their cities. Del Bosque has always encouraged dialogue with the clubs to avoid unnecessary controversies over the presence of the players in friendlies played many kilometers away.
There aren’t many opportunities for some of the players to see each other during the season, which is why the goodbyes are always emotional. Reina and Villa are like brothers and they always hug goodbye.
Family and friends.
Family and friends are very important to the players, and during the final stages of a tournament, they come to show their support. In South Africa, the families went shopping and on a safari to kill time before the games. The safari took place in Pilanesberg National Park, and there was also a visit to Soweto after that. On the morning of July 7, an airplane left Barajas with Unai Casillas, Fernando Torres’ parents and David Villa’s family, among others, on board. They were part of the 4,000 Spaniards that had come to South Africa to support Spain.
Chapter VI: Going for the Ukraine and Poland Eurocopa.
[You’re still reading? You must like the team a lot to suffer up to this point!]
The game against Costa Rica was the last one of 2011. The photo on the cover of this book was shot before that game. The players noticed my Spain shirt, which was the one they would wear in the upcoming Eurocopa and also Fernando Llorente style, very tight. Fernando was supposed to be part of the photo shoot, but he had gotten injured during the training session and he had to be checked out by the doctors. The rest of the group [Torres, Mata, Sergio, Arbeloa, Pepe, Villa, Puyol, Cazorla and Xavi] joked around during the photo session. When they saw me, they said, “look, a new teammate.” Carmelo, the photographer, did his best to make the players listen to him: “it would be better if the tall ones were in the back and the short ones up front,” “enough laughing,” “please, please, this is serious.”
Antonio Limones is the man in charge of the national team’s trips. At times, he is also a bit of a father, as many times he’s had to rush to get a replacement passport for a player after the player forgot it at home. One time, a player left his passport inside his suitcase, and checked the suitcase in. Antonio had to get all the suitcases back out, since they were all the same. He says he’s always the last one to get off the plane or bus because the players always leave something behind, such as iPads.
There’s nothing else worthwhile in the chapter.
Epilogue by Pepe Reina.
Hi friends. After playing with Liverpool in Birmingham against the Wolves, I used the time on the bus to write this special epilogue for my friend Silvia’s wonderful book. I couldn’t say no to her. I’ve known Silvia for many years, almost since the moment that I became someone in football, and she is a great professional in sports broadcasting. I can tell you that she’s gained the respect of all of us for the job she did for TVE during the World Cup and Eurocopa.
I also want to use this opportunity to say that it’s a great honor for me to be, in a way, the unofficial spokesperson for the best generation of footballers in our history. I was tasked with presenting all of the “personalities” on the team during the celebrations for the World Cup. I assure you all, with no fear of being wrong, that this group of exemplary and exceptional footballers will fight for what we’ve already achieved, and to become the first national team in history to win three consecutive titles. There are reasons to be optimistic, but we know that respect and humility were the reasons for our success. This is the road we’ve chosen to try and bring joy once again to the fans. I only hope that you all will once again be proud of being Spanish and that at the end of June, I can once again present to you all the 23 chosen ones who have won a Eurocopa again.
Reading Silvia’s book brought back many great memories for me. I know practically all of the persons in the anecdotes and I can say that they are great people and exceptional professionals, each one in his or her specialty. For us, the players, it has been very easy to go out onto the field and play because we have great support behind us.
Silvia knew how to write with clarity and grace, because she understands that in the end, football is a sport and a distraction for one and a half hours.
I send you all a big hug hoping that this book has made you smile like it did me!