Sergio Ramos on La Roja
I’ve started translating Sergio Ramos’ biography, Sergio Ramos – Corazón, Carácter y Pasión, for the other blog, and in the chapter entitled “The XI of my life,” written by Sergio himself, he speaks about La Roja. So here it is! I’ve also included the section on Antonio Puerta here, since Sergio has honored Antonio each time the national team has won.
A red heart.
I debuted with the national team as a Sevilla player, in Salamanca against China. Four days later, on March 30, the day of my 19th birthday, we played Serbia. I asked [Albert] Luque, whom I got along very well with, to let me have that number, which was his, because I was going to start. At that time, I was the newest so I had to choose last.
My first World Cup was the one in Germany, that one where we were going to make Zidane retire and Zizou ended up throwing it back at us. It was a good group, a mix of young players and veterans. It was hard to be eliminated, because I was still learning with the national team. France was a veteran team and they appeared to be on their way out, but their experience was a plus in the game against us. The same thing is happening now with us. We win games because we know what we have to do in each moment.
I learned a lot from what happened in Germany and after in the Eurocopa qualifications, when Luis stopped calling up important players. I learned to shut up and to listen. The great moment came against Denmark, we had to win or win. The pressure on us from the press was tremendous. Villa and Torres got injured and [Raúl] Tamudo played. We played a fantastic game. Our philosophy, our style of play began bearing fruit. Everything went perfectly for us. I was lucky enough to score the second goal after a marvelous play involving the entire team. I dedicated it to my niece Daniela, who was about to be born.
We got to the tournament stage and the reality is I had a bad time of it. I had my problems with Luis, but I believe that in the end it helped me to play at a high level. I didn’t have a good start, although in the final I felt great and I was very upset not to have scored on one play. In that Eurocopa, and in general with the national team, I haven’t had much luck with goals. I’ve had occasions but I didn’t score until the Panenka penalty in this last Eurocopa. Of course what’s important is that the team wins, but as a footballer it’s always good to score a goal and even more so if you’re a defender.
I didn’t realize what we had achieved in Vienna until we returned to Spain and saw all those people on the streets. I had never seen Madrid like that in my life. From then on we have won more trophies, but I believe we celebrated and enjoyed that first one more because of the drought before that. In Austria, our celebration was special. We returned to Neustift and we celebrated with everyone who had been with us since the first day, as the people there had treated us wonderfully. We had dinner in a pizzeria and then we went to the pub where we had hung out when we had free time. That was where Luis climbed up on the bar to dance.
The míster was a spectacle. He never slept. He stayed in the hotel until the early hours of the morning, and then he went back to his room and three hours later, he was down there again. The chats were tremendous. He told us that if we didn’t win the Eurocopa with this team that we had, we were crap…
Then came the World Cup. We ignored the “favorite” label. We knew that we had to be humble. Our big advantage was that we all knew each other perfectly. We were convinced that we could finish as champions. The loss to Switzerland brought us back down to earth a bit. There was a lot of tension and pressure on the day we played Chile, the third game. The music played on the bus and in the locker room was at a lower volume. That day, everyone listened to their own music using headphones, to concentrate better. I had my iPod. We were all in our own worlds.
We won and we began hanging out more to become more united, if that was possible. We didn’t only talk about games, but about everything. The day against Paraguay, when a penalty was called on Piqué, I saw myself going home on a plane. That was the first thing that came to mind. But then I thought about Iker, in the confidence that we all had in him, especially when it came to penalties. Our destiny was written, Iker had to stop it and we had to be champions. And we were. We suffered during the final, but when the referee blew the final whistle, I thought about how I was a world champion and how happy my family had to be.
I arrived for the 2012 Eurocopa with euphoria from winning the Liga and the deception from not winning the Champions League. I disconnected from that and began focusing on the national team. I decided to change my look and got a haircut. I believed a cycle had ended. I was going to play in the center due to the injury to Puyol. I decided to only put “Ramos” on the back of my shirt, another change. I also thought about changing my number to the “4,” but I decided to continue with the “15” for Puerta. It was my best competition out of the three, the most complete. Everything went well for me from beginning to end. Against Portugal, I was chosen as the best player. And the final was tremendous.
Antonio Puerta, my eternal friend.
Antonio was two years older than me, he was born in 1984. We played together for the first time on a juvenil team in the División de Honor, although we knew each other perfectly from seeing each other every day at the training grounds. He was from Nervión and I was from Camas and it happened that we hung out in the same places with our friends, and we always said hi to each other when we saw each other. We became fast friends. My parents also sat with his when we trained and would go have coffee together. Then we played together with the U-21 team and when he debuted with the senior team, I was already there.
When I was promoted to the first team, Puerta was playing with Sevilla Atlético, although he trained with us. We always kept an eye on Jesús Navas, who had problems back then. We were his adoptive parents.
Finally, Caparrós promoted Puerta and we became a trio. We had a tremendous friendship. A few days before his death, we had played the Supercopa, and we had talked. We had remained in contact and sent each other texts. There had been rumors that Real Madrid wanted Puerta, that Pedja Mijatovic had been asking about him. Antonio asked me if I knew anything about that. He told me that Pedja had told him that he saw him as Roberto Carlos’ sucessor.
From the moment on Saturday when he fainted against Getafe, I was in contact with his family. My parents as well. After we played, I traveled to Sevilla to visit him in the Hospital Virgen del Rocío, which coincidentally is also where I was born. I spent the whole day there, but I couldn’t enter in the ICU to see him, since only two people could do that and those were his parents. Since I had to train the next day, I took the AVE back to Madrid and during the trip I received a message from Kepa [Blanco], another of his good friends, who told me that Antonio was no longer speaking.
I was really upset that I wasn’t able to see him. Of course it’s better to be left with the image I had of him, but I would have liked to take his hand, to tell him something, even if he couldn’t hear me. I had all the hopes in the world that he would make it. He was young, strong, full of life.
When we found out about his death, Real Madrid reacted immediately and the president, Mijatovic, the three captains (Iker, Guti, Raúl) and I traveled to Sevilla. I went directly to the Pizjuán and the funeral chapel and later on I wanted to be one of his pallbearers. I haven’t gone to many burials in my life, only that of Antonio and of my grandmother Reyes, because my father didn’t want me to go to my paternal grandfather’s burial.
It was unforgettable to see how united Sevilla was. Those are moments that change your life. It was emotional and tragic. From then on, Antonio has always been with me. The next game, I went out on the field with his shirt and for a long time after that, I wore one that was dedicated to him. He played in the 2008 Eurocopa with us. I’m sure that Luis would have called him up because one day he told me that he had been counting on him. Antonio was with us to receive the trophy and during the celebration through the shirt I wore. All my teammates wore red and I wore white. It was my way to paying tribute to my friend.
I will always remember his jokes and his joy. He was going to become a father. I had never seen his life as stable as it was then. He was more serious and more responsible, he only thought about football, his girlfriend and the son they had on the way. He didn’t go out as often with his friends. Antonio was transparent, a good friend of his friends. He called me “boca” and “gitano.” He walked with his feet turned out and I always told him, “you might want to turn your feet inward a bit, since you look like a seasick duck.”