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Friday with La Roja

Thoughts from (birthday boy) Iker and Andrés, modeling shots from Gerard Piqué, Fernando Llorente, Xabi, Villa, Cazorla and others, VDB wins a special award, Javi (!!!) goes back to school, and more!

First up, some thoughts from team captain Iker Casillas (by the way, he’s on Facebook now, and posting lots of fun pictures).  In an interview with Marca, he said the following:

on whether the national team will be weakened by everything that happened:  No.  When the Liga and the Champions end, everything related to the clásicos will be forgotten.  I was with Villa in an event and I understand why we’re asked about the national team, because each one looked out for his own interests during 20 days as if we were in a war.

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Juan Mata & Andoni Iraola interviews, plus Pablo Hernández Q&A!

A super-interview post: Juan Mata spoke with the RFEF, Andoni Iraola did the same with magazine Don Balón, while Pablo Hernández answered their famous questionnaire!

Let’s start with El Picho.  Juanín spoke with the RFEF’s radio station on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of his debut with the Spanish national team, and this is what he had to say (have a listen here).

Two years have passed since you debuted with the national team, and you were able to celebrate this anniversary with a goal and a victory against Lithuania…

Yes, those two years have been great for me, in that I could experience a World Cup and a Confederations Cup.  In addition, I was lucky that I was able to score a goal on this two-year anniversary.

Your debut with La Roja came in the Santiago Bernabéu, when you were 20 years old.  What do you remember about that day?

I remember above everything else the happiness of my family, who had come to the Santiago Bernabéu to experience this game with me, and I remember being nervous before the match, although once I stepped onto the field I was calm and tried to do my best.  Fortunately, we won the game.

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one more calendar

We have yet another charity calendar featuring players from La Roja!  Juan Mata, Aritz Aduriz and Pablo Hernández were three of the La Roja Valencia players who participated in the annual calendar collaboration (this year is the fifth year) between Valencia and the Asindown Foundation, the Down’s Syndrome Foundation of Valencia.

The calendar was presented yesterday at Paterna, with Juan Mata on the cover.  It will be on sale starting tomorrow for €5 in Valencia’s official stores and in branches of the foundation.  On Sunday, it will also be available with the newspaper Superdeporte.  Proceeds will of course benefit the foundation.

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such nostalgia!

I don’t know if it’s good (that I’m such a big fan of La Roja) or bad (that I’m old enough to have done this) that I recognized the majority of the Spanish internationals (well, the ones that can walk without assistance and still have most of their hair) in these pictures from the RFEF of the players mingling.  And I might have squealed a little bit each time I saw someone that added to the nostalgia that I’m feeling!

Here is my selection from the gallery; as you can see, for you all I’ve chosen the players you should recognize, even if you’re just a casual La Roja fan.

My favorite is the first one – Pepe and his dad Miguel!!!  How cute are they???  My second favorite is the one of players that play in the province of Valencia, especially for Bruno’s shiny suit and Marcos Senna!  Plus, Aritz is looking quite hot back there!

I do a “Xabi Alonso pose section™” over on the game recap (aka ICYMI) posts over on the Madrid blog, and this picture of Xabi is PERFECT for it.  Look how great he looks, and how at ease he is.  That’s hard.  Plus, I’m liking the sweater vest.  It makes me think of Xabi as a professor, and there are one or two things that I have in mind that I’d like him to teach me.

Pablo Hernández at El País

(Photo from Juanín’s twitter!  By the way, Pablo’s on twitter too, but in an Andrés Iniesta/Cristiano Ronaldo kind of way.)

Pablo Hernández is a relatively new and unknown face to La Roja fans, since he only received his first call-up for last year’s Confederations Cup.  He missed out on the 2008 Eurocopa and 2010 World Cup, and made a return to La Roja earlier this month.  Anyway, El País had a nice interview with him yesterday, which will help you to get to know him better!

Pablo Hernández (Castellón, 1985) cannot stop yawning during the interview – which he later says was the longest of his life – because he didn’t get enough sleep due to the national team’s trip to Scotland.

Q: What did you see through the windows of your house when you were a kid?

A:  I saw kids playing football on the street.  Until I was five years old, I wasn’t allowed to go out alone, so I would yell at them to come get me.  It was in the Rafalafena neighborhood, in Castellón.  The tradition of playing on the streets has been lost.  Later on, I moved, and since we lived right on a plaza, we would shoot at the door of a church.  Each time there was a mass, we had to stop.  And the priest would come out to scold us.  (Sound familiar?)  From the time I was three until I was five, I went to a school run by nuns and from the time I was five until I was 16, one run by priests.  The nuns would run after us to get us into the classrooms.

Q:  How many things did you break at home?

A:  I wasn’t allowed to bring the ball in, but pitchers, ashtrays, vases, plates… a lot.

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in case you missed it – Spain vs. Lithuania

In case you missed it – Spain vs. Lithuania [2010-10-08].

The people of Salamanca get a sobresaliente (A+) for their support of La Roja, while the goalposts get a suspenso (F) for constantly getting in our way!

One. Other signs of support from the crowd at the Helmántico:  chanting “Iker, Iker” before the game, chanting “Iniesta” every single time he took a corner or a free kick, shouting “fuera” (out!) at the Lithuanian fans when they got rowdy, cheering all the substitutions, especially the one of Sergio Ramos for Arbeloa, for the former’s great game, which included two goal assists, and for the latter’s ties to Salamanca (Álvaro was born there).  And then there was the chanting of “Vicente, Vicente” at the end of the game.

VDB thanked Salamanca after the game for their “affection towards the team and towards me.”  Santi Cazorla described the crowd as “incredible.”  And Iker praised the commitment of the fans there, and added, “it’s a pleasure to go anywhere in Spain, but here they were phenomenal.”

This was Spain’s first game back home since winning the World Cup.

Two. Great goals, no?  And all three of them came off of headers!  Fernando Llorente scored two, assisted by Sergio Ramos and Santi Cazorla, and David Silva put the icing on top of the cake with his goal, which also came off a Sergio Ramos assist.  Fernando celebrated his first goal with Sergio three times (two hugs and one high five) and dedicated it to fisio Miguel Gutiérrez, who is from Bilbao.  It’s a shame that Aritz Aduriz wasn’t able to join the header party, considering his penchant for scoring headers so far this season with Valencia!

(Warning: post very image-heavy)

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the runway at Las Rozas

As you know, I always like seeing what the players wear when they show up at Las Rozas, because the fashion sense of footballers continuously amazes and amuses me.

Yesterday, I was neither very amused nor very amazed, which means that the players actually looked quite normal!

Pablo fit right in, wearing footballer-approved brand DSquared.  Joan opted for a plain polo (though in purple!) and Borja wore a low-key (and wallet friendly) tee from Energie.  Álvaro, on the other hand, showed off yet another D&G t-shirt, this one with James Dean on it (his previous D&G movie star shirts featured Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen).  Matching LV luggage completed the outfit.

I didn’t like Iker’s outfit, but I’m so used to his fashion follies that he doesn’t surprise me anymore.  I’ll just say that either he was finishing a paint job before heading to Las Rozas, or his shirt is supposed to look like that.  I hope it’s the former, because if it’s the latter, someone needs to get their fashion license revoked.  Not a fan of the bag either, but he did pack lighter than anyone else.  And both Iker and Álvaro had a shopping bag from the Real Madrid store in hand as they walked into the residence; I wonder what’s inside?  Meanwhile, Xabi looked quite perfect, as usual, and Pepe was Pepe (this is a compliment) with his Pepe bag.  Bonus points for the full wheelie suitcase!

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the first training session

As reported earlier, the players arrived at Las Rozas yesterday to begin preparing for the upcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers.  Upon arrival, the players most in demand were of course the new (and new old) faces: Aritz Aduriz (his second last name is Zubeldia, which means that his names all begin/end with A and Z), Pablo and Borja Valero.

I love Aritz’ freckles!!!  Fernando Torres has a worthy rival…

The players had a training session in the late afternoon, including a partidillo, where Pablo scored two goals.  David Villa and Fernando Llorente also found the net, although Fernando also had a goal annulled for being offside.  The team made up of Iker/Pepe, Arbeloa, Piqué, Nacho, Bruno, Pablo Borja, Silva and Llorente was the winner.  Watching the session was the U-17 team, and Captain España (Iker) spent some time after the session signing autographs.

I loved how some of the La Roja veterans took care of their former club teammates!

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