Iker Casillas – the Real… interview
This interview of the Real… series was a great interview with Iker! He is, for the most part, el madridismo personified. I loved hearing about Iker’s “misadventures” when he was younger, although I wish they had shown some pictures of him or something, because young Iker was adorable! I also love when his hair is parted on the side. The only thing that made me sad was when he talked about how his privacy is always being violated. Pobrecito.
Note: I went through the interview fairly fast (it’s long and spare time is not something I have a lot of), and added parts that Madrid’s web site did not transcribe, and then I translated the whole thing, so I might have missed a few things here and there. And a note to some (not all, because the majority of you are great): if you take text from this interview without citing, it is considered stealing, because it’s my translation and parts of it are nowhere else.
It’s your favorite song [Ronan Keating's "When You Say Nothing At All"], from the soundtrack of Notting Hill (or “Nothing Hill,” as Real Madrid’s web site put it, ouch!). It’s very romantic…
I think it’s a wonderful movie. The first time I saw it, I liked it a lot [so does that mean he's seen it many times since then? I wouldn't blame him - it's my favorite movie too]. Hugh Grant did a great job and the song is fantastic.
Is it possible to be a romantic in the 21st century?
Of course. It’s inside each one of us. But there has to be something on the inside that pushes you to be like that. Details, gestures… yes, there are a lot of romantic people.
Your life could be reflected in the character that Hugh Grant played in Notting Hill, because the same things happened to you… one day when you were 18 you opened the door to hundreds of flashes, you closed it and said, “what is happening to me…”
I started at a very young age, 18. I’ve always said it. I went from playing in the Third Division here in Madrid with 100 people watching to debuting in San Mamés in front of 50,000 persons and the media in the space of four to five months. I started very young and it’s true that it wasn’t easy.
Can we say that your life is like a movie?
Yes, without a doubt. I’ve thought of it like that many times, that you can make a movie out of it. I have so many personal and professional anecdotes… It is a story that has a happy ending… well I can’t say ending right now, so happy and sweet moments.
A friend of mine, your cousin David, who appeared with you in the Mahou commercial…
Yes, all of them have become famous.
… said that “when something is striking, it’s best not to talk about it, and if it goes from striking to incredible, you can talk about it because no one’s going to believe you anyway.” That’s what’s happened to you, because your life has gone from something anecdotal to incredible. If you had said 12 years ago that your life would have turned out this way, you wouldn’t have believed it.
To be sincere, since the time I was 12 or 13, I knew that I would make the first team. When I went with my father to the Bernabéu, I thought that one day I could play there. He always took me to see Real Madrid play Athletic de Bilbao, Real Madrid play Real Sociedad [guess the Casillas liked the Basque teams, no?]. I always knew it, I had it clear in my mind. I would always sign autographs for my friends, the same signature that I have now, in case one day I’d become famous and it would be worth millions.
And did you tell your father this, that “one day I’ll be playing in the Santiago Bernabéu?”
No. When I was young, I was more introverted. Now I’m more extroverted because I’m more mature. But I had confidence, I knew that I had something inside of me.
Have you had time to enjoy everything that has happened to you?
No. I think that when I leave football, I’ll have time to stop and think about it. It will be tough, because I’ve been kicking the ball and wearing out gloves since I was nine. I’m sure I will enjoy it a lot when I leave football and I see the entire road that I’ve taken. I’ll enjoy it a lot.
What is the best piece of advice your parents have given you to keep your head on straight? Because being a footballer is not easy.
They didn’t say anything special to me. They didn’t need to sit me down and tell me that I should do this or not do this. I was never a problematic son. I was mischievous, I have millions of anecdotes from when I was 12 to 14, but they had peace of mind because I was always very independent. And I’ve matured a lot.
How have you changed on a personal level?
The same as any person that lives in a situation like this one. Imagine having to live every day with criticism, to be on TV and in the press every day, photos of you… People have watched me grow up from their own homes, and some stop me on the street and tell me that I’m like their son. I started at the age 18, but I was already playing with the first team when I was 16, and now I’m 29. So it’s been 13 years.
How has the Casillas family changed?
I don’t think they’ve changed. Well, my father no longer has to get up at six in the morning to go to work. He was very proud of his job, but he’s retired. My mother is the most calm one, and my brother is the brain of the family. I had the luck of being able to play football and he uses his head more, he studies. He speaks English and French and he likes to travel… when I retire, I’m sure that the entire Casillas family will have to live off of him.
Is your brother your weakness? Your face changes when you talk about him.
I don’t like this question! But yes, he’s my weakness. He’s smaller; we’re eight years apart. When he gets to my age, he’ll be much more mature than he is now and our relationship will be different. We’ve always gotten along well. It’s not easy having a brother that plays football, that everyone talks about… he’s been phenomenal in the way he’s accepted that. I’ve said many times that you have to admire my brother for all that he went through. He’s always in the situation of being “the brother of…” But he’s assumed it well. That’s why I only have gratitude towards him.
The best advice that your brother has given you…
It’s less about giving advice than learning something new from him each day. He’s a very responsible and serious person. We’re nothing alike. I’m more crazy. He’s more responsible and mature. Even though he’s not playing football… well he is playing football but not on a professional level, he’s much calmer than I am. He likes to do his own thing…
People won’t believe that Iker Casillas is very crazy… in what way?
In a lot of things. I’m a big joker when I’m with my people. I laugh a lot. I don’t know how to tell jokes, but I have charm. I was always one of the funniest ones in class and I’ve always considered myself a nice person, not an annoying one.
I like to give surprises. I don’t like to be the center of attention. I like to do nice things and I prefer to put someone else’s happiness before my own.
What is the last nice thing you’ve done for someone?
I don’t know, I don’t remember. It could be as simple as opening a door for someone, or making a child happy by giving him your shirt. There are great gestures that aren’t special. I like to be very meticulous with people.
Do you feel special?
I’ve always tried to be myself. I don’t wear a mask. I am what I am [yes, you've said so before], and the people have told me that I’m the same person as I was before. I’ve also been lucky in the fact that I’m in Madrid and I’m from Madrid, of having my family and my friends here, and not having to move to Madrid in order to play for Real Madrid, which is the club of my life. I have to take advantage of and enjoy this privilege. I have other teammates such as Sergio who don’t have this, because he’s from Camas and his people are there, while I have mine in Móstoles.
And what were you like as a kid growing up in Móstoles?
I was introverted. It took a lot out of me to go to Madrid. Every day, I had to travel 30 kilometers in the 124 of my father… imagine the amount spent on gas, the hours in the car. And all this with the possibility that I might not amount to anything. But I’ve already paid my parents back for this debt.
What did you and your father speak about during these long car rides to the training sessions?
We talked about many things. He talked a lot about football, he loved football and would always speak to me about it. He gave me advice and he was demanding. He would tell me you’re doing this well, you can improve in this… When I did well, he wouldn’t say anything.
When did you realize that your dream of playing on the first team was about to become a reality?
My path to the first team was a bit bizarre. A teammate got injured and I debuted for Real Madrid at the hands of Toshack. I started realizing this when I was 17 years old, and with Real Madrid C. I was training once a week with the first team, alternating with Castilla’s goalkeeper. That season, I did everything possible to have the best season ever and the next year Real Madrid C won the Liga. That’s when I moved on to the first team as the third goalkeeper and the starting goalkeeper of Castilla.
It’s been a long time.
It’s been a very long time, but it feels like yesterday. My father has cut out everything that mentioned me since I was 15, and I can remember almost all the games I played with Real Madrid in all categories: juvenil, cadete…
To get to where you got to, do you need not only to be talented in football, but also be smart?
It’s not easy. Real Madrid is a huge club and everything that surrounds it even more so. It’s not easy. I had the luck of being in Madrid and learning about what Real Madrid is all about since I was small, so it was easier and things turned out better.
People love Iker Casillas the footballer, but they love Iker Casillas the person even more…
That’s the most important thing. They can say all they want about me as a goalkeeper, but what I want is for them to remember the person.
And what is the best thing about Iker Casillas the person?
I don’t know, I always try to be a decent man. When I go to bed and think about what happened during the day, I don’t sleep well if I’m not happy.
You hate lies…
Yes, but what I really don’t like is people taking advantage of it and being bad people. I don’t like bad people. I feel that you can tell what a person is like through the looks they give.
Is fame a good thing or a bad thing?
I achieved fame from being an athlete. I’m not famous, I’m an athlete. Fame is another thing. There are things in this country that I will never understand. People like to gossip. You might think I’m annoying because I always say the same thing about this, but it’s not normal.
Many years now. You always have to be alert; it’s not normal. I didn’t steal anything, I didn’t kill anyone, it’s my privacy and I have a right to it. Why do they have to take photos of whatever I do?
What do you aspire to do in life?
I want people to remember me as a good person and as a good athlete. Aspirations? I would like to continue to do something related to football when I retire. I want to help young people and teach them things, because I always liked that when I was young, learning from others.
What would you change about your life?
I would like to have one day or one week to do what I feel like. I want to take walks, to walk on Gran Vía from the Plaza de España to Callao. Things that everyone else in the world do, without having to worry about cameras following me.
What do you regret, and what has been the most mischievous thing you’ve done?
Well, I regret some things I did as a kid. I played many tricks on my mother, many. I cut her sewing machine, and she slapped me and I ran away. Then I cut my finger with scissors and she had to call the Red Cross. One day in Navalacruz, I telephoned some painters from the next town over as a joke and they wanted a telephone number, so I gave my grandmother’s. Then later I forgot all about it. I was 12 and I think even the Guardia Civil showed up. Then I was caught stealing candy from a store, and my parents grounded me for a week and wouldn’t let me leave the house. Kids things.
But you were basically a good kid?
In general terms, I was a good boy.
Has football taken away more from you than it’s given?
No. It’s given me a lot and it’s been one more thing in my life.
What are your fears?
I fear suffering, sicknesses, for things to happen to my loved ones, my family and friends. I fear cancer a lot. Look at Dr. Genaro (Borrás), he spent so many years with the national team, and six months before we won the Eurocopa, he had a problem with his lung, it was cancer and he left us. He was a dearly loved person.
What values are needed to be a great captain of Real Madrid?
Responsibility, and having no fear to lead and fight for the group, to always defend the group. To be deeply involved, to represent the group and the club, what Real Madrid means. I had the luck of having great teachers since I was small, and that helped me a lot. Sanchís, Hierro, Raúl… and then we had Guti (Iker laughs), who also teaches you a lot – he’s a phenomenon! You have to know what it means to represent the club.
What is the biggest telling off you’ve received in the locker room?
It was from Teodoro Nieto, the coach of the U-15 team. We were playing England in Wembley, and it was my first international game and I played in the second half. I was very pleased because I had a great game. But afterward, he criticized my play, and said I would never play with him again. I told him, but you saw my game? And then I said I never want to come back to the national team. Now each time I see him, he brings this up.
I remember one between you and Fernando Hierro.
Me? Which one?
In the locker room, as the result of the front page of a newspaper.
(Laughs). Yes, that too. There were two incidents. When I was younger, I used to take the metro to get to training; I would go from Móstoles to Begoña (a stop on Madrid’s metro line), which is next to the Hospital La Paz. At that time, the team wasn’t doing so well in the Liga, so the journalists were looking for morbo. So they published a report about me entitled “from the Ferrari to the metro” [it's here in case you're interested; I remember it well. But sadly enough, my dream of running into Iker on the Madrid metro never came true. The subtitle says, "the goalkeeper symbolizes the change in mentality"]. When I strolled into the locker room, Hierro threw the newspaper on top of me and said (Iker imitates Hierro’s accent), “but this, this is going to ruin us.” I was like joder, what’s going on, what did I do, I just came here on the metro.
There was another time when we won the Liga, and I took a picture of myself with Cibeles (Iker imitates taking a self portrait). I gave the photos to some media outlets and they published them the next day. Fernando was very upset. But you learn from everything.
And who have you told off?
I get exasperated with Marcelo. But those are things that stay on the field. And then I’ve had some incidents with Guti, against Sevilla, when we lost last season.
Marcelo said you had a very nice gesture towards him when you congratulated him at the conclusion of the game against Espanyol…
Marcelo is a kid who’s progressed a lot. He didn’t have a great time with Capello because he never played. It wasn’t easy for him. Four years have passed and he now knows how to take advantage of opportunities. Juande Ramos brought out the best in him and now with Mourinho we’re seeing the best Marcelo. The míster has given him confidence and we’re delighted with him.
What does Real Madrid mean to you?
It’s my life. That’s the truth. I was eight years old when I tried out, and at the age of nine I played in the Torneo Social. I’m 29 now. I saw the old Ciudad Deportiva, before and after the construction. It’s been many years. I think that the day I leave football it will be complicated, since I’ve spent so much time in one place.
Are you one of those who can’t eat after you lose a game?
Yes. It bothers me a lot. Here, they teach you to always win from the time you’re small. When we don’t win, it gets into my head. Even when I played on the alevín or Infantil A teams and we won 5-1, that one allowed goal killed me. So imagine how I am now.
Tell me about José Mourinho as a person.
Well I’ve already spoken about him many times now.
What do you remember about the first time you met him?
It was at Valdebebas, right before I went on vacation. He’s a happy person, and he loves joking around. He’s nothing like how he appears on television or at press conferences. He’s a family-oriented person. He’s phenomenal with us. The truth is, he’s great.
Why have people wanted to create controversy between Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas?
Because news about Real Madrid sells a lot, Cristiano as well. They always talk about the same old thing. But nothing happened. We have a good relationship. This was something made up by journalists. We all get along and there are no cliques.
Can I drink some water?
When you pass by Cibeles, what comes to mind?
I remember a lot of unforgettable moments. The first time I was there was when we won… the Intercontinental Cup in 1998. It’s the moment when you meet up with the fans, with the people who have supported you the entire season, and there’s joy and craziness. It’s the meeting point with the fans, with your people.
You were sure you were going to win the World Cup…
Yes. It was our moment. All the necessary circumstances needed to win it were there: a good atmosphere, talent, a good group, players… It was clear to me. It would be this one or it would never be. I believe it was the moment of Spain. I hope this group stays together. Right now we have an important challenge in defending the Eurocopa title but after that, the Federation will have to make some choices on who will defend Spain, because there are some older players.
So will Madrid win any titles this year?
Well, we’re in the first final. The Copa del Rey is a great title. And you always want to win a final against Barcelona. In the Champions League, the team has played very well. It’s not easy to beat Ajax and Milan. We’re very young and now we have an important game against Lyon. In the Liga, we’ve been more regular, but there are many games left and anything can happen. We have to take advantage of when Barcelona messes up.
Mourinho says that this team is not going to fail, that it was prepared for what he would demand of it…
It’s not easy to have such a young team, as this one is. I’m the second most veteran player at the age of 29 [again Iker, you're the third]. We have a good and strong group, and we have a team for the next four or five years. But the most important thing is that Real Madrid wins a title this year. It’s been a while since we won anything. And this team deserves one.
You’re the best goalkeeper in the world, a Golden Glove winner and the first Spanish player to raise up the World Cup, but I think that you have in your pocket another intangible honor, which is that you’re a great person.
Oh really? Here in my pocket?