ICYMI – the combined edition
For those of you who celebrate Easter, I hope you had a good holiday, and for those of you who don’t, I hope you had a great couple of days! And now onto the post…
In case you missed it – Real Madrid vs. APOEL [2012-04-04, CL quarterfinals vuelta 5-2] and Real Madrid vs. Valencia [2012-04-08, Liga jornada 32, 0-0].
This ICYMI post is brought to you by the ease with which clothes seem to fall off of Iker Casillas AND his propensity for giving away his shorts, as well as Kaká’s bench surfing.
Real Madrid vs. APOEL.
In the Champions League, Madrid advanced to the semifinals, where they’ll face Bayern Munich, so the road to La Décima will (hopefully) have to pass through Munich twice. I didn’t think this game would be a hard one, but I didn’t expect another five goal game! And it was great to see a goal by a Solari, even though it was scored on Iker, after seven years without one (Santi left the team in 2005 after five seasons and 25 goals).
- Gonzalo Higuaín was sporting quite a heavy beard (for him) in the morning, but when he arrived for the game, he was clean shaven. I wonder if Raúl Albiol was off to the side observing Pipa shaving and musing about life, while Álvaro Arbeloa was perhaps banging on the door and pleading to be let in.
- the players came out for this game wearing black armbands in memory of José María Zárraga, and a moment of silence was also held before the game. A memorial service for the player had been held earlier that day, and many former Madrid players showed up to pay their last respects and share their memories of Zárraga. One such memory is what Santiago Bernabéu said at a gala dinner held in honor of Zárraga’s retirement: “Zárraga isn’t very tall, and do you all know why he isn’t very tall? Because he had a pair of enormous balls that didn’t allow him to grow any more.” Classic!
- José Callejón endears himself to me more each time he does this, in part because I absolutely adore him, and in part because not many of the players on the team can do this and have it mean so much.
- I was delighted for all the goalscorers, but especially for Kaká, because he really needs this. He described his goal in this way: “when I was small, I wasn’t strong enough and I learned to kick the ball in this way to score. This has been one of my most beautiful goals, it’s very much like one I scored against Anderlecht with Milan.”
- following the game, Ángel di María said he was very happy to score again and “make the heart, which is the way I dedicate my goals to my wife.” He added, “I’m very happy because Higuaín, Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema are in great form and each time they play, they score goals. If I have to be on the bench, I’ll be there and I’ll be waiting for my opportunity to do things well here.”
… and some game moments.
- José and Gonzalo must have attended the same “communicate with Italian hand gestures” class.
- Nuri was being all smiley and adorable with his teammates while waiting for the second half to start. I love seeing that big smile, and I’m happy he’s finally getting some minutes, as it couldn’t be easy always being relegated to the bench.
- the abs aren’t bad, but I prefer the other side of Pipa.
- Iker’s tongue of course gets its own moment (click to enlarge), as does Kaká’s disbelief. Me?
- I loved this moment with Cris in the mixed zone. Someone held up a caricature of Cristiano that he presumably had drawn, and when Cris saw it, he said, “this is me? My God, very ugly.” Jajajajaja!!! Nevertheless, he ended up signing it.
That shirt is “very ugly” too.
- Edgar Villamar, the Madrid fan who was threatened by Osasuna ultras at the Reyno de Navarra for supporting his team, attended this game along with his family, as personal guests of the club. The visit started with a meal at the Real Café, and then the Villamar family got to visit the museum, the locker room and the field. They watched the game from the presidential box, and also got to meet Zinedine Zidane and Fernando Alonso. Edgar said it was “an unforgettable day.” How adorable are the little Villamars?
- speaking of Fernando Alonso, he was at the game, and also watched the match from the presidential box (is that FP’s head in front of him?). He also tweeted this photo of Zizou, writing, “this is one of the athletes I have admired most in my life. I had to ask him for a photo.” Fernando walked away with a personalized shirt with the number “1″ and “F. Alonso” on the back. Why couldn’t they just give him a Xabi jersey?
The Esteban Granero pose section.
After the game, he said, “the coach puts me in when he wants and my obligation is to do well, and if later on I continue playing, good, and if not, those are the decisions of the coach.” If you want to hear El Pirata speak English, go here.
The Mou corner.
As for Mou, he said during his post-game declarations that whoever wins the semifinal between Madrid and Bayern Munich will play against Barça in the final because “they’re very good” (later on, this prompted PF Juan Mata to say that he hoped Mou would be wrong). He also called Barça the “super favorite.” In response to a question about Ibrahimovic’s statements about how he now understands what Mou feels at the Camp Nou, Mou said, “Ibra is an intelligent boy, because I know him well, but he’s a bit late in understanding this.”
Our coach also praised Cris for “doing great work for the team” and for “being a group player, not individualistic,” and said he was happy for Di María and Callejón, who haven’t played in a long time and scored, and for Kaká “who scored a marvelous goal.”
All the in-between games things.
- Madrid trained on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to prepare for Sunday’s game against Valencia. On Friday, Sami Khedira returned to the fold, joining his teammates and a bunch of Castilla players (Álex, MFC ABMM, Jesé, Nacho, Carvajal, Mandi and Jesús) at the session.
- take your pick of the boy band. Do you prefer The Can-cans (for canteranos and cantantes), The Pirates of Valdebebas or KK and the Sunshine Band?
- on Saturday, the sick bay slowly emptied out as Lass and Carvalho rejoined the group, making it 22 players from the first team plus Jesús at the session (as Sergio Ramos is suspended for this weekend’s game, he got a few days off). At the training session, the players were divided into two groups to play a game of something akin to handball, though they had to shoot at the goal with their heads, instead of with their hands and arms.
- two observations: Fábio’s frosted hair is soooo ’80s, and Kaká is easily amused.
- as usual, Marcelo was in the midst of all the hijinks.
- more Marcelo and Kaká, courtesy of the latter’s twitter. How adorable is it that Kaká calls Marcelo his “little brother”?
Training with… Raúl Albiol and Pepe.
I love the moments at the end of these training videos, where the boys tease each other, pull pranks and generally try to embarrass each other.
In the case of El Chori, we had José Callejón sneaking up on his teammate and pouring water on him, leaving us with a wet Raúl (which is never bad).
As for Pepe, who is always very enthusiastic…
… we had Marcelo and Kaká teaming up to make Pepe fall. I love the team work! They coordinated it super well! Too bad the cameras didn’t capture the expressions on Kaká and Marcelo’s faces…
The press conference.
Aitor Karanka spoke to the press on Saturday, where he echoed what José Mourinho had said after the Champions League game against APOEL about Barcelona being the favorite in that competition: “that’s what the míster said, everyone believes that Barcelona is the favorite to win the Champions League and we do as well. It’s a team that is playing quite well, it’s in the semifinals, perhaps there was a moment when they weren’t playing at a good level but they’ve gotten past that and they continue to be the favorite.”
As for the Liga, “we don’t have any doubts. It’s clear that we are where we are for the work we’ve put in and we’re first because we’ve always said that the most important game is the next one and we have to continue like that. We don’t look at anyone else, we continue with our own thing and that’s what’s working for us and giving us results.”
And there are still journalists asking why Aitor is showing his face instead of José Mourinho; they need to get used to seeing Aitor, because as he said, “I’ve already given 38 or 39 press conferences and that’s it” (meaning he doesn’t have to explain anything).
As Aitor didn’t respond to any of the questions with essay-length answers, like Mou does on occasion, the press conference only lasted about five minutes, with only six questions asked. An easy day’s work for Aitor!
Sergio in Qatar.
Meanwhile, Sergio Ramos traveled to Doha, Qatar to spend his few days off in support of his girlfriend Lara, who was reporting on the MotoGP for Telecinco, and to watch the race. According to media reports, he traveled with several family members and stayed at the W Hotel. Sergio visited the Losail circuit, where Pep Vila took him around, and Sergio took pictures. He said he’s always like moto racing and that he admired Mick Doohan and Álex Crivillé when he was younger. He also got the chance to meet up with Marc Márquez, and said he has a lot of confidence in the Spanish racers. Sergio must have brought good luck to Marc, because he ended up winning in the Moto2 category!
In the control tower, Sergio ran into Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani, who invited him to go see a training session of his football club, Al-Gharafa. He took Sergio there in his McLaren MP4-12 Sport car, and after the visit was completed (Sergio met the players and training staff, and “exchanged notes” with club officials), the sheikh told him that he’ll see him in a few days, because he’ll be at the Bernabéu to watch the game against Bayern Munich as he’s a “big Madrid fan.” Then Sergio returned to the circuit to watch the training session and take more pictures. Watch a video here.
He also tweeted a couple of photos from his trip.
A couple words from Roberto Soldado.
In interviews prior to facing Real Madrid, Roberto Soldado was asked about his past at the club. To AS, he said, “I always greet Agustín, the delegate, when I visit the Bernabéu, he’s a very nice person and he treats everyone who’s passed through there with a lot of affection.” As for playing in the Bernabéu, “it’s special for everyone and for me as well, and it will always be like that. I spent a lot of time there and I’m very grateful to the club. I owe Madrid for believing in me when I was still a kid, and that’s where I became a footballer.” To El País, Rober spoke about his idol, Ronaldo: “I became better each day I trained with him. I’ve admired him since he was at Barça. When I saw him in the locker room, I viewed him in the same way that children view me now. He reserved himself in the training sessions, but no one defined games like he did.” When asked if he remembered the day that Madrid came to sign him when he was 14, Soldado said, “I remember the day when my father told me that a scout from Madrid had been following me for a year and a half, and that Vicente del Bosque was coming that Saturday to make a decision. I was happy, but I was also a bit scared. I had never even been to Madrid and I had a horrible first month there, since I missed Valencia. The best thing about that time was the friendships I struck with my teammates, who are now playing for many different teams.”
Real Madrid vs. Valencia.
Despite the frustration…
I think most of us were like these fans in the Bernabéu, no? And there must have been magnets inside the ball and in the goal posts, because how else can we explain how many times we heard “¡al palo!” during the game? Anyway, the last 0-0 tie in the Bernabéu was five seasons ago, on Feb. 17, 2007 against Betis. And by the way, Roberto Carlos and José Mercé were at the game, despite the absence of their favorite Sergio Ramos.
The players weren’t immune either.
I can’t imagine it’s very comfortable there…
It really was a tense game, no?
… it was an immensely enjoyable game.
That’s because both teams fought so hard, and both goalkeepers turned in tremendous performances, especially Vicente Guaita. Perhaps that’s why the Bernabéu, which was full despite Sunday being Easter Sunday, kept cheering on its team and pushing it, almost willing it to a win. This is what many people, those who complain about how the fans are apathetic or can’t understand why they boo their own team, don’t get about the Bernabéu. What we can’t accept is the players not trying hard. But when they do make an effort, we support them with our hearts, our souls, our voices, our hands, no matter if they win or not. This was the case on Sunday. This is the Bernabéu. That’s why Iker and Pepe gathered the players at the center circle once the final whistle blew, to thank the fans for their support.
- Karim Benzema’s slightly awkward wink, Marcelino hugging fellow Brazilian Jonas before the second half started…
… José Callejón agreeing and then disagreeing with Mou, and Iker thanking (?) the goal post for being his friend.
In addition to all that, this game will be remembered for that incident between Pepe and Arbeloa. What happened was this. Pepe received a foul from Pablo Piatti. He attempted to get Piatti carded by rolling around in pain on the ground, only for Álvaro Arbeloa to come over to him and try to help him up, as to not waste any more time, since every second counted. Thinking that Arbeloa was Piatti, Pepe kicked him in the knee. Deplorable behavior. I’ve been fed up with Pepe’s antics for a while and this is just one more in a list that is growing by the season. I have no doubt that he’s a nice kid off the field, but on the field, he needs to control his behavior and act in a manner worthy of the escudo.
Anyway, after the game, Álvaro said it was nothing, and on Monday, he tweeted, “Pepe is a great guy! He had to throw away his boot because my super knee broke it!”
The Xabi Alonso pose section.™
A bit of sunshine…
The Karanka corner.
Aitor Karanka, who received a warning from the referee in the 79th minute for “leaving the technical area to make observations to the fourth official about one of my decisions,” said after the game that the team will continue fighting for the Liga (“the team wants to go to the Vicente Calderón already”), and also expressed his discontent with the refereeing: “the referee? Everyone saw it.” Nevertheless, he was happy with the game, with the players, with all the occasions the team had, and the public. As to the warning, he said he his tone of voice was “normal” and that “the more adversity there is, the prouder we’ll be to win.” And I loved this remark: “this team and this escudo will fight until the end.”
Remember how Roberto Soldado said earlier that he would greet Agustín Herrerín at the stadium? Well, he and Dani Parejo also found time to hug and chat with Manolín and Turuta! I love it when these types of relationships are maintained.
And this is a good transition to the next point…
As for Castilla, they beat Lugo 5-1 behind a hat trick from Joselu, and one goal apiece from Pedro Mosquera and Juanfran. They now have a 10 point advantage over the second place team, which is Lugo, although the Galician team has played one less game. Castilla has earned 68 points in the competition thus far. Joselu, meanwhile, is the pichichi of the group with 18 goals.
And MFC Álvaro Borja Morata Martín tweeted this adorable photo of him and Iker Muniain, which he had found on his computer, in their much younger days, which is not saying much since they’re both only 19. But they look about 10 here, no?
P.S. I’ll try and start answering emails tomorrow… I’m really sorry it takes so long for me to respond to all of you who write me. I need more hours in the day!