Fábio Coentrão – the Real… interview
It only took about a month, but here it is…
I don’t know why the people at RMTV decided to make Fábio Coentrão the latest Real… interview, because as we can see, he’s not too confident in Spanish yet, and because he’s not that confident, I’m sure we missed out on many things that he would have said had he felt more comfortable in castellano. In this way, I’m not sure we’ve seen the “real” Coentrão yet, which is a shame, because after hearing from him, I’m left wanting more. A big thanks goes out to reader Maria for helping me decipher Fábio’s “Portuñol.”
You chose a very beautiful song to start this interview with, “Beautiful Lie” by Keemo. Good evening and welcome to RMTV.
Good evening. It is a song that I like a lot, a beautiful song… I don’t speak Spanish very well.
People need to know that you’re making an effort to speak with us here today, so it will be in both Spanish and Portuguese. But people want to get to know you, how you are as a person. You’re shy, you don’t like to talk too much, no?
Yes, I’m a person who doesn’t talk too much, I like being on my own, I consider myself a normal person, I just like being on my own.
Whenever I see you around Valdebebas, you’re always smiling, joking around. You like to joke around, contribute to the good atmosphere on the team. You’re shy, but when you have confidence in others, you’re very open.
Yes, that’s normal, perfectly normal when you come to a new club where you don’t know the people. I think it’s perfectly normal that I don’t speak much, but once I get to know the people, we talk and laugh a lot. I find it perfectly normal [he’s a bit repetitive, but it’s not his fault].
One of the things that won me over about you was your humility. You’re very humble.
Yes, that’s one of the things that helped me to get to where I am today. For a footballer, it’s very important to be humble, and that’s a characteristic that I have.
Last week, Kaká was sitting where you are now. He talked about coming from a middle-class family in São Paulo, so he didn’t come from a humble family, but you did.
Yes, I come from a very humble family, but I was always very happy. The most important thing in life is happiness and not money. It’s true that I was born to a very humble family, but I was always very happy.
Let’s go back in time to when you were a child. You come from the Caxinas neighborhood of Vila do Conde. What was this neighborhood like? Tell us about Caxinas.
It’s still a neighborhood that I like very much, it’s wonderful, everything about it. That land is where I come from, I would do anything for it because that’s where I was born, where I lived for many years. When I retire from football, I would like to return there because I feel happy there.
It’s a neighborhood full of fishermen, no? What is it like? Are there small houses next to the sea?
The houses are really nice. The houses are nice and large, but there’s no need for them to be spectacular. The people there live very well, despite the difficulties that they have there.
You said you really like the people of Caxinas. Why is that? What makes them so special?
I like them a lot, because those people are just like me.
Your father is a fisherman.
For a long time…
This must be difficult for a child, because he often was not there, no?
Anyone born in Vila do Conde, from the time they are small, are used to having their fathers away, because everyone in Caxinas works out on the seas. When we were kids, our fathers were out at sea and with time you get used to it. That’s the way life is.
So what you’re saying is that when all the kids there grow up, they realize that their fathers are fishermen, that they have to be absent for a certain amount of time to go fish, and they view that as normal.
Yes, of course. From the time I was born, from the time that I understood what life was about, my father was away, so it became something normal.
When your father went away on one of these trips, normally how much time was he away?
Months, days, how much time did you spend without seeing your father?
A week, five days, four, it depended. I’d only see my father on Saturdays and Sundays.
You must have missed your father a lot, because his profession required him to spend so many days away from home fishing.
Yes, but that’s how life is. It had to be like that and so it was.
If you weren’t a footballer, would you have been a fisherman?
Yes, of course. It’s a profession that I like a lot, being a fisherman, but life gave me the opportunity to be a football player and I’m very happy.
Your mother worked in a factory producing canned foods.
Yes, she worked a lot, for a long time. Fortunately, she had this job in a canned foods factory. She tells me that she used to get there by 08h and I would tag along, and just stay there the entire morning watching her work. It had to be this way, like I told you, for how life is…
So you would stay next to your mother, watching her work.
Yes. When I was a kid, I had to be there because my mother didn’t have enough money to send me to school.
So you didn’t have any opportunities to study?
Yes, that’s right. This was the only thing we could do, my “school” was there, alongside my mother.
What did you learn in that “school?” It’s another type of school, but an important one.
This is why I appreciate everyone and every job there is, whether it’s as a fisherman, a laborer or a football player. For me, everyone is equal. I’ve been through a lot. Because of my past, I view life differently, in a positive manner.
How many times do you look back at where you came from? In football, you have qualities that help you to grow as a person and as a professional, but there is also the factor of luck, which you have or don’t have. How many times have you looked back at where you came from, the times when you had to sit next to your mother because you couldn’t go to school, of all the times when your father left to go fishing?
I don’t have to remind myself of that every day, because it’s something that is always with me, every minute of every day. It’s something that I shouldn’t ever forget. The life I’ve had shaped me into the person that I am now. Because of my past and the many things I’ve gone through, I view life in a distinct way, and I’m able to appreciate things much more.
Did your family ever go hungry?
Hungry? Thanks to God, we never went hungry. My parents were always able to provide food for me and my brothers. But of course there were times when I wanted something and couldn’t have it, but I never went hungry. It was actually the opposite because my father worked at sea and my mother in a canned food factory so my brothers and I would have enough to eat. And thanks to God, we never went hungry.
What was the Coentrão house like?
It was a nice house, very big, because my father worked very hard since he was a kid. He emigrated to Canada when he was 10, so he could earn money out there on the sea. After that, he married my mother and they managed to save enough money to give us a house to sleep in… and it was a very nice one.
How many siblings do you have?
I have two.
Brothers or sisters?
Brothers. One is 30 years old and the other is 38 years old.
So you’re the baby of the family.
Yes, the baby of the family.
Was the youngest one spoiled a bit more by the family? They always take care of you more for being the youngest.
Yes, always. But I’ve had nephews and nieces from the time I was small. I have one nephew who is 20 years old, so I was never really the baby of the family.
A nephew that is almost as old as you.
Yes, that’s true. And I have another niece who is 18 years old. That’s why I was never the baby of the family, because my nephews and nieces always came first for the family. But as I told you before, I was very, very happy, despite the difficulties that we went through. We’ve always been happy.
When you were small, what did you dream about?
My dreams were always football-related. I’ve liked football since the time I was small, watching it, playing it. My mother remembers me going to sleep with a football in my bed, and waking up with a football in my bed.
So you went to sleep with a football in your bed and you got up with a football in your bed.
My mother tells me that if anyone ever took the ball away, I would immediately wake up. I slept with a football by my side because I really dreamed of becoming a footballer. After that, I worked very hard to become a football player, and here I am.
But before you became a footballer, you had to work, as a house painter, if I’m not mistaken.
Yes, I worked as a painter…
How old were you?
Fourteen, no 13. I was a “padeiro” (baker), that’s how you say it here, no? Someone who makes rolls, bread…
Ah, a “panadero.” You were a baker when you were 13.
Yes, and after that I worked as a house painter, and after that, I worked in construction. And after that, football.
When you began to work, it was to try and earn money to bring home.
Yes, at that time, my parents had emigrated to France but I stayed behind in Portugal. I’ve never lacked anything, but I worked so that I could have money to go out, to buy clothes, because when you’re 14 or 15, there are some things that you want, and I had to work in order to get them.
You matured very early, no?
Yes, absolutely. I started working when I was 13 as a “pasteleiro” [he couldn’t remember the Spanish word so he threw in another Portuguese word – adorable!] and then as a painter when I was 15, and in construction after that. When I look back, it makes me think that although at times the life of a footballer can get complicated, and it’s not an easy life, it’s a very good life, better than the one I had when I was 14 or 15 when I worked as a painter or a construction worker. And today, I’m very happy about that.
I have a phrase here that you said, which is wonderful: as a kid, I didn’t have money, but I could do what I wanted out on the streets, no one had more freedom than I did.
Yes, all the children in Caxinas had a lot of freedom. All the parents would let the children walk around or play by themselves on the streets, and as I said, I didn’t have money but I did have freedom, and I was happy. That’s the most important thing.
What was your group of friends like?
The group was…
How many were you? A lot? [Again, I wish Óscar would just let his guests speak and not interrupt!]
Yes, a lot, a lot. There are many, many kids in Caxinas. I had a great childhood.
And what are these kids doing now? You’re a footballer, but what about your friends from Caxinas? Are they fishermen or…
As persons, they’re the same as me. The same. In terms of their jobs, I’m a footballer, but one works in construction, another works out on the sea, that’s life.
If you could change something about your childhood, would you change anything?
No, I wouldn’t change anything, it would remain the same, the same as I just described to you. I didn’t have money, but I was very, very, very happy, and that’s the most important thing in life. Everyone wants to be happy and healthy, and I was happy and healthy. That’s why I absolutely would not change a single thing.
What kind of advice would you give to your children? You have a 15-month old daughter, Vitória, and you’ll have more children. What are you going to tell them about your childhood, since their childhood will be a lot different from yours.
Thanks to God, although we grow up in a certain way, our children can grow up under different circumstances. I speak for myself when I say that I work for my daughter, and for the children that will come, God willing. Of course one day I will speak with my daughter to explain to her that life isn’t as easy as she thinks, because fortunately she was born under very different circumstances. I’m going to have a conversation with my daughter about my childhood so that she can learn something.
Despite all the difficulties, you were happy and never suffered. Although you had to go to the factory with your mother and you couldn’t go to school, you were happy.
No, when I went with my mother to the factory, I was only three, four, five years old, very small. I don’t remember anything from when I was two or three years old; once I reached the age of five or six it was a different story and I do remember things, but the fact was that there was no money to pay for my schooling and so it had to be like that.
Did you start working immediately, or did you have time to go to school?
Did you start working when you were 12 or 13, or was there a time when you attended school to learn?
Yes, I started going to school when I was six. I attended school for some time, and when I was 13, due to the reality of my life, I thought, what am I doing in school? I’m going to start working. Who am I trying to fool? I don’t like going to school and I’m going to work and earn a living. It has to be that way. That’s when I started working… but I always played football, always. I worked from eight in the morning to five in the afternoon, and I trained with Rio Ave from six until nine at night. Then I started playing more and that was it.
Let’s start from the beginning. Where was the first place you ever played football?
From the time I was a kid, I had a field in front of my house, it was a good field, made out of stone. Now it has grass. It was a great field, and I would always go there to play.
Were you the best player out of your friends?
Yes, everyone said that I could become a great player. But when we’re kids, and we talk amongst ourselves, we always tell each other that we can become great players, but we never believe it’s possible. With the life that I had before, when I was a kid, I never even considered that I could become a great player. Afterward, with the passing of time, I saw it as a possibility, that I could become a great player. The confidence I had in myself grew progressively.
You were called the “Figo of Caxinas.”
Yes, that’s because I really liked watching Figo play, and he was always my idol. That’s why people started calling me the “Figo of Caxinas.”
Who was the one who told you to join Rio Ave? Or did you do that yourself?
I did it myself. My parents always supported me. I was nine or 10 years old when I went to try out with Rio Ave, and they saw that I played well. There was a phase in my life, when I was 11 or 12 or 13, when I didn’t like to go to practice. I preferred playing on the field in front of my house, and so my father and my mother would take me to Rio Ave so that I wouldn’t miss any of the training sessions.
So your parents always accompanied you.
Always, always. I’m very grateful to my father and my mamá.
You wouldn’t be here without them.
There’s no doubt.
Without them taking you to practice, you might still be playing on the stone field in front of your house with your friends.
Yes, without them and without the many people who helped me along the way, such as the people in Rio Ave, the coaches, directors, many people, I wouldn’t be here today.
How long did you spend at Rio Ave?
From the age of 16 until I was 18.
Is it true that you had a tryout with Chelsea?
When I went to try out with Chelsea, the coach was Mourinho. I had a try out, and I did well. Mister Mourinho spoke with me, and told me that I was really good, and that he really liked watching me play. But after that, he left the club. I returned to Rio Ave and after that I signed with Benfica.
So if it had been up to the míster, you would be playing for Chelsea.
From Rio Ave, you went to Benfica. This was a big step forward for you.
Yes, it was a big step forward in my career. It’s not easy to go from a club like Rio Ave to Benfica. Things didn’t go too smoothly after I got to Benfica, I was young and inexperienced, things didn’t go well. I was loaned out to Nacional and everything went well there. After that, I went to Zaragoza. I don’t want to talk about that time, I was very miserable and unhappy, it was one of the worst years of my life. Those were the six unhappiest months of my life since the time I was born. Then I returned to Rio Ave and things went well. Then Benfica gave me another opportunity and the real Coentrão returned.
You had some absolutely fantastic seasons with Benfica. What did you do during those years to improve as a player?
Perhaps those six months I spent in Zaragoza helped me to think, to mature a lot and gave me the desire to want to overcome many things. On the one hand, it was good to have that suffering, because it gave me more desire to triumph and overcome things, to play. From that time on, everything has gone well in my life.
And then came the day when someone called your agent and said Real Madrid wants him.
Yes, it was interesting because I had spoken with my agent and I had told him that I didn’t want to leave Benfica, that I was happy there, that I wanted to stay there. I told him that the only club I would leave Benfica for was Real Madrid.
If I’m not mistaken, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Manchester City wanted you.
Yes, and there were more clubs. I spoke with my agent and I told him I would only go to Real Madrid.
My agent told me that Real Madrid was the best place for me. He told me, Real is the best club for you and for all players. So I said, if I leave Benfica, I’m going to Real, and if not, then I’m staying with Benfica.
And when he told you that Real Madrid wanted to sign you, that Mourinho wanted to sign you, that must have made you nervous…
I was really excited. The first several days, I was anxious about the contract, wondering where it was. Then I spoke with him and things went well and I signed with Real.
How did you feel when you finally signed with Real Madrid?
After I signed, I felt very happy, very content. That’s normal, because I had signed for Real, the best club in the world. Any player would be thrilled and I was very, very content.
What did your parents say? Coming to Real Madrid was a dream for you, no?
Yes, it was a huge deal for my parents, for my friends, for my entire family, because I was now playing for the best club in the world. Everyone who loves me was very happy about this.
What did your parents say to you?
My mother doesn’t talk too much about football… all she ever tells me is “for me, you’re the best.” Even when I play poorly, she’ll still tell me that I was the best player out there. That’s what mothers are like. My father was very happy as well. He would always tell me to keep my head on right, to do the same things that I had done in Benfica.
Your parents did so many things for you when you were younger, and this is an opportunity to give back to them, no? I’m sure you thought of that when you were signing with Real Madrid.
Ever since I returned from Zaragoza to go back to Benfica, my father, who is an old man and therefore very wise, was convinced that I was going to play for another club, but he never imagined it would be Real Madrid. He would tell me, you’re going to play for an important club, because he had seen me play. He would always tell me you’re going to play for this big club and things like that, and I would say, “yes, father.” But my mother never said anything to me.
That must make you very proud, no?
I’ve come a long way since being born under the circumstances that I was to playing for the best club in the world. Even I find this hard to believe. Sometimes I tell myself, “you’re a Real Madrid player.” Life is funny, because you never know what’s going to happen.
You’ve now had the experience of playing in the Santiago Bernabéu. All of the players who passed through here, anyone who has played for Real Madrid says that this stadium is special. When you step onto the field and you look up…
Yes, it’s a great stadium, and there’s always a lot, a lot of people who come to watch the games. The first time that I stepped onto the field, I felt great, very content, very happy.
You’ve spoken a lot about the importance of your parents, your brothers as you grew up, but Daniela [he must mean Andreia, right? Look at Fábio’s expression] is also a very important person in your life. She, along with your daughter Vitória, form your other family. How important is it having someone like that to give you balance in your life?
Due to the life that we footballers have, it’s very important for us to have a good person by our side. Thanks to God, I have a wife at home who is a rock for me. She tells me when I do things well, when I do things badly, and that’s something very important for me.
This is very important, no, to have someone who always tells you the truth, as opposed to mothers, who tell you you’re the best even when you play badly.
Yes, it’s important. When we lose a game, we’re upset and angry. When I get home, I speak with my wife, and it’s important to have someone that you can talk to. Then you look at your children, and you forget all your problems.
Vitória is your life.
Yes, my daughter is the most important thing in my life, she’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.
What do you like to do in your free time? After training sessions, do you go home and spend time with your family?
Yes, I like spending time with my family, at home, with my daughter, we sometimes go out for walks. I like to live a healthy and happy life.
And sometimes you go to Cristiano’s house, to pick the vegetables he grows to make soup for your dinner, no?
How does that work? You like the vegetables that he cultivates for your soups?
I’ve only been here in Madrid for a short while, so I don’t know of many places to eat yet. Sometimes I find that I lack things, so I just go to Cristiano’s house. If he doesn’t answer the door, I jump over the back wall and take some vegetables.
Are you happy in the city of Madrid?
Yes, very happy. It’s a great city, a very beautiful city, anyone would enjoy living in Madrid.
I was told of a prank that was played on you one time on a Portuguese TV show with a hidden camera. The program is called “Tas Aquí, Tas Apanhado,” or “you’re here, you’re caught.” It involved police and you were all worried, tell us about it [watch it here].
They really had me going there. I was returning home from a training session, and the police showed up. They told me that they wanted to talk to me, that they had gone to my bar in Vila do Conde…
You have a bar in Vila do Conde.
Yes. They told me that there had been some disturbances in the bar, and I told them I didn’t know anything. And they kept on insisting. I started sweating.
It was like you were a prisoner.
Yes. They handcuffed me. It was incredible.
What did you do when you were told it was a joke?
On the one hand, I was calm because I knew that I hadn’t done anything wrong, but it’s always complicated when the police have handcuffed you.
Let’s talk a bit about football now, of José Mourinho. He’s been an important person in your life. What does he mean to you as a coach, as a person?
He means a lot to me. He’s someone who believed in me, the person who brought me here to play for Real. He’s a person for whom I have a lot of affection and admiration, because he came to Benfica to get me to play for Real Madrid. I’m very grateful to him.
What is he like as a coach?
He’s the best. Simply put, he’s the best. He’s won everything, and he’s really special. He’s simply the best coach in the world.
Why is Mourinho special? Why do all the players who have worked with him, not just the ones from Real Madrid, consider him number one?
I’ve always heard players complaining about their coaches, that always happens, but with Mourinho, I’ve never heard anything. I’ve never seen players complaining about him in newspapers, saying bad things about him. It’s important for a coach to know how to communicate with his players, and Mourinho knows how to do that. He’s a fantastic person.
What can you contribute to Real Madrid?
Many things. I have to play well…
To return this confidence that he put in you.
Yes, in this moment of my life, my goal is to show that I’m worth everything that Real has done for me. That’s all I want to do, to work hard and help Real.
Speaking of playing, everyone has the same question: which position do you prefer to play?
If the míster wants me to play as a goalkeeper, I’ll do that too [love this answer!]. That’s no problem.
We’ll have to speak with Iker and Adán first…
All I want to do is play and help Real Madrid achieve its objectives. Perhaps the most important thing is for all the players to have the same mentality of giving everything they have to help Real Madrid accomplish everything.
One of the things you told me is that you were surprised by the fans, as the stadium is always full, they’re always supporting the team… el madridismo [José Mourinho must be seeing a different set of fans, no?].
Yes, it’s fantastic, and also something that makes Real Madrid the best club in the world. It’s very important for us to know that they’re with us, because it motivates us to win many things.
Talk to me about the team. Is this the best team you’ve ever played with?
Yes. For me, this team has the best player in the world; I have no doubts about that. It has the best coach in the world, and for me, also the best goalkeeper in the world. For me, they’re all the best in the world. It’s normal for this to be the best team I’ve ever played with.
What can we expect from this team this season?
Hard work, a lot of hard work, and then later on, our efforts will pay off.
What’s the atmosphere in the locker room like? What atmosphere did you find when you joined the team?
Before I came to Real Madrid, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it wasn’t good, but when I came here, I realized it was fantastic. The locker room is wonderful, everyone is good friends with each other. The locker room of Real is incredible.
There’s still a lot left to this season, many training sessions, many games, good moments, bad moments… but do you see yourself at Cibeles celebrating titles?
Of course. When you play for a club like Real Madrid, you always dream of winning many things. As I said before, we have to work very, very hard for things to turn out well for us. I’m sure that we’ll win many things this year.
Many people sent in questions for this interview. People really like you and respect you. They want to know, who is your best friend on Real Madrid? It’s probably Cristiano, because you take things from his house…
Cristiano is a very important person for me, because he’s always helped me with everything. There’s also Pepe and Marcelo, and both are also very important to me.
Casillas is always hanging around you.
Yes, everyone has been great with me, but Cristiano, Pepe and Marcelo are the ones that I get along the best with.
What do you do to stay in shape? You’re very lean, fit. What you eat is very important, do you watch what you eat?
No, the most important thing is the training, you need to train well. That’s the most important thing.
What is the most difficult thing about being a footballer? Iker always talks about the concentración.
Yes, we spend very little time at home, with our families. People think that we’re always at home with nothing to do, but that’s not true. We’re always away, apart from our families, so that’s perhaps the worst thing.
Can you send a message to the fans, telling them about your personal dreams for this season, as well as your dreams for this team?
On the professional level, I can promise a lot of hard work, because that’s the only way I know how, I don’t know of any other way. As for the team, I promise that we’re going to win many things this year.
We always end the interviews in the same way, with the players signing the desk. Here’s Pepe, Carvalho, Callejón, Kaká, Arbeloa… can you dedicate something nice to the people that work for RMTV? This program has allowed the fans to get to know Fábio Coentrão better, Fábio Coentrão the person, his childhood… In just a few months, you have won the respect of the fans, of the team. In the name of the entire RMTV team, of el madridismo, of everyone who loves good football, I hope that you triumph with Real Madrid and win many things with this shirt.
Thank you very much for being here.