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the Iker book – part I

December 10, 2011

I know many of you are interested in Iker’s biography, La Humildad del Campeón, so I’ll try and post excerpts from it each week, as long as I have a bit of free time.  I plan to only translate the good parts, so expect lots of anecdotes and not too much technical stuff.

Chapter 1: Real Madrid, his only team.

Spring, 1981.

It was the spring of 1981.  In Bilbao, it was raining and the Casillas-Fernández family was anxiously awaiting the birth of their first child.  They didn’t know whether it would be a boy or a girl.  Mari Carmen wanted a girl, José Luis wanted a boy.  And since back then, there weren’t ultrasound scans, the uncertainty lasted until the final moment.  One morning, Mari Carmen went out to take a walk around the Casco Viejo and she entered into a shoe store, to buy a pair of boots.

The salesman was especially attentive with her.  He was about 50 years old and he joked around with the 20-something year-old pregnant woman.  “The truth is that I was quite large, and you could tell the baby was going to be a big one.  The man wanted to be nice and he told me that I didn’t have a Basque accent.  I told him I was from Madrid, but that we lived here and I was going to go home to give birth.  It was funny because immediately he began asking me why I would want to return to Madrid.  He told me that my baby was going to be a boy and that he was sure he would end up being a footballer.  So I should stay here and give birth in Bilbao, so that the boy could play for both Athletic and Real Madrid, because if I went back, he could “only” play for Real Madrid.”

Is that little Iker wearing an Athletic kit there?

Thirty years later, Mari Carmen remembers that moment perfectly.  She already got nervous each time someone told her that she was going to have a boy, and this man even went further to say that the baby would become a footballer.  She responded, “leave me in peace about whether he’ll play football or not.  The only thing I want is for the baby to come out healthy.  In addition, I want a girl who doesn’t like football, like her mother.”

That shoe store employee was right.  The boy was born a footballer and since he was born in Madrid, his father decided that he could “only” play for Real Madrid.  His father was so convinced of this that he didn’t allow his son to have any other team before he put on that light blue jersey of the Losada team, which was part of the Torneo Social of the club.

Mari Carmen and José Luis had no doubts that they would name their son Iker.  They had discussed with their family about the name, and it was the one they liked the most.  There’s no equivalent in Spanish for “Iker.”  It’s the masculine form of “Ikerne” and it means “visitation, the one who brings good news.”

Iker’s childhood in Móstoles was like that of any other child.  He began walking at an early age and shortly after he became obsessed with footballs, much to the delight of his father, who loved football, and to the indignation of his mother, who didn’t know anything about this sport and had no desire to learn.  Without any siblings, his father became his teammate, and by the age of six-seven, there wasn’t a single Sunday where the two of them didn’t go down to the fields of the Joan Miró school to kick the ball around.

Iker always went straight for the goal.  It wasn’t often that he wanted to play as a forward.  Even when the other boys in the neighborhood improvised a game, his idea didn’t change.  He couldn’t be moved from between the goalposts.  Normally, he played with older boys, who were impressed with the courage of this kid, who threw the ball to everyone and who didn’t mind diving onto the concrete ground.  When he was eight, Poviso, a team in Móstoles, wanted to sign him, but in the end it didn’t work out.

From the first grade to the fifth, he studied at the Pablo Picasso school, before going to the Vicente Aleixandre school for grades six through eight.  Then it was on to the Cañaveral high school, where he completed his three years of high school.  He was a good student, but he always preferred the ball.  He also liked karate, earning an orange belt.

All of the older kids in the neighborhood told José Luis that his son was a good goalkeeper, brave, that he kicked very well, that he had good reflexes, all of which are good things for a goalkeeper to have.  One day, one of them commented that he had seen an advertisement in Marca that said Real Madrid was holding tryouts for boys born in 1981.  José Luis verified the information, and he went to the Santiago Bernabéu.  It was June 1990.  Iker had just turned nine.  José Luis asked for the application form, filled it out, and returned to Móstoles, telling himself on the way back that they had nothing to lose and that his son had possibilities.

The tryout.

Why was Real Madrid the chosen team, and not Atlético or any of the teams in the south of Madrid closer to their home?  It was because José Luis believed that if Real Madrid said no, there was still time to try out for the other clubs.  In September, they called Iker about a tryout.  It consisted of a practice game, nothing more.  They told him they would call him later on.  The months passed and the call never came.  It wasn’t until January that it came.  Jan. 12, 1991 would be the big day.  Iker will never forget that day.

“I don’t even remember how I was the day of the test.  I suppose I was more nervous than normal.  What I do remember is how everything transpired.  We went to the Ciudad Deportiva.  From the time I was six, I knew I wanted to be a goalkeeper.  My uncle and aunt had given me a pair of gloves, and since I never took them off, I was always put in the goal.  Back then, no one wanted to be the goalkeeper.”

“I went to have a tryout when I was eight, but they told me that I was too small, that they would call me later on.  Three or four months passed before they called me.  My mother told me not to get my hopes up, that they weren’t going to call me, that they told all the kids they would call them so they wouldn’t lose hope.  But they called me, and inscribed me in the Trofeo Social.”

That was the first step.  Back then, Real Madrid had their own breeding ground for players, and that was the Trofeo Social that Iker referred to.  That year, it was the XXIX edition and 16 teams in three categories (benjamín and two groups of alevines, with boys aged eight to 11) were participating.  The teams were named after players on the first team.  Iker entered the benjamín category and was “signed” by the Losada team.

The coordinator of this breeding ground was the late Antonio Mezquita, one of those coaches who are fundamental for the cantera of a club, and who spent the entire day at the Ciudad Deportiva.  He was the one who discovered Iker.  There’s no doubt about that, unlike the case of Raúl, where many people take credit for being the first one to discover him.  Mezquita knew that this nine-year-old boy had what it took to become the goalkeeper of Real Madrid and supported him throughout his entire career.  In the old Ciudad Deportiva, the legend goes that Mezquita’s friend, don Julio, one of those fans with the soul of a scout, had seen the boy develop on the fields of Móstoles and had recommended him to his friend.  In any case, Mezquita supported Iker during the entire selection stage.

That first day is also unforgettable for José Luis.  The first game in the Ciudad Deportiva.  They arrived in his red Seat 124.  “They let us park inside and he played on the dirt field on the left, entering through the side door.  Losada played the Lopetegui team.  Iker played the second half.  He was good, calm.  It was what I wanted, for him to stay calm and remain himself.  I told him that if he was chosen, good, and if not, it didn’t matter.”

Iker’s team lost 1-7 and he allowed five goals.  Hierro’s team was the winner of that edition.  Losada finished fifth out of six, with a record of 3-3-9, and 46 goals in favor and 65 against.

“We arrived and they put us to play directly.  I thought it was going to be a training session, another test.  I didn’t even had the right clothing… That’s how I explained it to myself after they scored five on me.”

Iker was impressed by the chat that Antonio Mezquita gave them to explain the situation.

“He was very sincere with his statement.  We were children, but we understood, or at least I did.  He told us that there were 200 of us, that they were going to select the best 40, then narrow it down to 20, and that out of everyone, perhaps only one or two would make it to the first team.  I remember this phrase because that’s exactly what happened.”

32 Comments leave one →
  1. Ally permalink
    December 10, 2011 15:44

    Thank you thank you thank you!!!
    that was a wonderful piece 🙂 that salesman should become a fortune teller hahaha

  2. Rose permalink
    December 10, 2011 16:33

    Thank you so much for taking the time to do this Una! Just from this first chapter I can tell the rest of the book will be lovely.

  3. December 10, 2011 17:05

    Thank you so much for translating – my Spanish isn’t good enough to read a whole book, but I’ve been dying to read a bit from Iker’s. So thank you, it’s appreciated!

  4. superfan permalink
    December 10, 2011 17:09

    You are beyond awesome, Una!!! Thank you so much for sharing bits and pieces of the book to us!

    After reading, you just get the sense that Iker was destined to play for Real Madrid. I mean, he wasn’t even born yet and there were people saying he’ll be a football player. And what a brilliant player he is!! 🙂 Thank God his mom gave birth in Madrid.

  5. December 10, 2011 17:22

    oh, una, THANK YOU. this is the best holiday gift many of us could ever ask for. 🙂 i am going to print out your translations and file them inside the book (when it arrives) so i can ‘read along’ when i want to. this is marvellous, thank you so much!

    how eerie and prescient was that shoe salesman? i wonder what he thinks now?

  6. Happy permalink
    December 10, 2011 18:28

    thanks so much!!!!!!!!!! Una, you’re our angel, I never think of you will translate it to us, I will read it after the El Clasico, thanks.

  7. Maddi permalink
    December 10, 2011 19:14

    Una you’re the best!!!!!! That is all.

  8. December 10, 2011 20:01

    thanks for tranlating this, una 😀 im waiting for the next chapter :DD hala madrid !

  9. December 10, 2011 20:58

    This is perfect thing to find the day of the Clasico, what a reference el capitan is and just hearing these wonderful anecdotes is so heartwarming.
    I know it’s not the easiest thing to translate and you do it so, so well and I’m just immeasurably grateful to you for doing this. In all honesty, Iker is what drew me to this team, I fell in love with him during the Euro and well, that was that 😀
    So getting to read this book, which I would definitely buy if I can get my hands on a copy, is just marvelous. Thank you so much once again for doing this. I loved reading this post and I just can’t wait to learn more about this wonderful man, footballer and madridista!

  10. December 10, 2011 21:57

    Thanks Una for translating =D!

  11. December 11, 2011 02:26

    OMH, that is wonderful!!! Than you UnaMadridista, you are the best!!!

    and reading this makes the evening much sweeter;-) THANKS!!!!!!!

    PS I am so excited about the excerpts that I cannot comment the content of the book as I will have to comment of everything above! I need to calm down!;-))

  12. evvl permalink
    December 11, 2011 02:32

    will you ever play a good classico, iker?

  13. December 11, 2011 03:48

    Thanks for this! What a wonderful balm after losing the Clasico.

  14. emily permalink
    December 11, 2011 04:33

    Great stuff, Una! thanks so much. Wish the El Classico had gone a little bit more in our favor… That first goal really got my hopes up.

  15. December 11, 2011 05:12

    Reading this makes me feel a bit better about how we did yesterday. Thanks.

  16. December 11, 2011 10:14

    So sweet to see this post after that game… Una it’s incredibly kind of you to translate such interesting parts! And I love and trust your views, which will surely bring us lots of anecdotes and laughs. Not necessary to rush. Just do it when you have time. And more cute pics of course. Thank you!

  17. manie permalink
    December 11, 2011 13:18

    This is awesome. I’ve rarely believed the “people are born to do something” line, but it really seems as though Iker was born to lead Real Madrid. More so after yesterday. His parents and all family should be very proud of who he is!

    • manie permalink
      December 11, 2011 13:19

      As should Spain, not just for having as humble and fantastic an athlete as he is, but for the humble and fantastic person he seems.

      Don’t mind me; I’m just going through an Iker lovefest phase, given all the criticism he is receiving.

  18. noviana noor aisyiah permalink
    December 11, 2011 18:51

    omg, i’ve tears in my eyes. saint iker

  19. ThatPerson permalink
    December 11, 2011 19:22

    Imagine if Iker had been born in Bilbao. Real Madrid wouldn’t be what it is today.

  20. amouria permalink
    December 11, 2011 22:03

    Sorry Una, after the Classico, I can’t see their faces…disappointment is the lightest word I can say…

  21. Gigi permalink
    December 11, 2011 22:20

    Thank you so much for doing this! I love reading about Iker’s early life and how he came to the man he is today. The more I read and learn about him the more I’m impressed with everything about him. He really IS an amazing person. I really appreciate your efforts in getting excerpts of this book out to those of us who would otherwise not be able to see it!

  22. maddy permalink
    December 12, 2011 04:21

    thanks so much for taking the time to do this una! i’m going to love this book, i know it!

  23. December 12, 2011 15:58

    Hi Una……..Never commented before but have been reading your Blog. Really appreciate all your posts. After the Classico, i heard a lot of criticism of Iker, if anybody deserves respect then it is him. All the best.

  24. Jas permalink
    December 12, 2011 16:28

    oh my god. i love you !
    i wanted to understand what is written in the book. but i am just learning spanish since 2 years and my spanish is not as good to understand this book.!!!
    ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh thank you so so so so so so so so so much 😀
    I dont know you. but i think i love you 😀 ❤
    besos (hehe only of the words i know ;D)

  25. December 12, 2011 22:57

    I haven’t had a chance to read this just yet, but I wanted to thank you for the hard work you’re putting towards translating it for us, I can’t wait to read it!!

  26. @ulonghaz permalink
    December 13, 2011 01:15

    I don’t speak Spanish and my English is not really good either..
    But I absolutely want this book!! I can’t stand cute little Iker!!! >.<

  27. PepperPots permalink
    December 13, 2011 09:42

    You are one generous blogger!!! Thank you for this! 😀

  28. Nabilah permalink
    December 14, 2011 09:03

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I still can’t buy the book because i live outside Spain. Once again, thank you very much for telling and translate this 🙂
    Muchas Gracias!

  29. Gianni permalink
    December 15, 2011 20:50

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! I was really upset that I’m never gonna be able to read the book cause I don’t live in spain nor speak spanish so thank you so much for translating it!!! I love your blog 🙂

  30. December 20, 2011 02:51

    and i have no idea iker has a spot for martial art! Iker karate boy.

  31. December 21, 2011 01:09

    I knew he was an Athletic fan :P. Cute story.

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