the Iker book – part IV
And we continue with other people’s thoughts on Iker (the second part of this post). This time around, we have the viewpoints of former and current coaches (both Madrid and La Roja), former teammates and journalists, as well as some of the best goalkeepers in Spanish history. And I just have to say, remember how Iker said if he could, he would be less bitter? Well I see why, because so many of these people have anecdotes that start with, “Iker always reminds me of the time when…” (And just so you know, I’ve edited the pieces to bring you all only the interesting parts.)
Toshack decided to take him to Bilbao, so that he could debut in the first division, and in San Mamés! It was decided that we would sleep in the same room so that he could feel the support of one of the veterans, but I thought it would be better for him to sleep alone so that he could relax. He told me to stay, but I believed it was more important for him to have his space.
All of us kept an eye on him. During the meals, the morning training session, the warm-up. Before the game, we decided that I would take the goal kicks. Back then, he wasn’t like he is now. I had spent the entire season taking the goal kicks. My adductors were in pain. Halfway through the season, I told Karanka that he should take some too, because I was going to injure myself. The reality is that Iker couldn’t take them in the beginning because his kicks didn’t reach the midfield line [jajaja!!!!]. Then he got better and now he has a brutal kick.
He’s never been very vocal for a goalkeeper, and he was even less so in the beginning. He was a kid, he had cards of some of us. We sat him down at our table from the very beginning, with Raúl, Morientes, Karanka and I. Chendo was also there the first year. He had to put up with a lot of our jokes. We teased him about the way he dressed. When Madrid traveled to play games in Europe or when there were trips with the national team, we had to wear suits and he would arrive with the jacket from the youth national team, a tie for another occasion, and shoes for another one… [I see nothing has changed.]
One time, we had to go try on our official outfits and he came with Chendo and me. When we finished, we asked him how he was going to get home and he told us by metro and then train. I gave him 5000 pesetas so that he could take a taxi and at least get home by lunchtime. I found out that he didn’t take the taxi, that he went by metro and that he kept the money. We always remind him of that, but he doesn’t say anything. He laughs and shuts up.
We had our discussions during games. He said that I was too demanding with him, but our thing was nothing compared to what he had with Karanka. He and Aitor spent the entire game fighting. [I wonder if they ever reminisce about this?] He was a bit of a rebel once he gained confidence. But that’s normal. He knew what he was doing.
During his second year with the first team, we were a bit distant with each other. He criticized me for having benched him. He didn’t say anything to me, but he told everyone else and of course I found out. One day, several of us teammates were together, and one of them asked me what I thought about this issue. Iker was also there. I responded, “I can’t say because he says I kicked him out of the team and I don’t want to say anything else.” Iker got as red as a tomato but he didn’t say anything to me. I never understood how people could say I had so much power, how they could think I was the one who decided which players to play and take out when really, there was a coach who was in charge.
Later on, when I became the sporting director of the RFEF, there wasn’t one day during the four years when we saw each other that he didn’t remind me that I had benched him. He told me he was going to make me suffer like I had done to him back then. He told me, “it’s payback time.” Since he was the captain… During this time, we’ve met up and spoken a lot. He’s shown me that he’s matured a lot, that he has very clear ideas and he knows where he wants to get. I’ve felt very comfortable with the relationship… so much so that I feel I can tell these anecdotes about the past.
Luis María Arconada.
I’ve met up with him on various occasions and what I like the most about him is that he’s a normal guy. You notice that when you greet him, when you listen to him speak, whether it’s speaking directly to him or listening to him talk on the radio or on TV, and when you read things about him. The entire world likes him. For his behavior, he’s a role model for young people. He’s the classic footballer whom rivals and rival fans like.
The first time we met each other was in the Ciudad Deportiva, in 2003. I went there to take a photo for the magazine Tiempo with other people in the news. There were politicians, actors, writers, painters… and we were the footballers. He came up to me addressing me in the “usted” form. That was surprising coming from a young guy, since the entire world “se tutea,” but not him. I told him to use the “tú” form with me and he told me that his parents had taught him to address people he didn’t know and who were older than him with “usted.” In the end, I managed to convince him and “me tuteaba.” Later on I saw him leaving and getting into a normal car, which was surrounded by Ferraris. It’s another sign of normality.
I would also like to say that it’s very nice to know that I was his father José Luis’ football idol and that his mother Mari Carmen chose me as an example to make him eat more when he was small.
Sometimes we laughed because we would hear how people would say that we didn’t get along. One night after a game, we went out to have a drink in Valencia. I remember that in a club, he kept hugging me and pinching my cheek and shouting so that everyone in Valencia would see how well we get along.
I have two anecdotes about him that I’ll never forget. Although we were teammates, he would usually hang out with the younger players, and I with the veterans, since I was 34, almost double his age. One day, right after he had been promoted to the first team, I realized that I was missing a pair of gloves, and I asked him if he had taken them. He got really nervous. He told me no, no, no. I kept insisting because they had disappeared from the locker room and not everyone can enter in there. A few days later, I saw a goalkeeper, I think for a team in the third division, with my gloves and I asked him where he had gotten them. He told me that his coach had given them to him. And who is your coach, I asked. He told me [Paco] Buyo. It appeared that the “thief” had been someone else and I thought it had been Iker because he was just a kid and maybe he was too embarrassed to ask me for them and so he just took them. I don’t remember if I said anything to Buyo after that.
The other anecdote I have about Iker is regarding when the Bernabéu sang to him, “IIIIIIIIIIIIker, IIIIIIIIIIIIker, IIIIIIIIIIIIker.” I asked him if he was jealous that the entire stadium was singing my name: “Illllllllllllllllllgner, Illllllllllllllllllgner, Illllllllllllllllllgner.” By that time, I was on the bench and he was the starter.
We’ve had more happy moments than sad ones together, but I will never forget those days before the final in Glasgow. He was very sad because he wasn’t going to play and I asked him if his family would come. He told me that his mother would not come because he wasn’t going to play and he almost started crying. It broke my heart. I didn’t know what to say to him. To cheer him up, I told him not to worry, that he would have other opportunities to play in a Champions League final, and to think that by the age of 18, he had already played in Paris and that his reward would come. Fortunately, his time came right there in Hampden Park.
José Antonio Camacho.
I have a good relationship with him. I’ve spoken more with him than with other players and I hold him in high regard. Each time he sees me, he reminds me – and 10 years have passed since then! – that I have to let him use my house in Ibiza. That’s because during the Eurocopa , during a chat with the players, I told them that if we beat Yugoslavia, I would invite anyone who wanted to go to my house in Ibiza. We won, but no one came. My invitation was always there, but Iker reminds me of it each time he sees me.
There was a transcendent moment in his career with the national team. It was when a series of events happened and Raúl wasn’t going to be playing for the team anymore. For the number of games, for the tradition that has always existed with the national team and in Spanish teams, Iker had to be the captain and so I spoke with him. The truth is that I also considered Xavi, but the logical choice was Iker and so we sat down to speak.
He understood very well what I explained to him. From the first moment, he committed himself. I explained to him that being captain of the Spanish national team, a team that wanted to change history and begin to win, was not simply wearing an armband. It was much more. I believe he knew that from the first day because he helped me a lot, which is what I needed most from the captain, as well as the coaching team and his teammates.
Vicente del Bosque.
The best person to write about Casillas would be Antonio Mezquita, who was the one who discovered him when he came to play in our Social Tournament. Antonio had a lot of affection for him and he made the rest of us pay attention to this kid. It’s clear that he was completely right.
My first memories of Iker are more of his parents, a discrete couple who was always with their son and who made a huge sacrifice so that he could become a footballer. Each day, they took him to training from Móstoles. They were always on top of things and I believe that the education they gave him is the basis of what Iker is today.
Iker always reminds me that one day I scolded him because he always cut the sleeves of his jersey. I don’t really remember this incident, but I’m sure I told him that. To me, a goalkeeper playing in short sleeves just seemed wrong. It could be because I was old fashioned. One day, I had also told Guti that since he was such a good footballer and a nice guy, why not cut his hair? And he responded that he would cut his hair when I shaved off my mustache. [Jajaja!!!] He was right. I shouldn’t have become involved in those issues, such as the one with Iker.
I believe Amieiro, who worked with him for so many years, has had a lot to do with his progression. He’s been an excellent teacher.
My personal relationship with Iker is great. As a human being, I don’t have words to describe him. The first time I contacted him, something curious happened. We had already spoken one time before in Madrid, but at that time, we just greeted each other and said goodbye. I was at the World Cup, in South Africa, and I wanted to wish him luck in the final. I managed to get his number and I wrote him a message and signed it Silvino. In a short while, he sent back a message asking who I was, that he didn’t know who I was. I told him that I was his new goalkeeping coach and he told me that I had made a great impression on him the day we met [jajaja, go Iker!].
Miguel Ángel Corona.
Iker and I were born in the same year, me in February and him in Mayo. I joined Real Madrid when I was 12 and since then we’ve played together on various teams. We became good friends because in addition to playing and training together, our parents also got along very well and spent time together during trips when they accompanied us.
During the first two years, I would come to train from Talavera two days a week, and so sometimes, when his parents couldn’t take him to the Ciudad Deportiva, my father and I would pick him up in the middle of the road around the commercial park in Móstoles. I still see him on the other side of the rail with his bag. We would pick him up and then go train. We would also bring him back, and if we had time, drop him off at home.
The first memories I have of him were that he was always in the group that joked around. Those were great years. Iker was always in the middle of all the jokes. He was a specialist in giving out nicknames. He named me “Monchito” because I had a shaved head. For us, he was “Dumbo,” for the size of his ears.
During the youth World Cup in Bolivia, we had a great time. I remember the joke that our coach, Rafa López, played on us. One afternoon, he told us that we had to get vaccines and that the shot was going to hurt. He was in cahoots with the doctor, and one by one, when we entered the room, he explained the joke to us and told us to scream loudly to frighten the rest of the teammates that were waiting to come in. Iker was one of the first to go in and I think he stayed inside to see what each one would do and then later on he told us how each one reacted.
We would make fun of his hair, because his mother, Mari Carmen, was a hairstylist and Iker told us that she experimented on him. We didn’t know whether to believe him because he was always joking around and we thought that he himself would dye his hair. One day he came in with red hair and we had a great time teasing him.
We don’t see each other very often nor do we call each other, but when we run into each together, all these memories come back to the surface. It’s very complicated to maintain this relationship with the passing of time, but there will always be a bit of friendship because we were friends when we were young, and those friendships are different than the ones you make when you’re older.
[Speaking about Iker at the U-20 World Cup in Nigeria in spring 1999]: all of the players had a hard time, since they couldn’t call their loved ones, as there was just one telephone in the entire hotel where they were staying, and it cost one hundred dollars per minute. Since they had no money and couldn’t use credit cards, this journalist came up with a system so that each day, three of the players could send messages home through the daily column that Xavi wrote for Marca. Casillas, like the rest of his teammates, waited in line at the door of the room of his good friend Pelopo to give him a note with four words meant for his parents and brother.
Back then, Iker already showed signs of the affability that has accompanied him throughout his career. There is an anecdote about the report we did in Calabar where we had an impossible rock group made up of Iker, Xavi and Álex Lombardero playing. The three of them had a great time thumping on the guitars and drums while two local dancers tried uselessly to follow the insufferable rhythm of the “Beatles” of La Rojita.