Before landing in the elite of Spanish football, Jaboga Arrasate (Berriatua, Bizkaia; 43 years old) fought as a player between Third and Second B. He is also a primary school teacher, but decided to take a leave of absence and when he turned thirty he undertook an adventure for the benches that have led to an idyllic experience in Pamplona. For Osasuna fans, he is the messiah, goldsmith of a daring, vertical and respected team; the great symbol of a club that together with others, the majority, hold the flag of resistance in times of grandstanding, sheikhs and millions. This Saturday (9:00 p.m., Movistar), his men measure Real Madrid in the glamorous Valdebebas retreat.
Question. In a time like this, with the Super League as a backdrop, what does an entity like Osasuna symbolize?
Answer. From my experience, if somewhere you experience what is the feeling of belonging to some colors and roots, it is Pamplona. Here are a series of lifelong values, to fight and fight, not to give up, which are the counterpoint to what is proposed in this project, which after all is a closed league, in which the merits, where only money is worth. Here the response has been unanimous, the rejection has been resounding and that makes me proud. It comforts me that that feeling and that symbolism still stand.
P. The people have spoken, haven’t they?
R. I think it was the right time to claim it, because when things like this come up, it touches a bit more for you. Logically, society evolves, but you can continue to be the same as your whole life. That has a lot of value to me. Somehow, there has always been a feeling of rebelling here. It is something like saying: ‘you want this, but we are not going to go through the hoop, we are going to fight against it’. It has that point of resistance that clubs like ours symbolize.
In the Super League, the merits do not matter. I am proud of the rejection of the fans
P. Is this humbling for the rich?
R. It has been seen that it is not so easy to do what you want, especially if you play with the feelings of many people. Maybe we thought that after a year or so without going to the stadiums, the fans had been able to lose that feeling of belonging and that emotional bond, but no. People are not asleep. He is not in the stands, but he has a terrible desire to return. In football you have to count on them. In the end, the presidents pass, the coaches pass and the players pass, but the fans stay there forever. They are irreplaceable, as Bielsa said in his day, and we can never lose them.
P. So, do fans still have a voice, does the human factor still matter?
R. I think so. It does not correspond when you put on a game on Monday at nine o’clock or when people cannot go, but you have to rationalize everything and find a balance so as not to lose the essence of this, going to the field with your children and the shirt. The moment we don’t, we’ll be in trouble.
P. Florentino Pérez claims that his project will save football. What do you think?
R. I respect everyone, and surely he has information that the rest of us do not have. Surely he has a different vision than ours, from another perspective that is beneficial for them and may indirectly be better for everyone, but I don’t think this is the time or the way. They have not succeeded either in the way, in the form or in the substance, and hence the generalized rejection that has occurred.
P. Can this situation generate disaffection?
R. I don’t know, but with all due respect, football is very different. It cannot be managed like the Euroleague or the NBA, it is something more powerful. Right now television rights are in control, but we also have to be very clear about the origin of football and where its strength lies.
P. His case or that of Mendilibar attracts attention. In the first round, Osasuna chained 13 rounds without winning.
R. Yes, almost three months, and in professional football the normal thing is that when you are so long you go home. As much as you have had bad luck or injuries, the normal thing is that you have to leave and here that has not happened. Osasuna, apart from saying that he is different, proves to be different. They have valued our track record of two years ago and have shown that they trust and believe in people. When our sports director came out there and said: “This is our coach, and if he goes down we all go down …”. That gave us terrible strength. Now that we have 40 points it may seem that this is very simple or normal, but it is not. We are extremely grateful to the club.
P. After a few hard years, the club is taking hold. Can it be a growth reference for other modest ones?
R. We arrived in Second and after promotion you always have those doubts about how the team is going to work in First. The first year was good and this second, the centenary, has been that of the settlement. Important players have come, with whom a while ago it would have been impossible to count, we have a new stadium that we are looking forward to opening and also an important social mass. The foundations have been laid for Osasuna to continue growing.
It seems that now the games are uglier, but the goals, the joy and the vertigo will return
P. Osasuna is the sixth best team in the second round, the third least thrashed. How is this recovery explained?
R. When we were at our worst, we changed the way we played a bit, because we were fitting in a lot, and we wanted the team to be more uncomfortable and more difficult to beat. First we had to plug holes and, from there, gain confidence. We got some draws against very powerful teams and when we got the first win, the team let go. The base has been the defensive solidity, but from the forwards. We have the feeling that the rivals respect us. We are an honest team that will not make things easy and will always fight.
P. The Sadar adores him, everything has been fitting. He has forged an author’s team, recognizable, with a defined identity. How do you get on being in the epicenter?
R. You are a bit surprised that people support you so much, or even that they sing you. I remember that the day my third child was born, on the way to the hospital, we were stopped in the street because there was a week to go before going up. [en 2019]. People yelled at us and encouraged us, but not because of my wife, but because of the team! My family and I are delighted in Pamplona, and we will try to extend this. It has been like a puzzle that has fit on its own. It is true that there is a lot of work behind it, but before coming we already knew what Navarrese society was like and we also knew that the club’s greatest asset is Tajonar. That helped us a lot and also the cultural factor, our way of being, which here perhaps fits easier than in other places.
P. It is said that modern football is getting flatter, that many games are boring. Will the good times return?
R. Soccer is so big that one team will never be able to cancel another, no matter how much we have all the tools we have today. I think a step has been taken in the facet of countering the rival, and perhaps that can make it seem that the games are uglier, but I think we will turn it around. Now, either by playing without an audience or out of respect, you don’t let go completely, but I think the goals, the joy and the vertigo will return. It’s a matter of time. As much as we handle so much data, this depends on the footballers.
P. In the face of the clash with Real Madrid, what is it that impacts you the most about them?
R. Lately I really like their defensive solidity, I think they have taken a big step in that direction. They all defend and do it well. They are well organized and I think they have the best goalkeeper of all right now. Apart from this, his spirit is always there. They have great midfielders and Benzema, so we have to play a perfect game and set the bar very high; if later they are able to overcome that bar, that is something else.
P. And what do you think of those who defend that Zidane is not a great coach?
R. It makes me laugh. As a player he was already super intelligent, and as a coach, there are his merits. I understand that in teams as big as Real Madrid, people tend to be an aligner: ‘I would sign this one or I would put this other drawing’. But we coaches don’t do that; We analyze what the team does and what it needs.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.