Before landing in the elite of Spanish football, Jaboga Arrasate (Berriatua, Vizcaya; 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 (21.00, 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 rootedness, 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.
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 from ours, from another perspective that is beneficial for them and may indirectly be better for everyone, but I think that is not 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 games 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 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 it would have been impossible to count for a while, 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.