According to the introduction of this feature, Our 10 Men of 2010, they
Of the 10, there were Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Samuel Eto'o, Didier Drogba, Brett Holman (don't you give me that "Who's Holman?", missy, he is our flawless Aussie son ok :< ♥), Honda Keisuke, Neymar, and, of course, our very own Iniesta and Messi.
So here is Iniesta's article, AKA Sid Lowe fanboying (a lot) over Iniesta, and proof I was not joking about the Star Wars thing. For many of you, there's probably not a lot that is Brand New Information, but I think it is still worth a read. :')
When I finish copying down Messi's article, I'll post that one up, because my back is killing me atm.
MAN OF THE MOMENT
The drama builds. The music, that music, builds. Dum, dum, dum, da-da-dum. A deep, low, quickening drum, an entire orchestra, accompanies his every heroic step. He takes one last look around, surveying the dangerous territory into which he has bravely ventured, reaches out and, expectantly, presses the button. Whooosh, the door slides open. And there she is. A picture of beauty: Princess Leia.
A knight in shining armour - white, plastic, slightly sinister armour, but shining armour nonetheless - and his entrapped, soon to-be-liberated princess, in a flowing white gown. It is the perfect act of epic chivalry. At least it is until Leia looks up. No swoon, no fluttering heart, no oh thank you, thank you, thank you, how can I ever repay you? Let’s jump into bed together. Oh no.
“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” she asks, incredulous. “What?” he says, gormless. The penny drops. “Oh, the uniform?” he stammers, taking off his helmet. Plucking up the courage, puffing up his chest, he remembers his line, the hero back in character: “I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you.”
Ouch. Well, quite. Underwhelmed is not the word. Had Han Solo turned up, it might have been different. But it’s some gawky kid who fixes up droids on his uncles and aunt’s farm. You’re who? You ain’t no hero. Just look at yourself. Awkward, scrawny, a little short for a stormtrooper. Unlikely as hell.
Never mind Luke Skywalker, Leia could have been talking about Andres Iniesta. Only then she’d have been even more underwhelmed. If Iniesta had turned up, she’d be screaming for that kid from Tatooine to come back. He might not have had rippling muscles and a heaving torso but at least Luke was the blond, cutesy boy next door - and in Hollywood the boy next door tends to have better teeth than the boy next door in la España profunda. Deepest Spain. That part of the country that, everyone else says, is a bit... well, backwards. Ineista is from deepest, darkest Spain.
The village of Fuentealbilla - population: 2,000 - on the plains of La Mancha, Don Quixote country. Albacete is famous for knives and not very much else. Not exactly the kind of place you should hang around for long. As the phrase has it: “Albacete, cágate y vete.” Albacete, take a dump and get out of there. Iniesta, like Skywalker, did. In search of an apprenticeship.
At the age of 12, he departed Albacete and headed to Barcelona. He lived at La Masia, the tiny farmhouse alongside the Camp Nou that doubles as a residence for Barcelona’s youth teamers. Captain of the Dream Team, Iniesta’s hero was Pep Guardiola.
A poster of him was pinned to the wall, alongside one of Catherine Zeta-Jones. Emulating Guardiolo (not my typo, but Lowe’s. Brb, hunting him down) was Iniesta’s dream - playing under him was beyond even his wildest dreams - but it was hard.
Iniesta wasn’t. Not in the traditional sense anyway - it speaks volumes of his determination and quiet competitiveness that he made it at all. On route to Barcelona, his family stopped to eat. But, he recalls, they couldn’t eat. “We’d be dying of pain, of hurt; it was too hard.” He cried himself to sleep. When his parents came to visit, he slept in the same bed as them. It’s not just the fact that he did that makes him different; it’s the fact that he admitted it. A journalist in Barcelona recalls settitng off for an interview with Iniesta. Before he got there, he got a call from the club, asking him not to ask Iniesta about his family. The reason was simple: he would probably burst into tears.
Tough guy, huh? Erm, no. Not really. Rarely has there been a star as unlikely. Luke Skywalker - early, awkward Luke Skywalker - oozes charisma alongside Iniesta. If Darth Vader felt his presence, he could hardly feel Iniesta’s. He hasn’t got any. Rarely has a hero been less heroic, one so special, so supremely talented, appeared so devastatingly average.
Quiet, mumbling, his unremarkableness is remarkable. Standing at 1.70m, skinny, prematurely balding, a forehead that seems bigger than his face, suffering a skin pigmentation problem that makes him so pale he’s almost translucent. So pale it’s almost as if he gives off a light. One television comedy show defines him as the “life and soul of the party,” its tongue wedged firmly in its cheek. Iniesta appears quietly, awkwardly in his pyjamas, always ready for bed even though it’s still lights on. Carles Puyol, his roommate in the sketch, turns out the light. Suddenly, Iniesta’s white face shows up, like Casper the Ghost’s. Like those 1980s cuddly toys. “You’re a bloody glow-worm,” exclaims Puyol. (LOLOLOL we know what he REALLY said, amrite, culés? ;) )
He’d be awkward anywhere. In the world of football, Iniesta is even more out of place. Where’s the aggression? The power? Where’s the arrogance? The edge? The spunk? Where’s the swagger?
Iniesta was always special. He first stood put when he was a kid playing in the famous seven-a-side tournament held annually at the small town of Brunete, just to the west of Madrid. Barcelona soon picked him up. Xavi recalls being told: “You should see this little Andresito [little Andres]”. Guardiola did. Having been told to look out for the pale kid by his brother Pere, he reported back on a little lad that “reads the game better than I do.” Soon, Iniesta’s poster of Guardiola was replaced by a signed photograph that his idol had dedicated to “the best player I have ever seen.”
On the day Iniesta was called up to the first team Guardiola was still a Barcelona player. He told his team-mates never to forget the day they first laid eyes on Iniesta. He famously told Xavi: “You’re going to retire me, and this lad is going to retire us all.”
And yet on that same day, Iniesta couldn’t find the dressing room. Luis Enrique was sent out to get him. And still there was something that didn’t quite fit. If Iniesta was special, he seemed not to know it. He certainly didn’t boast about it. Nor, some complained, did anyone else. “Iniesta is by far the most complete player in Spain,” said Xavi, a few years later. “He has everything. Well, nearly everything - he needs media backing.”
“Sadly, in our society a humble, discreet footballer doesn’t sell like the player who speaks out,” said Lorenzo Serra Ferrer, the coach who gave him his debut. “He has always been good: it surprises me that it has taken so long for people to really discover him.” Guardiola put it in starker terms yet: “Iniesta doesn’t dye his hair, he doesn’t wear earrings and he hasn’t got any tattoos. Maybe that makes him unattractive to the media, but he is the best.”
Now, no one doubts it. Then, they did. Now, all those things that seemed to count against him count for him. He is even more of a hero for being un-heroic. As the lead singer of Spanish rock back Estopa put it, he is an “anti-hero”. The fact that a Spanish rock band is even talking about him says it all. Iniesta’s humility ended up making him even more of a star. Being under-rated for so long made him even more highly-rated. His lack of a selling point became his selling point; the fact that he is so thoroughly decent, so utterly impossible to dislike, likewise. His lack of charm has become his charm. Phrases like “humble genius”, “fantasy without the flashiness”, “the simple star” were the new clichés.
Iniesta’s rise to prominence was already happening. Bit by bit, he was growing more and more liked. Even in Madrid they couldn’t bring themselves to hate him as they hate most people who play for Barcelona. He was just too, well, nice. Too unassuming. Too quiet. After the Champions League final two years ago, Wayne Rooney declared him the best player in the world; before it, Alex Ferguson had declared him the player he most feared. He had scored the dramatic, late goal against Chelsea in the semi-final.
But now, he has gone beyond that. That’s nothing compared to the goal he scored in Johannesburg in the summer - the goal that won Spain the World Cup for the first time ever.
The man of the year is no heartthrob, no chisel-jawed hero. And that makes him even more of a hero. One comment on a blog said it all: “I love you Andres: you’ve shown us that even the bald, the pale and the tiny can be the best.” He has not conquered the universe. But he has conquered the world. On the opening day of the season, when he was substituted against Racing Santander, the fans got to their feet to give him a standing ovation. Racing’s fans. The same happened in Barcelona’s next away game. And their next. And their next.
Nor is it just in Spain, but abroad too. As Lu Martin put it in El País. “The Iniesta phenomenon is worthy of analysis. Soon this pallid kid from Fuentealbilla will be the subject of study from psychologists, authors, marketing men, self-help gurus, and famous poets.” Whoever had scored the winning goal would have become a hero but given the chance to choose most would have chosen Iniesta. There was something right about him scoring it. A more worthy winner would be hard to imagine.
His reaction to the goal and everything that has come after it only reinforces that feeling - starting with the T-shirt he wore dedicated to Dani Jarque. What better homage to his friend, the captain of Barcelona’s biggest rivals Espanyol who tragically died from a heart attack, than a place at the centre of the photo of the greatest moment in Spanish football history? There was no posing, just joy. The way that Iniesta celebrated was so very Iniesta.
Or how about his reaction to the sudden paparazzi pressure? No huffs or violent flashpoints for Iniesta as they followed him to the beach. “I don’t mind people following me,” he said, “but them laughing at my swimming trunks is a bit much.” Or his promise to walk the famous pilgrims’ route, the Camino de Santiago? “I looked at it on the map and though ‘pah, it’s nothing, a stroll’,” he admitted. “but it’s 3,000km! Oops! I will do it though. After all, I promised.”
2010 was not always going to be Iniesta’s year. Jose Mourinho recently insisted that Iniesta should not win the Ballon d’Or, as the world’s best player, saying he “didn’t deserve it.” Spain jumped up and down in righteous indignation. Even in Madrid they were angered - and that alone says much. But Mourinho was probably right. Iniesta’s 2010 was largely disrupted by injury; he missed over seven weeks of football. He was touch and go to make it to the World Cup finals and appeared to be holding back in the early games. And yet, in the end, the year belonged to him. The greatest moment ever in Spanish football belonged to him. And no one could think of a better man for it to belong to. It wasn’t going to be his year until the 115th minute of the World Cup final - the last minutes of the last game. A time for heroes. A Hollywood ending.
The ball travelled his way. “There was silence,” Iniesta says. “Cesc (Fabregas) gave me the pass... and then Newton appeared.” Newton? “When I controlled it, I knew I was going to score,” Iniesta smiles, “all I had to do was wait for the ball to drop to strike it. And why does it drop? Because of Newton’s Law, because of gravity. This time, the apple was the ball and Newton’s head, my foot.”
When it dropped, when it hit Iniesta’s foot, it flew into the net. The most underwhelming man you could imagine had just achieved the most overwhelming thing imaginable. He’s a little short to be a stormtrooper, but Andres iniesta was 2010’s man of the year. ✧
Source: Football+ magazine
Words: Sid Lowe
Disclaimer: Spelling mistakes are probably my typos, and I apologise. Any grammar mistakes, however, I am confident are not mine, I just followed whatever Lowe piffed down. Any factual mistakes are also not mine, so if you have a bone to pick, Lowe is your man. XD
Further reading: From Little Things, Big Things Grow (btw I went back and edited a few [embarrassing] typos that I made when typing out that article. Please let me know if I've missed anything. :) )