An Open Letter To Our Captain

13 Jul

Iker bows

When hopechaser suggested that we post our testimonial to Iker on the blog, I recoiled for a moment. You see, I was stuck in traffic in the DC area (shocking) and had only just received the text confirming his departure. I have been avoiding transfer rumors and even confirmations as much as possible. This was a trying year for me as a footie fan and I need the break.

Through my surprising emotion over his departure, I didn’t think I could write about him without being a complete asshole to someone. I already know that I’ve alienated a lot of readers and Twitter followers with my unapologetic opinions and hard-headed arguments. When I’m hurt (and Iker leaving does hurt) I lash out. It’s something I’m working on. And so I had very little to say about it. I let everyone else speak.

I’ve seen Iker play a number of times, both with Real Madrid and with Spain. He has been a constant for me. Despite knowing that this day would come and having unpopular opinions, it was still difficult for me and I fought tears as I glanced at the cars next to me. I wondered if they knew or if they cared. And I got angry.

Then, I had time to process it; to realize what I actually felt about it. And I sat down to write a letter to our captain. As I did, preparing to pour my heart out to a man that many of us identify only with Real Madrid, The Killers “Be Still” filled my ears. It seemed appropriate. The lyrics seemed to be speaking to Iker for me:

Be still
One day you’ll leave
Fearlessness on your sleeve
When you’ve come back, tell me what did you see
What did you see
Was there something out there for me?

Be still
Close your eyes
Soon enough you’ll be on your own
Steady and straight
And if they drag you through the mud
It doesn’t change what’s in your blood
(Over chains)
When they knock you down

Don’t break character
You’ve got a lot of heart
Is this real or just a dream?

Iker with Spain

So I wrote. And I didn’t hold back. Here’s what happened:

Dear Iker,

A while back, a friend of mine wrote on SBNation that you deserve better. You deserve better from the club to which you gave 25 years of your life. You deserve better from the fans that claim to love the club and, with it, you. I didn’t disagree with him then and I don’t disagree with him now. Your legacy as a player deserves to be respected no matter what anyone thinks of you beyond that. Myself included.

I do not know this club without you. Ronaldo brought me here. Zidane, Raul, Carlos, and Casillas are the reasons I stayed. Without fully understanding at the time, I watched what this club did to Figo and Del Bosque. But I was hooked. I could not break the hold that it had on me as a fan. You were a part of that. There was something innocent about you back then.

When I went to war, you were a rare respite. You felt like home. You, Iker, and the club that I fell in love with. But war gets in the way. And when I couldn’t reconcile where my life was now compared to where I thought it should be, I took it out on my love of the sport. I gave up on the sport that had defined me since I was 9 years old.

Funny that something could define you for so many years. Funny that the age I fell in love with the sport was the same year that you started at the club I would one day call mine.

When I came back, things were different. There was no Zidane, there was no Carlos, no Beckham. There was a different, but still incredible Ronaldo. There was Kaka. I watched as Raul cried on his departure. I watched Guti leave. But there was still Casillas. That boy that had amazed me was the remaining piece of the club I had fallen in love with. But he wasn’t a boy anymore. He was a man. He won a World Cup, to go with his number of other trophies, with a performance that blew me away. There was nothing that even I, the ever critical person that I sometimes am, could criticize about that performance.

Then things changed. Reports came out about divisions in the locker room. By then, I’d worked in professional sports and knew that the best lies always contained a little bit of truth and there is always more than one truth. I had learned what makes good PR and what makes bad PR. The club divided. The fans divided. And here I was, stuck in the middle. I do not know the whole truth. I probably never will.

My opinions come based on first hand experiences, second hand stories from people I love and trust, and a little bit of intuition. I chose not to take a side, though I could have. I chose to fully support every player that stepped onto that pitch. What happens in the dressing room is not my business if you all do your jobs to the best of your ability on the pitch.

That’s not to say that I won’t criticize that ability. I will point out what you do poorly and I will celebrate what you do well. I don’t believe in booing or whistling players who pull that shirt over their heads and allow the burden of the Real Madrid crest to rest on their shoulders. I don’t believe in screaming “coño” at the goalkeeper or defender who, like you, grew up in the Real Madrid system. Who am I to say that any of you loves the club more than the others? Time at a club does not equal intensity of love.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that you don’t love the club, Iker. I don’t doubt that you love it with all of your heart. I don’t doubt that you gave everything for it; that you sacrificed for it; that you broke your mind and your body for it. I just don’t believe that your style of love is any better than the others.

You went on the decline. You had a bad year. I criticized you. But I still loved you. I affectionately called you San Force Field. I angrily growled when it looked like you didn’t even try. No one is perfect. Even you, San Iker.

But you did not deserve the treatment you received on your way out. You did not deserve the wrath of the fans at the Bernabeu who have such short memories. You did not deserve to have the club appear to turn its back on you. What you do deserve is every trophy that you’ve won collectively and individually; every tear you’ve shed in happiness; every cartwheel you’ve done in unabashed joy. You deserved La Decima more than we did. The fans.

You don’t deserve this, Iker. But as the most entitled fans in the world, as the horrible people that we can sometimes be, maybe we do.

Mucha suerte, capitán. Serás siempre parte de este club. Eres con nosotros y somos contigo.


Don’t break character
You’ve got so much heart
Is this real or just a dream?


¡Hala Madrid!


5 Responses to “An Open Letter To Our Captain”

  1. Yordanos July 13, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

    just to be honest I’m not a Real Madrid fan just a Casillas and Ramos fan but this post is by far the best one yet!! Gotta applaud you on that…give credit to what creditors do…And Gracias iker!

  2. jellyace July 13, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

    25 years, and Iker still remembers the score of every match. That alone is amazing. For someone to spend 25 with one club is impressive. But to captain that club and the national team, and win numerous trophies, to have reached the top of your worldwide sport, that is just incredible. Thank you for the years of passion, the pride and the valor, Iker. Gracias San Iker, you will always be my Capi.

  3. Futbolfan July 13, 2015 at 10:19 pm #

    Thanks for this. It was beautiful.

  4. Katie Ann July 13, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    Well said.

  5. Newfface July 16, 2015 at 11:14 am #

    I agree with you…he didn’t deserve that. It always amazes me how short-term most of the “fans” memories are.

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