March 11, 2006


(info about Puyol)

An accomplished captain on the field

Thomas Kieller

Puyol: Celebration.

Athletic and with a fighting spirit, Puyol never hesitates to measure himself to the best opposing strikers. In these one-on-one, he cuts short more often than not the offensive projects of his opponents. Even if he is aggressive on defence, he is a fair player who commits few faults and who gets rarely yellow carded. The Catalan never does things halfway during the matches as well as in training. He is a type of player who sacrifices himself for the team. A captain and above all a good teammate who shines onto the people around him. He won the 2004-2005 Spanish league championship with the FC Barcelona. Without doubt that with him Barça will repeat this exploit. Puyol has demonstrated many times his ardour on the field with the Spanish national team. An intense man, a fearsome player.

The interview took place on October 2, 2005 at 12:00 in the lounge of the FC Barcelona head office, Spain. It was done in Catalan and English with the help of the translator Jose Miguel Terés.

Prelude – Puyol comes back from a light training centered on running. He is relaxed and in a good mood.

Intensity and leadership

Thomas Kieller: Last Tuesday, during the Champions League match opposing FC Barcelona and Udinese (Italy), you reacted well on a play. The Barcelona goalkeeper made a blunder during the second half by inadvertently giving the possession of the ball directly to the adversary. Without hesitating, you rushed to recuperate the ball and you kicked it outside the field. After this action, you saw that the crowd was not reacting. So you asked for their support by clapping your hands. The crowd immediately reacted. Are the supporters of Barcelona an important factor for the success of the team?

Puyol (affirms without hesitating): Yes. The fans of the FC Barcelona are among the best in the world. With their support, everything is easier for us.

Thomas: After that, you turned yourself toward your goalkeeper to encourage him. Is it important to help one another, to help a teammate?

Puyol: We are a team and we must help each other. For me, Victor (Valdés Arribas) is a great goalkeeper, one of the best in the world. But everybody can make a mistake during the game. When one of my teammates makes a mistake, I and the rest of the team, we are always there to help him.

Thomas: Do you think that football is not a one man show, but more a collective game, so, when you win or lose it’s as a team?

Puyol: I always say that we are a team as well in victory or in defeat. We must play with this mentality, because victory is impossible to achieve at the moment when we stop being a team.

Thomas: By this action, you have proven again your leadership. Do you try to show this characteristic by working hard during the matches and also during training?

Puyol: I always try to give my 100%. I have my way of playing and acting on the field, by giving everything I’ve got. A lot of people think that I manifest my leadership in this way, but for me it’s simply my style of playing. Captain or not, I will always act in the same manner.

Thomas: So, you train hard during training…

Puyol: To the maximum. For me, playing football is entertainment. It’s the best thing in the world. I am fortunate to work in a field that I love and to come here to train daily and to stay the necessary time is not a sacrifice.

Thomas: Yes, it’s not because you train that you cannot appreciate football. During last Wednesday’s training, the players were doing an exercise where two persons are in the middle and try to intercept the passes of the ten others. You were having fun and at the same time you were practicing your passing skills as well as your ball control. When we appreciate football like this, is it good for the team spirit and for the training?

Puyol (says with dynamism): On top of working, it’s important to do it joyfully. With the FC Barcelona, the training is always very agreeable, with a lot of exercises with the ball. It’s true that we work physically, but there is always the attraction of the ball. Yes, you trick the players somewhat, because they do work while even though they enjoy themselves. It is really beneficial.

Thomas: You did a step-by-step evolution in football. You started with your local team La Pablo de Segur, then you made your way up with Barça B and finally you arrived with the 1st team. Does it make you realize that working is one of the keys in becoming a good football player?

Puyol (confirms with a little bit of emotion): Yes. I think that it’s very important to always work to the maximum, to always listen to the advice of the coaches and teammates, to try to improve a little bit more everyday. If I did not do all of that, I would not be here talking to you, I’m sure.

Thomas: And you, do you give advice to newcomers or do you keep your football secrets?

Puyol: I have my proper way of playing and I have developed some tricks. If it’s one of my teammates, I will show it to him with pleasure, because these are things which work for me. Among teammates, we must help each other.

Thomas: When you started as a football player, was there some one person or were there many to help you become an intense player and a leader?

Puyol (recalls to himself the important persons who helped him to develop in football): It is clear that I have benefited from the help of many people. But if I have to mention one person in particular, it would be Joan Martínez Vilaseca who recruited me for the FC Barcelona. Another really important person for me is Louis van Gaal, because it was with him as a coach that I made my debut. At that time, my situation was very difficult and I had reached the point of leaving. But he put his trust in me. I have named these two persons, but there are a lot of other people who helped me. All of the coaches that I had and a lot of my old teammates have counted for me. In a word, a lot of people.

Spanish championship and FC Barcelona

Thomas: What are the characteristics of the Spanish championship if we compare it to English Premiership and the Italian first division?

Puyol (smiles before giving his response): I think, although a little bit less today, that the best football is in Spain, meaning a football of delicate manoeuvres, of strategies and of quality. In Italy, football is too much defensive, even if tactically the players are always well positioned. Finally, in England, football is played more straightforward where the players move rapidly from a goal to another, but where everything is done in a too expeditious manner.

Thomas: In many North American sports such as baseball and hockey, a lot of players change teams. You are with the FC Barcelona for six years and you are under contract until 2010. Do you identify yourself as a Barça player?

Puyol: Yes, because I have done my entire career with FC Barcelona. For me, being here is a dream come true and I try to take advantage of it daily. I am under contract until 2010 and I would like to stay here even longer. But I am fully aware that it will be difficult, because the requirements are really high. I will work very hard to stay here beyond 2010.

Thomas: The FC Barcelona’s players are united. Does the feeling of being a part of a family is one of the keys of the recent successes of the team?

Puyol (says with conviction): Unity in the locker room is really important, because sometimes we have to go through difficult moments. And when we stick together as teammates, everything is a lot easier. If each one of us just passes through here, in brief if we are divided, those moments are tougher. We are fortunate to be united.

Thomas: Lifting last year the Spanish league trophy at Nou Camp stadium was it an extraordinary accomplishment for you?

Puyol (lively): Yes. It’s clear that my first title as champion with FC Barcelona, in an important league, is a memory that I will never forget. But it’s already in the past and I must look forward and work hard to win other tournaments. I hope that it will be the first of many victories.

Thomas: So, you think it will happen soon again. Are there other realizations to accomplish for the team?

Puyol: A team must win, it must obtain its three points each week. In the Copa del Rey, the team must pass through the eliminatory heats. I hope to win it this season. We have already laid our hands on the Spanish Supercup. If possible, I want to win three, but I know it will be difficult.

Thomas: Do you like to play for Barcelona?

Puyol: It’s the best thing which could have happened to me. Nowhere else would I be better than here.

Thomas: Tell me, why a visitor should go to a FC Barcelona’s match rather than one of Real Madrid’s?

Puyol (says with pleasure): Well, I could say a lot of things. FC Barcelona is the best club in the world, the one which plays the best football. Now, we have the best player in the world, Ronaldinho, and only for that it’s worthwhile to come see us. Moreover, Camp Nou is a spectacular stadium and must I say that Barcelona is a marvellous city where we eat very well…

Thomas: Well said!