Juan Mata for Harper’s Bazaar España

Juan Mata sat down with Ramón Reboiras from Harper’s Bazaar España for an interview for their September issue… In honor of Juan’s big move to Chelsea (he’s in London right now for a medical exam before signing with the club), I’ve translated the full interview for all of you Juanín Mata fans out there! Don’t forget to check out the behind-the-scenes video at the bottom of the post!

En honor del fichaje de Juan Mata al equipo londinense del Chelsea (esta en Londres hoy para pasar su reconocimiento médico y firmar como nuevo jugador del club), he traducido la entrevista para la revista Harper’s Bazaar España.  ¡Sigan leyendo para ver el vídeo making of de su sesión de fotos!

 

A lefty and intuitive, Juan Mata is one of those players that has transformed Spain into a brand for the international sport. At 23, the captain of the club Valencia, represents a leap forward in the world of football.

Juan Mata (Burgos, 1988) is one of those lightweight, gifted players that made Spain the world champion and a breeding ground for talented, educated, multilingual players who have inherited a legacy burdened by two horrible stigmas: fatalism and vulgarity. Spanish football urgently needed a style (aside from the mustache of Marquis del Bosque) to get to where it is now, to shine in the same way on the field as it had on billboards. La Roja is a product, perhaps the only one that sells the ‘made in Spain’ concept. This summer, Juan won the U-21 European Cup and a spot in the London 2012 Olympic  Games with La Rojita, in which he will be captain, as he is with his club, Valencia.

You are so young and are already a world champion.  How do you feel on this anniversary of the win in South Africa?

In that moment, we weren’t fully conscious of the dimensions of what we accomplished. With the passage of time, and now that it’s close to the first anniversary, you realize that you are part of the first generation of Spaniards who were world champions. .. It’s unbelievable.

You’re almost like a movie star…

Yes, it’s fantastic. Your life changes: people start to recognize you on the street, you even get respect in rival stadiums… The more time passes, the more you realize that that summer in South Africa was one of the best ones in our lives.

A beautiful, educated Spain that knows how to save energy, speak languages and play football… that was unthinkable a decade ago.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of this World Cup and see for myself the great atmosphere that exists in this generation of players. We have transcended the teams we play for and have created a kind of family that shares the same interests and can talk about things besides football… That has been reflected on the field and helped us become world champions. We are world champions that have a good relationship with each other.

Do you think this good relationship will continue after the chain of confrontations between Madrid and Barcelona?

When you’re defending a common good, you set aside any rivalry between clubs. We also have a coach that knows how to manage this issue very well and I don’t think that there are any problems. We’re intelligent enough not to make this into a big deal.

These days, footballers marry young, have children early, and do not live like normal people your age…

Yes, that’s true. I often compare myself with my friends from Oviedo (although born in Burgos, Juan considers himself an Asturian) with which I still hang out with and I note that our lives are different. They’re finishing their studies, studying abroad, or living with their parents, in contrast to professional players who had to mature much earlier. I went to Madrid when I was just 15 and that makes you mature. The truth is, I consider myself privileged to be able to have this life.

Do you fear retirement when you’re 34 or 35, that the world will end when you hang up your boots?

Of course. When a footballer ends his career, he is still at an age that’s considered young by societal standards, so that’s why you can’t neglect your studies or other pursuits that you can do later on.

It’s almost a cliché, but I suppose you must give a lot up to become an elite athlete…

Yes and no. Yes, because you can’t do things that normal people your age do, like going out or traveling, but this sacrifice didn’t bother me. I like what I do a lot. I remember years ago, Benítez banned the Valencia players from eating paella… Can things get that extreme? I don’t remember because I hadn’t joined the team yet. That depends on the medical staff of the club, but it is true that you have to lead a healthy and balanced life because, after all, you’re competing every week and cannot lead a disorderly life, neither emotionally nor when it comes to diet…

And no sex in the concentraciones.

In the concentraciones it’s difficult because it’s only the team and the coaching staff. But during the World Cup we had days off and everyone had their female friends or wives there and they could do what they wanted. I think that sex is a good way to relieve the tension.

Due to cases arising from track and field and cycling, many foreigners thing that Spain is a paradise for doping…

It’s bad news and something very negative for sports in general, and especially football, because it’s a very popular sport in Spain… I believe that in football, the alleged boost you get from doping substances is not as important as it is in other sports, so I don’t see how the suspicions can be logical. In football, talent and intelligence are more important than physique. Having said this, I don’t like to hear about doping in track and field or cycling. It’s bad for the country.

We have finally changed the perception: the mischievous, shorter Spaniard has become the model that has triumphed in the world…

Look, it the end, football is played with a ball. If you’re physically strong, then you’ve won part of it, but it’s not the most definitive characteristic. Spain has many players that are small in stature, but huge in talent. For example, the last Ballon d’Or that went to Messi had Xavi and Iniesta as finalists. Three players that are small but enormous at the same time.

Don’t tell me you’ve never experienced a coach who has told you, ”Juanito, you’re too small…”

Fortunately, no! But there have always been coaches or club philosophies of the type that thing “if a winger is shorter than this height, then he’s not worth it…” It’s not fair.

You lead a very quiet life, away from the spotlight, without tattoos, without bombshell women, without Ferraris…

I try to lead a normal and simple life. That’s what my parents taught me: to be normal no matter who you are or what you have. I try to follow that. My life has changed a lot, but the essence is still the same.

At 23, is it necessary to go abroad or do you want to stay in Valencia?

Going abroad can be a positive experience, but I don’t know when it will happen, to tell you the truth. I haven’t planned for anything. The day I left Asturias for Madrid was also important, with that fear in you that things might not go as planned… The same thing happened to me when I came to Valencia, and I’ve grown a lot as footballer her, to tell you the truth. I believe I can continue to grow.

La Liga (the Spanish League) seems doomed to be about two teams, a bipartisanship, like in politics… We’re bored, Juan.

I believe it. It’s bad for football and the competition itself, but the truth is that Madrid and Barcelona are well above the other teams… We have been in third place, but behind by many points… It’s hard for the fans. Hopefully, it’ll change soon.

I suppose your biggest dream right now will be to participate in the 2012 London Olympic Games…

It’s one of my short-term goals. The Olympics are a once in a lifetime experience. I’ve had teammates such as Marchena who have experienced it and who told me it is something to live for.

With La Rojita, you’re number 10, with the big boys, you’re a substitute on the bench, which do you prefer?

I’ll be selfish and say that in the summer of 2012, I would like to play in London and in the Euro in Ukraine… There’s a month between the two. But, we’ll see… In addition, the Olympic Games are every four years.

A few years ago, it was unthinkable to see women playing football on any field in Spain. Today, women’s football is widely accepted and strongly supported. How do you see it?

I think it’s phenomenal. Football is not a sport that exclusively for men. In addition, there are women who play it wonderfully. I know because I’ve seen Valencia’s women’s team play. They have every right in the world to shine and I’m sure that, with the passage of time, they will shine even more.

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