José Mourinho began his football management career as an interpreter and translator for Sir Bobby Robson in Portugal (Sporting Clube and Porto) and Spain (FC Barcelona).

07 May 2014

Javier Zanetti: "I was a flag bearer far away from his country" by Cristian Grosso

Cristian Grosso (@crgrosso) of La Nacion in Argentina had a detailed interview with Internazionale's  legend, Javier Zanetti, who finally called an end to a tremendous playing career. The interview, published on 6 May 2014, was entitled "Javier Zanetti announces his retirement: 'I was a flag bearer far away from his home.' "

His Career in Numbers

1. Shirt number: 4.
2. Inter debut: 27 August 1995.
3. Years as an Inter captain: 15.
4. Serie A appearances: 616.
5. Italian Cup appearances: 71.
6. All European Cup appearances: 159.
7. Other Cup appearances: 10.
8. Caps for Argentina: 145.
9. Total appearances for Inter: 856.
10. Total goals for Inter: 21.
11. Trophies won: 16.

Discussion Items
  1. On why he decided to retire now.
  2. On if he will have any fear the day after.
  3. On being an office worker behind a desk.
  4. On if he still feels appreciated in Argentina.
  5. On when he thinks being betrayed by his emotions.
  6. On the most surprising things about his career.
  7. On what game he would replay.
  8. On his three best teammates and three toughest opponents.
  9. On whether or not he is an example.
  10. On if he every gets angry.

Javier Zanetti, "Forever Young", a tribute to the great Inter captain.

1. On why he decided to retire now:

CG: Why did you decide to retire now?

JZ: Because I felt that the time had arrived. Because football gave me so much and I enjoyed all of it. Because after my injury (he fractured his achilles tendon on 28 April 2013 and came back in November, six months and 12 days afterwards), I pushed myself to demonstrate that I could come back and return to be competitive. And I did it. I feel complete and accomplished. To retire close to 41 years of age is a feeling that is priceless. For me, it's an immense value and now was the proper time. And it's very difficult to determine when the time is right.

CG: He had spoken about it a week ago with Erick Thohir, who is the millionaire Indonesian owner of Inter. But for the first time, he recounted and authorized it to the world through La Nacion.

2. On if he will have any fear the day after:

Giocare da uomo
Image credit: Libri Mondadori.

CG: Will you be afraid the day afterwards?

JZ: No. No fear. Surely I will miss some things. Surely, I am going to miss details of the daily routine, times in the changing room and especially the competition. But I imagine that fear has to appear when one doesn't know how to occupy his newly-found free time. And that, fortunately, I have taken care of. Clearly, nothing will be the same but I'm prepared because I'll continue connected to football. And that will keep me going.

3. On being an office worker behind a desk:

Javier Zanetti 6
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.

CG: Will you be sitting behind a desk in a shirt and tie?

JZ: I hope that won't be necessary. I dreamed of finishing my career at Inter, my home, and it is a point of pride to achieve it. I took a lifestyle decision to stay located in Italy and from now, in my role as a sporting manager, I'll seek to be useful to the club also off of the pitch. A new world will open up for me and I'm very enthusiastic to begin down that path. I feel that I'll have a thousand things to do.

CG: Javier has a small football school (Leoni di Potrero), a restaurant (El Botinero), several songs from the Curva at the San Siro and he recorded an album with the singer, Mina. But he also has a statue in the stadium and several post offices around the world have released stamps with his image. The eternal Zanetti, stainless steel, who for years has crossed all of the borders.

His loyalty for the colors of Inter distinguishes him. He is an exceptional case who will be compared with Maldini (Milan), Del Piero (Juventus), Giggs (Manchester United), Totti (Roma) or Xavi (Barcelona). But Pupi's numbers are even more impressive.

Translators' Note:

"Pupi" is a nickname for Javier Zanetti. He also has a humanitarian project called, "Fundacion Pupi," that benefits children in Argentina.

4. On if he still feels appreciated in Argentina:

Javier Zanetti 5
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.

CG: Do you all feel appreciated in Argentina?
JZ: Yes, they also value me in Argentina. Perhaps it took a little more. But I've always received affection and support from people there. Perhaps, the criticisms came from some sectors of the press. I was a flag bearer far away from his country and the people rewarded me for it. Someone who left a good impression every place that he went. One who was proud to wear the colors of his country. And who, over and above the results I achieved, because I'm the first to complain for not having won titles. I never chose when to be or when not to be selected. I always wanted to be with my national team. I never chose convenient times.

5. On when he thinks being betrayed by his emotions:

CG: When do you think you'll be betrayed by your emotions?
JZ: And Saturday will be my last time at the Giuseppe Meazza (San Siro). And even though the Curva will be closed due to racist chants, there will be a lot of people and they are preparing something. And when I go out on to the pitch at Chievo Verona, the last fixture, about ten days from now, surely my career will flash by like a movie film. My mother, my father, my wife, my three children, friends who have sustained me all of this time. Wow, how am I not going to break down.

6. On the most surprising things about his career:

Argentina Connection Inter
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.

CG: What has surprised you the most about your playing career?

JZ: The numbers and statistics. When I think that I played 1,112 games, that I'm fourth in the historic record and the only three ahead of me are goalkeepers, that I'm the only Argentinean who passed 1,000, that I'm the foreigner with the most games played in Italian football and that only for Paolo (Maldini), I would have been the all-time appearances holder in the Serie A. That nobody played more times for a club of the stature of Internazionale and the national team of my country. It boggles my mind, "Did I do all of that?" and at times, I ask myself. And each time, it fills me with pride.

7. On what game he would replay:

CG: Which game would you like to play over again?
JZ: Two of them. One to enjoy again and the other to change destiny. I would like to play the UEFA Champions League final, in 2010, to relive that magical night at the Santiago Bernabeu. And I would give everything to play another time and win the game against Sweden. The one that saw us eliminated from the 2002 World Cup in Japan.

8. On his three best teammates and three toughest opponents:

CG: Who were the best three teammates you played with?

JZ: Ronaldo (Brazilian), Roberto Baggio and Lionel Messi.

CG: The three best opponents you ever faced?

JZ: Ryan Giggs, Ricardo Kaka and Zinedine Zidane. 

9. On whether or not he is an example:
CG: Are you an example?
JZ: Hopefully. I don't know if I'm an "example" since that word would speak of my vanity. But hopefully, someone can redeem something positive looking back on my history in football. Especially for the way in which I built my career.

10. On if he ever gets angry:

CG: Do you ever get angry once in awhile?
JZ: Yes, more times than people would imagine. But even in unpleasant times, you can maintain a sense of manners.

--- Cristian Grosso for La Nacion.

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Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator from Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and The Soccer Translator since 2008. You can follow Steve @worldfootballcm on Twitter.

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