Vicente del Bosque
TEXT: CRISTINA BISBAL IMAGES:: JESÚS ANTÓN
When you take a close look at Vicente del Bosque’s personality, there is one trait of his character that hits you instantly: his humility. After a good chat, attending a press conference and a speech, and spending two mornings close to him, that is exactly what stands out from his behavior. We interviewed him on the occasion of his receiving the José Manuel Martínez Lifetime Achievement Award.
You perceive the humility of Vicente del Bosque immediately, as he plays down what he does and what he has done, and when he shares the merit with those around him, whether it be his family or the soccer players with whom he has shared the locker room.He does so not just with his words, but also with the verb form he employs: always speaking in the first person plural. Never, I have. Always, we have.
And that ‘we have’ does not refer to something banal, as he seems to imply. This native of Salamanca born in 1950 won five league titles and four cups as a Real Madrid player. As coach of the same team, he won one Intercontinental Cup and two UEFA Champions League and two Spanish League championships. But if there is something for which he is much loved, it is for having taken the Spanish national soccer team to the pinnacle of success, winning the 2010 World and 2012 European Championships.
Moreover, demonstrating his great humanity, he collaborates with various organizations such as FEDER (Spanish Rare Diseases Federation); ALMA, the social network of La Caixa bank; Save the Children; and, above all, the Down Syndrome Foundation, of which he is Honorary Trustee and with which he maintains a close relationship through his son Alvaro, who was born with trisomy 21.
For all the above, he is a worthy winner of the José Manuel Martínez Lifetime Achievement Award. In particular, “for his outstanding, unimpeachable career, characterized for having transmitted important values such as humility, generosity and capacity for effort, both on the playing field and within society as a whole.”
You are involved with quite a few causes: rare diseases; childhood; Down syndrome… Of all of them, which are you most committed to?
The one I’m really devoted to is the Down Syndrome Foundation of Madrid, of which I’m a trustee. And this is for obvious reasons. My son has been there practically since he was born, 28 years ago. With the other causes and associations, let’s say that my collaboration is rather modest. I actually don’t do that much… In fact, it embarrasses me that people think I spend all my time dedicated to charitable work. I go red, if truth be told [he smiles].
I understand what you’re saying, but you really do participate quite a bit.
I think it’s good to offer greater visibility to those causes which are hardly ever talked about. And it’s important to project an image of normality. Because, in the end, these kids can do a great many things. We made what I feel was a key decision, namely that Alvaro should attend an integrated school. And later, try to get him into the world of work, where he is now.
Since your son Alvaro was born, things have changed a lot for children with this syndrome, isn’t that so?
Things haven’t changed that much. But it’s true that progress has been made. Now people view these kids with absolute normality.
Greatly helped by gestures such as yours when Alvaro accompanied you on the bus celebrating the World Cup victory…
For us, it was a spontaneous gesture, not planned at all. But we realized later how relevant it was, given the repercussion all over the world. I always say that we’ve asked ourselves three questions during his life: Why did this happen to us? Next: Why would it not happen to us? And finally: What would we do without Alvaro? In fact, few families can say there’s nothing wrong with them. What’s more, potentially we all have disabilities.
Being a grandfather now may have influenced your love for children.
That’s age for you. You get older, moving from one phase to another. Now it’s time to be a grandfather. However, your perception of life does not really change, beyond the fact that the years go by and, fortunately, we don’t know where the journey ends. In the meantime, you have to enjoy your whole family as much as you can, as is only natural.
Do you feel that your involvement in charitable causes has made you a better coach?
It has surely played its part. I’m quite tolerant. And it hasn’t worked out too bad. Tolerant, but demanding. I know that, in this respect, there are different kinds of bosses, but we’ve never wanted to be on top of everything, controlling too much. And with the teams I’ve had, I don’t think we’ve done too badly. Moreover, soccer is an activity in which everything that happens receives widespread coverage, but, in the end, the personal relationships in a locker room are the most important factor if teams are to win.
But handling some twenty young men in a locker room is not easy.
No, but we’ve been lucky in that most of the players we’ve had have been pretty mature. And if one of them wasn’t, it didn’t affect us much. I always have nice things to say about the players we’ve had.
Perhaps because of that ability to always see the good side of people, you are one of the few public figures that everyone likes… How do you do it?
Well now, I wouldn’t say everyone. But, of course, I prefer it that way, instead of having to play the nice guy in order to be liked [he laughs discretely]. But I have no doubt that many people find me boring or dull. In the end, each to his own…
More so with soccer, I think it is harder to be popular…
That’s why I say that, over these past eight years that we’ve been the national coach, we’ve been through everything. We’ve won and we’ve lost; but, in the end, it’s just a question of education. In sport you win and you lose. And, hopefully, we got the boys to admit defeat whenever it happened. You must be prepared to win, of course, but it’s necessary to know that, in sports, some you win and some you lose.
«I’ve always striven to fulfill that minimum degree of social commitment that can be asked of any person»
In other words, we don’t know how to lose…
I believe that admitting defeat should form part of the education we offer our young ones. It’s also really hard to cope with winning. We have the example of the last World Cup. Even before we left, everyone was saying we were going to be world champions again. And whoever didn’t say that seemed unpatriotic. But that’s tremendously arrogant. So much so that it’s not good… Because, otherwise, it seems a total failure. And it shouldn’t be that way.
It’s been two years now since you left the playing fields. How do you live soccer today?
Actually, in the same way as before. The biggest difference is that, when a game is over, I no longer have to start thinking immediately about the next one. But, I’m still interested and watching matches as I did before. I like to keep up to date with things, the other leagues, etc.
Could you fit in now as a coach for some team?
I don’t even contemplate it. I already made my decision… When I retired as a player, aged 33, it was the same, I had no regrets. It’s the same now. Many people told me I should retire after the World Cup, but then I wouldn’t have been at the next UEFA championship. On the journey through life, there are good and less good things, and we know what sport is like. I don’t regret anything that has happened to us. And, what’s more, as I have so many commitments, I’m never bored. To tell the truth, I’m not at all nostalgic about the past…
Of all the titles and awards you have achieved, which has been the most satisfying?
Everything that has come from soccer. But also everything related to social issues. In fact, soccer has achieved all this; if we hadn’t won, so much attention wouldn’t have been lavished on us… But let’s be honest, all this focused on me because the coach has more free time than the players, and because it’s easier to center on me than on the whole team. Or give a title or a prize to me than to all the players. But we are a whole group of people. It’s not just me. But yes, indeed, I’m proud of it all.
For example, this Fundación MAPFRE Award.
Indeed so. It’s a responsibility, yet providing a fresh impetus, as it lets me celebrate not just my sporting career, for which I’m best known, but also my social activities on behalf of those most in need. Outside my professional life, I’ve always striven to fulfill that minimum degree of social commitment that can be asked of any person.