In L'Equipe on 4 June 2014 there were a few articles about how people from Mallorca view their Rafa. They have been translated for us by Moondancer
4 June 2014
By Julien Rebouillet
“It’s easier to work with him than with the players of Real Mallorca.”
David Nadal, reporter for IB3 (a tv network for the Balearic Islands) is not related to the player but he appreciates the work conditions he has, thanks to him.
The Nadals treat the Island’s reporters really well. As the PR man, responsible for the communication on behalf of Rafael, Benito Perez Barbadillo will often get angry when they contact Rafael directly without first contacting him, to ask him if they can film a training session for example. To be honest, it’s much easier for us to work with Rafael Nadal than with the football players of Real Mallorca, which is a second division team in the Spanish league after all.
My first interview with Rafa goes back to when he was twelve years old and his behaviour hasn’t changed at all since then. He hasn’t constructed a wall around him. Since the creation of IB3, he gives us at least one big interview each year to celebrate the New Year. We show it in full and direct. The “only” condition he has, is for us to come to Manacor or to Porto Cristo. In exchange of the time we’re getting, we agree to not bother his family or his girlfriend. We dont set foot on a training court when Toni asks us not to, like he did last year when Rafael was injured and his comeback wasn’t easy to manage.
His image on his Island is very important to him. He doesn’t want us to take pictures of his sports car for example. It embarrasses him, because he feels that it would be disrespectful towards people with financial worries. People adore him over here and we’re calm people. He can walk here with his family without any problem in Mallorca. In Madrid? Pff…
“A not very well- coordinated player”
Tom Mesquida remembers his striker with arms that would fly in every direction on the pitch.
"Rafa was a winner by nature, very focused on competition. He had a very strong personality on the pitch. He was very demanding with himself, which is rare at that age. He was playing with boys who were more than a year older than him and at the age of 10, this is a huge difference. He often arrived for training with his tennis bag, either to hit a few balls there or to go to his tennis training right after the football. He really treated both sports equally. Physically, he had no worries at all and he already seemed to prepare himself for a double portion of sport.
I remember a conflict between the home and away matches. Our year-one team had to confront a year-two team and we took 3-0, as can be expected. It was not an equal fight between the two teams. When I saw Rafael afterwards, he fumed: “We will win the return match!” This was nearly impossible of course. And in the end, we did lose that one as well, 5-1. It goes without saying that Rafa scored for us. Only he believed that we could win.
He played in front, as a striker (a “goleador”). But I still remember what I wrote about him in the summary report at the end of the season: “A not so well-coordinated player!” His arms were constantly waving in all directions during football. Would he have been able to turn pro? Hard to say at that age, but he certainly had the right attitude to play at a high level.
He stopped when he was 12 years old. The combination became too hard to pull off. I remember once, a Saturday, when he played a match with us even though he was about to step into an airplane on his way to a tennis tournament on the peninsula, probably Ibiza. In fact, I’m convinced that he preferred football over tennis at the time."
“Bad in art and music!”
Margarita Vicens (his school teacher) talks with tenderness about little Rafael whom everybody wanted in their football team but who had no great manual talents.
Four years in a row, Rafael was my pupil, from the age of 11 to 14. I was his principal teacher in the first two years. During those first two years, together with his parents, we had to reorganise his school schedule a bit so that he was also able to play tennis in the afternoon, mainly in Palma (one hour by car from Manacor). He would finish around noon, return home for a quick bite – often just a sandwich in the car. During the trip, he would also try to catch up on the school work he missed in the afternoons. All this to say that he made quite a few sacrifices, even at that age… We were quite understanding when he had a lot of homework for example. We never had a problem with his behaviour. He recognised and accepted his mistakes. He was always eager and willing to get better. He did all that he could to do the things he needed to do. Not to be the best, but simply to improve.
He was a really sensitive student who never boasted with his sports achievements. We often heard it from his friends at school: “Rafa won a tournament! He has another trophy!” He didn’t want to attach any importance to it. His problem came during the breaks, when it was time to form football teams. Everybody wanted him in their team, so it was complicated. Everybody loved him.
In the class room, everything that involved manual work wasn’t really his thing. We can now even say that he was bad at art (laughs). Terrible. The same with music, even though his grandfather was the conductor of an orchestra! But he was a boy who would do everything you asked of him, even though it was not that well made.
Sports was already his life. Every five minutes he had, he would play football. One day, he had just won the European tennis championship under 12 years old, I think, and I wanted to congratulate him after class. He was already on his feet to rush out when I yelled after him: “Hey, where are you going like that? I wanted to congratulate you on your victory…” “Thanks, thanks, but I have to go”. “But where to?” “Well, to play football with my friends!”
Very early on, he understood really well what his career would require. At the age of 10, when he came back from a skiing holiday, he told me that he didn’t go down the green slopes because he didn’t want to fall and risk an injury…
I also remember another remarkable scene. It was in 1996 and we were celebrating our Olympic gymnastics champion, Elena Gomes, who returned home from Atlanta. There was a big celebration on the main square, where I met Rafael’s mom during this ceremony. He was barely 10 years old. I told Ana Maria: “Who knows, maybe one day, we will celebrate your son here as well”. “No, I don’t think so. Don’t believe that, Margarita.” And look were we are right now.
(Manacor, 19 December 2013. Since Margarita followed the tennis progress of Rafael Nadal, the pupils, who follow in the footsteps of the world number one in the same school, are able to look at a poster in each class room with three tenets: “Effort, constancy, humility”)
"Just a normal guy with a special aptitude”
Juan Soasi, currently his business partner, will make sure that his buddy won't spend his time after retirement in a lounger.
I can’t remember when we first met, it’s that long ago. I was living in Porto Cristo in the house right next to where his grandparents spent their summers.
I could very well be his closest friend. I played tennis until I had a serious knee injury when I was 18. Toni trained us. I always thought that Rafael would become a professional athlete in tennis or in football. He had such an infernal capacity for sacrifice! When we were little, he was always the one who trained the most, he was always the one whose efforts seemed to cost him the least.
Today, you see him as a star but I promise you that the image of simplicity that he transmits is how he really is. He’s just a normal guy but with a special aptitude for tennis. The glory hasn’t changed him. He’s an extraordinary athlete but not an extraordinary person. He’s just a normal guy. In his presence, nobody will feel uncomfortable.
Rafael is happy when he can compete, whether it’s tennis, golf, padel, playstation… For him, you can’t improve without competition and if you can’t improve, there is no joy.
When he will retire, he will perhaps spend a few calm years, but that will not last. I’m sure that he will achieve a handicap zero in golf and it won’t take him 15 years but it will happen within 5 years. We have a lot of projects for when he’s retired so that he can’t stay on his sofa or on the beach all day long. I’m sure of that.
“The tourists take clay in a bottle”
Antoni Pastor, the mayor who has managed Manacor for 10 years now, also played football with Rafael Nadal, the brother of Toni and the uncle of the other Rafael.
“I often say that we are the envy of every little town in the world, thanks to Rafael Nadal. Because other than the fact that one of us is one of the best tennis players in history, he also represents a revolution in the sport with the way he plays the sport and the way he behaves. Every father who has a sports-minded child hopes that he’d be like Rafael. Thanks to him, Manacor has become an obligatory visit for the tourists who come to Mallorca. They want to see the town and the club where Rafael grew up, but they also want to see the courts where he trains. They take away a bit of the clay in a bottle as a souvenir.
There is no Rafael-Nadal Square at the moment, but the town has already given him the greatest honour possible for anybody who is still alive: “Hijo privilegio de la ciudad”. We have 43.000 inhabitants but there’s a village feel to this place. Everybody is aware of the sort of life he has throughout the season and as a result, people won’t bother him when he returns home.
Everything that’s happening to the Nadals is far from a coincidence. You can’t have the best football player in the history of the Balearic Islands – Miguel Angel – as well as the tennis world number one simply by coincidence. The family that surrounds them and their basic roots are fundamental. Without that, Rafael would not be as balanced nor have the same strength.