Why I joined: Real Madrid have always turned up when I least expected it

When I was just two years old, a virus I caught at Christmas forced me to end up in the Ramón y Cajal hospital, located a few kilometers from Real Madrid’s training ground. It took doctors several days to find the cause while my family suffered. The chubby baby that everyone had been lovingly pinching lost a lot of weight during that long week.

However, contrary to what one might think, I have never remembered the disease as a sad episode.

One of those cold winter mornings, Real Madrid players Raúl, Guti, Aitor Karanka and Rubén González showed up at the hospital. They were visiting sick children and they must have liked me because they filled my room with stuffed animals. I still have a Real Madrid polo shirt signed by the four of them, which I treasure to this day.

“How Guti held you in his arms, he was most affectionate,” my aunt Margarita always remembers. She fell under the spell of the midfielder, as loved as misunderstood by the Real fans. So the players’ visit overshadowed other memories of the hospital.

From then on it was clear to me that La Real always appears when you least expect it.

Years passed without fate completely separating us, although La Décima -Real’s 10th European Cup, which they won in 2014- almost ruined my first kiss. I had everything planned: I was going to go with the girl of my dreams to the Santiago Bernabéu to see the final on the stadium’s giant screens. She had the tickets, she had fixed the date and when they called, she was going to kiss her. But one day when I got home, my parents were waiting for me with a piece of paper from the police.

“That’s it, they caught you doing something”, I thought when I saw him. It was actually great news, but it would force me to postpone my date.

“Guillermo Raimundo García Sánchez, a minor, will be able to travel with the Diario AS team to watch the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid,” the text reads. It was a document that gave me permission to cross the Spanish border and travel to Lisbon without my parents. He was going to travel with the editors of the sports newspaper that he had started contributing to when he was still in school.

I was 11 years old when I started producing “Mini AS”, a version of the Spanish sports newspaper for my classmates, which caught the attention of the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Alfredo Relano, and helped me take my first steps as a sports journalist. . There I did my university internship, working in the Real Madrid section. It was there that I met Mario Cortegana, a kind of older brother, who surprised me with his kindness and impressed me with his commitment to his work.

As an intern, one of my first assignments was to go to Barajas airport terminal four in the summer of 2019. Los Blancos had gone through a difficult season, the first without Cristiano Ronaldo since 2009. The best news at the time was the appearance of a smiling young man named Vinicius Jr. Having come of age, he was already one of the most exciting players on the team and was going to take him by surprise when he returned from his vacation in Brazil.

“Would you be happy to go on loan to Real Valladolid with Ronaldo (Nazario)?” I remember asking him. With a smile, not fully understanding my question, Vinicius replied: “Yes, yes.”

But Vinicius stayed at Madrid and it was a smooth sailing. A few years later, when I went to London to work as a correspondent for AS, it was my turn to recount his exploits against Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool in the Champions League. I was many kilometers from home, but again Real Madrid came into my life when they won another Champions League title.

Between returns, I discovered The Athletic and its storytelling.

By then I was reporting the news worth telling, not just doing interviews at airports. The subscription-based site had become a key part of my morning routine.

Athletic was the first thing I read when I woke up, so when the opportunity to work here came up, I knew what I had to do. I had to be punctual and make an appointment this time, because Real Madrid always shows up.

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