Arsenio Iglesias, the charismatic coach of Deportivo, dies at the age of 92 | Sports

Arsenio Iglesias Pardo, the watchword of Deportivo, died this Friday in A Coruña at the age of 92. He is the goodbye of an incomparable character, player and coach who was called a wizard, a wise man and a fox. He said it was none of the three things. “If anything, fox, because sometimes I don’t clarify the reasons why I do things,” he confessed.

Seven years ago, on May 14, the same date that Djukic missed an eternal penalty, Arsenio jumped onto the Riazor pitch at half-time in a match against Real Madrid and greetings from former players began to appear on the scoreboards detailing those aspects of life in which they had received a teaching from him. When Bebeto appeared, the grizzled veteran fox advanced towards one of the gigantic screens as if to give the Brazilian striker a hug. By then, more than half a stadium, a tear fell. Thousands of athletes had seen his life pass by. People considered themselves linked to that man who embodied all the virtues of the Galician fetén: he was industrious, honest and full of reticence and irony, a disbelief who dismantled the pamplina based on common sense and summed up his football script in three words: “Order and talent.” When, at its peak, in the mid-nineties, a group of reporters from abroad approached Riazor to ask him about his working method, he replied: “Prudence. I haven’t found a better one.”

Arsenio Iglesias, on the shoulders of his players, showed the Copa del Rey that his team won by defeating Valencia in the final held in Madrid in 1995.
Arsenio Iglesias, on the shoulders of his players, showed the Copa del Rey that his team won by defeating Valencia in the final held in Madrid in 1995.GARCIA CAMPOS (EFE)

Arsenio also embodied the essence of Deportivo, beaten so many times, but always dignified. “I’m sick of born winners,” he said. In 1951 he first enlisted with the team. He took the trolleybus daily that linked A Coruña with the neighboring town of Arteixo, his hometown that today is the thriving environment in which companies such as Inditex are based, but where Arsenio remembered that in his childhood stories were told about the Santa Compaña in a rural setting. In that context, a powder striker grew up who managed to establish himself in a Deportivo team that had just been runner-up in the League and had a short career of more than 300 games, most of them in the highest category. All in all, the prelude to his great legacy to football, his journey as a coach.

He came to the bench with his boots freshly hung up to take the reins of the Deportivo subsidiary, which he coached in three stages, the first between 1970 and 1973. He went through Hércules, Zaragoza, Burgos, Elche and Almería. A very dignified career, but without excessive flashiness until in the late eighties he accepted an offer from Compostela to train in the Third Division. He was 57 years old and seemed to be leaving, but a last call came from Deportivo, who was one step away from falling to Second B, and who ultimately saved the category in the extension of the last game. “Arsenio, D-Day has arrived,” they had asked him before the game. “Yeah man, yeah. The day of winning.” Everything that happened from there was extraordinary. Augusto César Lendoiro became president of the club and that same campaign, already with the baton of Fran with the ten behind his back, the team lost in extra time in the Cup semifinals in a controversial duel in Valladolid. In 1991 the promotion came, after almost two decades away from the First Division and a momentary goodbye from Arsenio, who, fed up with the pressure of achieving success with the team he loved, preferred to step aside.

Arsenio Iglesias gave instructions to Chendo and Raúl in the presence of Zamorano and Redondo, in the Galician's first training session with Real Madrid, in 1996.
Arsenio Iglesias gave instructions to Chendo and Raúl in the presence of Zamorano and Redondo, in the Galician’s first training session with Real Madrid, in 1996.saints cyril

He had to go back. A song that became popular in the background of Riazor summed up that epic in the epilogue of his career, the one that led the team from the catacombs of Spanish football to shine in Europe. “There is a man at Riazor who everyone treats like a bastard / nobody wants to remember that he was the one who promoted us, saved us in the promotion and UEFA took us away / Tribune less criticize, dedicate yourselves to cheering / Arsenio you will never leave, with you will always be the Blues / This song is for you, come all sing: Arsenio stay, Arsenio stay, Arsenio stay!.

Arsenio left. He did it like what he always was: a winner. In the last of his 714 games as a coach or player for Deportivo, he raised the Copa del Rey and had a long talk with Juan Carlos I in the middle of the entire ceremony. “What did you talk about?”, they asked him later at home. “We talk about things of State,” he settled. A short time later he had an ephemeral spell at Real Madrid. He never felt comfortable away from his own, hugging that retrance that he sublimated like few others. Like when Julio Salinas asked him at dinner after losing a game at Carlos Tartiere for a bit of pretty to liven up a salad. “Nice, nice… The nice thing was to win in Oviedo, Julio”.

“In these times it seems that thieves are after those who steal,” he explained in those hectic years, in which he became a celebrity and showed his essence, which was actually that of sportsmanship. “I was already crying from home,” he summed up after the penalty that Djukic missed and that left him on the edge of a League. Arsenio was the distrustful Galician who asked for calm to warn that everything that could go wrong sometimes turned out worse. “Watch out for the party, they’ll take it away from the fuciños, but immediately”, he had warned shortly before that abrupt end that he summed up with a sentence when he entered the press room while in Barcelona they were celebrating the League that all of Coruña was hoping to celebrate: “Much to say and little to tell”.

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