Arsenio, what? | Sports | THE COUNTRY

“Arsenio, what?” The total question was invented in A Coruña and Arsenio answered it like nobody else, who from there reeled off his ideas. Or not. “What of what?, Benito, what of what?”, he replied in one of those to Benito Cores, the reporter for Television de Galicia who followed the team when it tried to make the leap to the First Division. The retranca differs from irony in that one generates sympathy and the other tension. Arsenio liked to castle in the first. Of course, at times he was more direct, like when he denied the legend that had germinated for years and which pointed out that in his first game with Deportivo he scored a goal against Ramallets and then apologized. The target was made, although some chronicles of the time attribute it to another colleague, but the apology thing was already worrying that he would not crash. “I am a villager, yes, but not a fool,” he explained. Already in 1951, the year he debuted with Deportivo, they said that his best quality was his dribbling.

On Friday night, and under the rain, a long line of sports fans formed, from A Coruña who stood in front of the Riazor stadium to pay their last tribute to Arsenio Iglesias. The parade continued this Saturday morning, hours before Deportivo host Alcorcón in a key duel for promotion to the Second Division. The field will be packed: tickets have been sold out for several days. That something like this happens at the worst football moment in the club’s history can only be understood from the contribution of figures like Arsenio. The blue and white club, which has an image department and updates its archives and historical memory that is always attentive to detail, set up a funeral chapel in record time in the area that gives access from the changing rooms to the pitch. On the Deportivo bench they wore several flower crowns and a canvas with the image of the deceased myth and a reference to the place and year of his birth, “Arteixo, 1930 ″. Impossible to put a date on the death of a legend.

“My father always said that he hadn’t done enough to receive this either, but he must have done something,” reflected Pablo, the youngest of his four children. Near him was Emilio Butragueño, who on this occasion was more than just the head of institutional relations for Real Madrid. He was a rival on the field and he was not under his orders because a few months before Arsenio’s arrival at the white house, he took an exit to the Mexican Atlético Celaya. “His conciliatory, humble and respectful manner of him very much personifies the great values ​​of football,” he glossed. Talante has plenty of Real Club Celta, who sent to Riazor, its president Carlos Mouriño absent who was traveling abroad, his entire staff, a representation of former players and Kevin Vázquez, one of the team captains. It was then that the memory of the reverential respect that the celestial fans had for the sports emblem emerged.

The rosary of memories and anecdotes about Arsenio followed one another in the huddles. Essential to understand his figure. Even his son Pablo had recently been encouraged to reveal in a special issue of the magazine Panenka some of them, such as the surreal conversation at the gate of the ancient field of Las Llanas with the family of a Basque footballer whom he never lined up. “It is that this year we are many,” she apologized when he heard the reproach. “Well, nothing, man, go ahead and ascend,” settled one of the Basques. And he ascended. Other episodes seem apocryphal, like the one that tells about a bad moment in a game and a question from one of the players about what to do. “Ide cagar (Go shit)”, the technician would have answered. “He says to attack,” the footballer transferred to his teammates. They won the game.

But the best portrait of him was drawn by the journalist Xosé Hermida in Arsenio, the sorcerer’s football. It is an essential work published in September 1995, shortly after winning the first title in Deportivo’s history, a Copa del Rey that he lifted when the club had already presented John Toshack as his replacement. “Defeat is more humane” explained Arsenio, who was accused by his critics of being defensive in his approach: “He may be a conservative, what I am not is reckless,” he qualified.

There was a time when the Riazor stands beat Arsenio. In 1991, fed up with the pressure of fighting for promotion in a context in which the team was not able to fuel itself in away games, he decided to step away from the bench once his goal had been achieved. It seemed the end. Already then the new wave of fans that arrived at the stadium had connected with that gray-haired gentleman in whom they identified values ​​such as nobility, prudence and retranca. And that he built solid teams that played football very well under an inalienable hallmark, “order and talent”. Perhaps his greatest triumph at Deportivo was turning from the misunderstanding of that old sector of the stands to the affection of a new wave championed by some Riazor Blues who were forged at the end of the eighties watching their teams play and with a defining motto : “We are not ultras, we are fun”. “No one knows how I feel about those childrenWhen I see them in Spain ahead, shirtless, always behind the team…”. Several of them went to the Riazor this Friday to pay their respects to him.

That is why when the team caught the flu in its first months back to the First Division, it had to take down the tracksuit (just the top, which it used to match with tergal pants) and focus on an agonizing promotion in the Betis field. There he ended up embracing the Uruguayan central defender Martín Lasarte in a memorable conversation that was documented by a camera at the foot of the field. “What a joy, Martin, what a joy. How much I have suffered, my God. I thought I was dying, my God!” he exclaimed. “How much I have suffered, Martín” is the watchword of several generations of sportsmen, the portrait of a hobby, almost a way of life. “You have to know how to look back, be careful, know where you come from,” explained Arsenio.

It was unique, in that all those who paraded in the Riazor to say goodbye to Arsenio agreed. He insisted that his second last name was Pardo, “not Pardillo.” When he started in soccer, he liked Panizo and Zarra, but he ended up surrendering to Fran, Bebeto and Mauro Silva, whom he designated as the best soccer players he had trained. Almost thirty years ago that answer was sought in the Riazor press room by a journalist from Madrid. The man asked him if Deportivo was the best team he had coached. Arsenio was perfectly clear: “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

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