Joaquín, after announcing that he is retiring: “I am terrified of not smelling grass again” | Sports

Joaquín got up from his seat when he saw his father, Aurelio, enter the noble room of the Luis del Sol sports complex, where he explained why he will retire at the end of the season. With tears in his eyes, the Betis player brought him to his side as applause erupted. “I am very old. How many good times Joaquín has given me. He’s good for all four cost. And a very good footballer, ”said his father, 78, with a broken voice. “Dad, I fulfilled your dream and mine of being a First Division footballer at Betis,” Joaquín told him. A brief conversation that condensed the strong feeling that unites a father and a son in a very special moment. His parents and a humble family of eight siblings from El Puerto de Santamaría went out of their way so that Joaquín could be a soccer player. They were all present at his farewell ceremony, a goodbye that will take place at the end of this season. He will leave football on the verge of turning 42 and with, for the moment, 615 games in the First Division (the second in history after Zubizarreta, with 622) and 23 seasons as a professional.

Joaquín, who had made the announcement the day before through social networks, did not stop crying. Neither in his speech, nor when later, before the journalists who have followed his entire career, he confessed his most intimate secret. “It does not take away my physique. I feel very good at 41 years old. He has done it my head and an inner voice that tells me that it is the right time to do it. I am not bored and I have not stopped feeling like a footballer, but that inner voice told me that it was time”, clarified the Betis legend, the only one in the club’s history to win two titles, the Copa del Rey in 2005 and the one in 2022. Both flanked the legendary captain, very elegant in a navy blue suit and a tie whose knot complicated his speech at times. A captain who also expressed his concerns: “I am afraid of missing football more than necessary. I am somewhat terrified of not smelling grass again, of boots, that locker room with my teammates, all those moments of intimacy in the booth”, explained Joaquín.

“23 years have given us many things and I am an indispensable part of this blessed madness called football”, clarified the Betis captain, so his future will be linked to Betis himself and in the sports field. The intention of the Verdibanco club is for Joaquín to stay very close to the Betic first team. They fear that his exit from the locker room could cause a major impact. The farewell ceremony was attended by all of his colleagues, who made the corridor for him at his entrance to a room full of managers, technicians and journalists, as well as all the members of the coaching staff, chaired by Manuel Pellegrini. In the same way, fellow 2005 Cup champions, in the case of Juanito, Capi, Rivas, Arzu, Doblas and Fernando, as well as Juan Merino, team captain when Joaquín made his debut in September 2000 in a Second Division duel. Division against Compostela.

“I have to learn and we will define what my next role at Betis will be,” said Joaquín, who is also an important shareholder of the entity. He will carry out functions representing the club in the company of another Betis legend, Rafael Gordillo, although he will be very attached to the first team. In fact, the intention of the club leaders is for him to participate in all the team trips together with his teammates.

Joaquín’s goodbye act meant embarking on a journey that included practically all the stages of his sports career, obviously those of Betis. Joaquín was also part of a great Valencia, from 2006 to 2011, where he is much loved and where his two daughters were born. There he won the second title of his career, the Copa del Rey in 2008. Then he played for the fantastic Málaga, also led by Pellegrini, who reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League (from 2011 to 2013), and spent two years in his only experience abroad with Fiorentina (2013-2015) before returning to Betis.

The president of Betis, Ángel Haro, took the floor to announce a tribute match at the end of this season. A clash at Benito Villamarín where teammates from his two stages at Betis will face off against another team with footballers he has faced throughout his long career. In that team, among others, footballers like Baptista, Figo or David Villa will play. Everything that is collected in that party will go to finance the other great project that Joaquín has in hand, which is the creation of the Joaquín Sánchez Foundation, whose fundamental mission will be to fight against childhood cancer. The steps have already been taken and in just two or three weeks it will be legally constituted.

The other captains of the Betic team, Canales, Guardado and Fekir, this one on crutches, also took the floor to thank Joaquín for his commitment and leadership. Rafael Gordillo, the club’s president of external relations, recalled how he made his debut at the age of 19 as a first-team delegate. “Lopera paid me to be a delegate and member of the technical secretariat, he was like that, and I met this kid who came like a train,” he said with tears in his eyes. “I haven’t cried so much since I saw a movie with Mr. Rafael Iriondo in the 70s,” Gordillo joked. José Ramón Esnaola, champion goalkeeper of Betis’ first Copa del Rey in 1977 and another of the entity’s myths, recalled how he had to raise Joaquín’s morale in the subsidiary, in 1998, when he was thinking of returning to El Puerto of Santamaria. “He asked me to play going to Jaén and I put it on. That changed everything,” Esnaola recalled. Eduardo Espejo, his representative and friend, as well as his partner and bosom friend, Juanito, also took part in an act held overlooking the main field of the Luis del Sol sports city. At one point, Joaquín paused and looked out the wide window. “There is my life,” he said, just before embracing his wife and his two teenage daughters. “Now you’re going to have to put up with me at home,” he told them through tears.

You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.