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Sport and Fitness

Alvaro Negredo opens up about football in the UAE

Words by Rob Chilton

The former Manchester City, Real Madrid and Sevilla striker, 34, came to the UAE last year to provide the goals for Al-Nasr, the oldest club in the Arabian Gulf League. Capped 21 times for Spain, Negredo’s star presence is drawing new fans to the league and bringing people together through football. He spoke to EDGAR about his heroes, football friendships, Iniesta, and the Arabian Gulf League.

 

Who was your football hero growing up?

Ronaldo Nazario [the Brazilian Ronaldo] was my hero when I was younger. He was a role model for me, and such a fantastic player. I got his football jersey, which I still keep with me to this day. 

What do you remember about going to watch your first football match?

I used to go to games at the Rayo Vallecano stadium with my siblings. It is the football team of my local neighbourhood in Madrid and I was lucky enough to get the chance to play for their professional team. 

What boots did you wear when you were a kid?

When I was a kid the players started to wear colourful boots but my mother didn’t like it. She advised me to not wear those kind of boots and only allowed me to play with black ones. I wanted to wear the Adidas Copa Mundial – so comfortable!

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Negredo captains Al-Nasr FC

Growing up in Madrid, how did you decide which team to support?

Actually, my favourite team is Rayo Vallecano. They are a team from an industrial area in Madrid where I grew up. But after a few years, my older brother played in Real Madrid’s academy so I became a fan of this team.

Who’s the best player you have ever played with?

I have played with so many fantastic footballers during my career, but Andres Iniesta is the best. Being able to represent your country is a fantastic achievement in itself, but to play in the Spanish national team with him was a dream. His dribbling and vision were amazing, he made everything easier for the striker. His technical ability and mind for the game was absolutely sensational.

What’s the first thing that comes into your head when you think about Spain’s triumph at Euro 2012?

It was one of the happiest days of my professional career. Becoming European champions with one of the strongest and most talented national squads of all time was a privilege. I feel honoured to have been part of such an extraordinary squad of players.

Spain win Euro 2012.

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Negredo with his daughter after winning Euro 2012

Which manager do you feel has understood you most?

I had many coaches who taught me lots of things, but Unai Emery helped me break into the Almeria side early in my career and played a crucial role in making me the player I am. I learned a lot working with him.

What do you like about playing in the Arabian Gulf League?

It is another rhythm, a different culture, but the game is the same everywhere. I would like to see more supporters in the stadium and I believe the local federation and league must tackle this.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in football since you turned pro?

The style of play has certainly changed. I think that comes with the game becoming more diverse – we see players and coaches of different nationalities moving abroad and implementing their tactics and philosophies on the game in that country.

Negredo fights for the ball for Al Nasr FC

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Negredo fights for the ball for Al-Nasr FC

Do you think the game has changed you as a person?

I believe pursuing my dreams in football helped me to mature so much faster. My family educated me with core values, and to keep my personality and mentality regardless of the victories – it is one of the most important things to remember in the football world. You have to consider where you come from and also where you are today.

What’s one thing you miss about each country you’ve played in?
Every country and city where I played has marked my life, so I have fantastic memories of each place. The friendships I have made in those countries are something I will definitely miss.

On the Al Nasr FC training ground.

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On the Al-Nasr FC training ground

How do you want to be remembered when you retire?

I would like to be remembered as a kind player, both inside and outside the locker room. Goals and assists will always be there, you will find people who may like your style or not, but commitment and professionalism is a must and I showed that in every team I played for.

Alvaro Negredo is an Adidas ambassador and wears the new Hard Wired boots.

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The Bur Dubai derby in September saw Al Nasr and Al Wasl draw 0-0

EXTRA TIME

Rob Chilton attends his first Al-Nasr FC match: the Bur Dubai derby

Only the Wafi Junction separates the stadiums of Al-Nasr and Al-Wasl and the rivalry was clear before kick-off as yellow-shirted Al-Wasl fans and supporters from Al-Nasr’s ‘Blue Wall’ chanted outside the Al Maktoum Stadium in Oud Metha. Wearing shirts purchased from the club shop, some friends and I dub ourselves the Al-Nasr Ultras and buy tickets on the gate for just AED 30. On such a hot night, we stop at the nearby Indian restaurant Viva Goa for a cold drink before kick-off. The stadium is impressive, as are the drummers and conductors in section 16 who orchestrate the songs. A giant flag is passed overhead from the back of the stand as the teams run out for the first league match of the season. With the heat sapping the energy of both teams, few chances are created. Brandley Kuwas, Al-Nasr’s tall, speedy winger, impresses early on but soon fades while Tareq Ahmed bustles manfully in midfield. Captain Alvaro Negredo is isolated upfront and struggles to get involved. An injury on the pitch near our seats stops play and Negredo wanders over to grab a drink from the physio. We sing his name to the tune of White Stripes’ anthem Seven Nation Army and the crowd joins in. Negredo looks up and claps us. We cheer, wipe the sweat from our brow and feel a bond has been sealed: we are Al-Nasr Ultras for life.

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