Jmez: “It is foolish that football can test at its discretion and not the people who risk their lives”


The Rayo Vallecano technician, in conversation with EL MUNDO, expresses his doubts before the return of the competition, affirms that the situation is still out of control and cries out against the political class.

Paco Jmez, Rayo Vallecano coach.

“All this we will forget. And we will return to be the stupid and stupid ones of always”. Always raw in his speech, Paco Jmez (Las Palmas, 1970) talks about misinterpreted privileges, and the most devilish side of the industry. His love for football, his fear of the empty grandstand, but also the frivolity with which he tries to advance in the midst of a pandemic. The Rayo Vallecano coach, in his talk with EL MUNDO, raises uncomfortable debates. Always did.

Where does the confinement happen?
I’m in Madrid. Single.
What is your life like now?
[Resopla]. Well you can imagine it. You get up in the morning and you are alone. You lie down, and you’re alone. This has caught us each in one place. My oldest daughter is in her apartment in Madrid. And my wife and my other daughter are in La Corua. Since I became a coach I have not gone with my family from one place to another. I am the one who moves. Thank God we are all well. There are times when I miss someone to talk to. Being able to share things. But it is true that there are moments so hard that I almost prefer to be alone.
What do you miss?
The little details of our life. Going out, walking, running … Of course, working. If you were to ask me now what I wanted to do, of course I would see my family. Give them a kiss. But I miss the little everyday things very much. Being able to go out and hug a friend. The power to go down the street and not be aware of anyone approaching you. Those little things that we had before and that we did not value are now the ones that I miss the most.
And fear?
We are all concerned. Not only for the people who are dying, not only for the health crisis, but for what awaits us later. With this confinement and having stopped the country for so long, we will all have to row, and faster, in order to reduce this distance that we are losing. The consequences are still unpredictable because we still do not know how long we will be in the house. Then it will take a huge effort to put things back where they were. It is not fear, but that concern to know what will happen. We will suffer until we return to normal. I have had a friend who has overcome the disease. But it has cost others their lives. Like Goyo Benito, former Real Madrid footballer, who was my delegate at Rayo Vallecano. Or like Ral Martn Presa’s father[presidente del Rayo], Santiago. It is very rare that with all the people who have fallen you do not know someone close.
Do you think the plans to return to football are frivolous with a death toll every day on the table?
Each one looks to return to normality as soon as possible and in the best way. That said, it is clear that while we continue to have 400, 500, 600, 700 deaths in Spain, thinking about something else other than maintaining health and lowering these levels seems more frivolous to me. That does not mean that you do not begin to foresee possible scenarios for the return, not only to football, but to any job. Within this tragedy, everyone has to think that life goes on. And that sooner or later we will all have to continue working, and start producing so that the economic disaster is as minor as possible. But you have to be very cautious. And very sensitive. Right now we are not in control of the situation. Although someone believes that we can have it, it is not so. And that is reflected in the number of deaths we have daily. Until we regain control we cannot seriously consider having something that resembles what was once our life.
Anything goes to save the football industry?
If it affects health, no. Of course we want to play. Of course we want to end the season. We are willing to go to great lengths, but not at any price. If I know I’m going to risk health, life, of course not to compete. In football we cannot keep the safe distance, we will have to crash, we will sweat …
Is the return to training protocol feasible?
Some things are fine, but others are very difficult to put into practice. I understand that they are sketches. The League and the Federation, I think, develop them to foresee different scenarios. But by many protocols that these entities want to create and send us, in the end, no company, because they are companies, has the power to choose when we will start. It is the health authorities who are going to tell us when we can start and when we cannot.
How about football clubs get access to coronavirus tests when other sectors of the population may need them?
One thing is what you want to do, and another what you do. But we don’t have to be different from anyone. If there are people who need them because their health, their lives are at stake, because their work requires it, it would seem to me much more fair that the tests had them and not football. There were teams that were assigned at the beginning of the pandemic the possibility of testing to see if there were infections. And they rejected them. They said there were people who needed them more. The same thing can happen again. It is sensible and normal. That we can have tests, all that we need, and that there are people who are risking their lives to take care of others, to make our lives better, seems incongruous to me. Foolishness. You have to be very sensitive. If we are criticized for that aspect, they will be right.
The plan seems to be going ahead.
We, due to the risk we have of contact, must know the day we start training that none is infected. That is clear. We are not office workers who are going to be separated, three meters away and with masks. Our profession is completely different. We understand that when we start we must be sure that we are all healthy. Now, it would seem to me a great inequality, a great lack of sensitivity, that we could test at our discretion. In an indiscriminate way and whenever we think it convenient. And that many others who have as much right as we have to have them, could not be provided.
What would happen with a single positive?
It is what you try to avoid. We have to pray everything we know so that no one tests positive. With just one, the mountain will fall on top of us again. And we were left with no margin to continue. What I do know is that now it does not matter to wait two more weeks. You have to start on the right foot. Because the moment there is a contagion, you can’t take it home and start testing everyone again.
Can it be counterproductive to play every 72 hours?
I think we can handle it. If they told me to play a whole season every 72 hours, well, we would be stunned. It is true that we will have to do it in the section of competition that requires the most, because it is where everything is decided. And that the heat will be much more pressing. In addition, we come from a stage of being unemployed. We will need some time to condition the players. The requirement that we will have is maximum. But we accept it and believe that we can carry it forward. It doesn’t seem so far-fetched to me.
What footballers transmit to you?
When we connect, we all go online, I try to expose the situation and transfer the information we have. At a medical, sports and club level, because there are also the famous ERTEs and the attempts to get employees to reduce their salaries. There are many topics. Each one has his vision. But the feeling I have is that they are wanting to start. They want to train, play and end the season. That’s right, as long as it’s done in a controlled situation. And that control does not exist. We are still far away.
And the concentrations?
We are on our way to being confined for two months at home. If now they take us out of here and put us in a hotel … But if we have to, it will be done.
The football will return in silence. With the empty stands.
Football without an audience loses its soul. It is good for people to see it from home, but it is made for those in the field. I had the opportunity to play a game behind closed doors in Veracruz, Mexico, with Cruz Azul. After a few incidents they closed the stadium. It is difficult to describe what he lived there. Tension and pressure collapse. The show, of course, is not the same. We looked at each other and asked ourselves, ‘How do we compete here?’ Playing behind closed doors is an exceptional measure and as such we will have to accept it. But it is clear that football is not going to be the same. And if this lasts over time, football will lose its greatest essence, which is the public, the atmosphere, the applause, the whistles. It is a sport of mere transmission of feeling and emotions. Not only do we enrich ourselves with the harrow, but the harrow is fed by what happens in the field. And that is going to be lost. Soccer is going to lose a good part of its soul and spirit. End up being like a workout. Soccer is for feeling. It will be a feeling of total abandonment.
What impression is the political class making on you in Spain?
I’m very disappointed. I understand that it is a time when nobody is exempt from making mistakes, even more in such a complicated situation. But I still see a political class, and I speak in general, which maintains the same tone of pride. Of arrogance. It seems that they are above good and evil. They do not assume their mistakes, and absolutely nothing happens. It is very difficult to be able to do things well in the face of an avalanche like the one that has come upon us. We all understand that. But what we don’t want is for politicians to treat us as incompetent intellectuals. Let them manipulate us. Fool us. Then they ask us for our trust. But how are we going to give it to him? The greatest atrocities in human history have been made in favor of religious or political ideas. And they still ask us for trust.
Are you referring to the Government? To the opposition?
I am very sorry for the politicians who are worth it, I am sure there are. But the great majority … In Spain we deserve something much better than what we have. I’m not just talking about those in power. I speak of everyone, those above and those below. Those on the left and those on the right. It was a fantastic opportunity for them to step forward, come together, work and fight together. Without political ideals. Without believing one better than the other. But still those on the left continue to think that they are better than those on the right, those on the right believe themselves better than those on the left. They try to keep drawing political money while people die and die. They are giving a disappointing image to all Spaniards. And before everyone. When all this happens, the politicians will regret it. It will take its toll on everyone. Not only to the Government, which is undoubtedly the one making the decisions. I mean everyone. Criticisms that are not constructive do not get us anywhere either. It is time to look for solutions. Of being with people who have lost their jobs, their health, their lives. To help in any way possible. And now is the time to ask for responsibilities. Not only political, but even judicial and criminal.
What do you mean?
There are things that I am seeing very serious. A political decision may be based on error. Nothing happens. But the manipulation, the lie, not reporting what is happening, keeping information from you … That is not only reprehensible politically, but judicially and criminally. The political class has manipulated us and will continue to manipulate us, of course. But it is that politics is that. What are we scared of? Politics is the act of manipulation. Always has been. Manipulating are phenomena. So they are where they are. But to do it when there are thousands of dead and people are risking their lives … You can manipulate people in an electoral period, that promise anything and then give nothing. We are already used to that. But while people die, lose their jobs, and the country gets into a crisis like this, you have to have them square to manipulate and cheat. I hope that someday this will change and criminal responsibilities will be assumed. And let this be the moment.
Now we say a lot that we were happy and did not realize it.
Without a doubt. You, me, the butcher … We had the perfect life. As much as we complain, we are happy. Let’s live in a spectacular country. We were very lucky to have a job, to be able to go outside, to be able to run, to go to the movies … We could do what we wanted with our lives. That is over. Temporarily at least. We were privileged and we did not realize it. It usually happens above all with health. When you’re healthy, you don’t value it. And while you’re happy, you don’t value happiness. We are and will be like that. In the short term, perhaps this will impact us and affect us. But in one, two, three years, we will forget again. We are going to be as stupid and stupid as ever. Immersed in that vorgine that does not allow us to enjoy what we have. And it is a lot.
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