The Athletic goalkeepers gave Pello Agirreoa (Ondarroa, 68 years old) an intimate and loving farewell in Lezama; He took his belongings from the locker, his folders, a pair of old gloves and said goodbye to the red and white factory, not without a certain nostalgia, to enjoy life between his fishing village and El Rosario, in Tenerife, where he witnessed firsthand the terrible fire that devastated the island a few weeks ago, “we had the flames at 500 meters.” As a footballer he had to suffer comparisons with the gigantic figure of Iribar, recently retired, and that is why, after passing through Elche, he felt liberated in the Tenerife team, and part of his heart is there.
Later, as a goalkeeper trainer in Lezama, he created an almost incomparable school, and just look at the squads of the First Division teams. Seven top-flight goalkeepers passed through his hands. Two of them, Unai Simón and Kepa Arrizabalaga, compete for the number 1 jersey of the Spanish team. Another, Julen Agirrezabala, plays in the Under 21; In addition, Alex Remiro is a fixture in the lineups of the best Real Sociedad in recent decades. In Osasuna, Aitor Fernández fights with Herrera for Arrasate’s trust. At Granada, Raúl Fernández, who debuted in the First Division with Athletic in 2011, was instrumental in the promotion to the top category. Furthermore, in the Barcelona lineups, in which Ter Stegen is a regular, Ander Astralaga, a boy from Berango (Bizkaia), who also trained in the goalkeeping school that Agirreoa directed until his retirement, usually appears on the substitutes’ bench. .
“That there are so many goalkeepers who passed through Lezama is a satisfaction for me,” he comments. “All seven have passed through my hands at one time or another, and I have always said and will say that my idea, and that of those who have worked with me, is the same: to focus on Chopo, in Iribar, which has been for decades, the reference to follow”, and that although many years have passed since he retired, “there are many kids in Bizkaia who want to be goalkeepers because at home they have been told about him, about his legend.”
Agirreoa acknowledges that the process has been long, “many years of methodical work. There are many goalkeepers who have gone down this path and, logically, not all of them make it.” Also that, “it is not my fault or that of the team that worked with me. Everything comes from many years before, since Lezama began to train soccer players.” Of course, “everything evolves, the methodology changes, the resources have improved a lot, the infrastructure has also improved,” he points out. “Talented footballers have everything in their favor to develop,” but, “the figure of Iribar is always behind them as a reference.”
Agirreoa covers the seven First Division goalkeepers who have passed through his hands. He has a special affection for all of them. “Unai (Simón) is perseverance, inexhaustible work,” he says. “He has achieved everything based on that work, trying to iron out all the details to be better every day.” Regarding Kepa, his countryman from Ondarroa, and starter for Real Madrid, Pello points out that, “technically he is a very clean goalkeeper. The work of his closest trainers, Juanjo Lasuen and Iñaki Bergara, has borne fruit. He is very well compensated in everything he does.” Of Alex Remiro, Real’s goalkeeper, he says that, “I buy him like that, the way he is. When he came from Navarra he was physically undone, but he owes everything to himself. If we had any doubts during the first months in Lezama, he cleared them up himself.”
Agirreoa believes that Aitor Fernández, the Osasuna goalkeeper, “is an avoider. He anticipates with his intuition in many plays and for everything he has to stop. It has taken him a lot to reach the elite, but with his work he has achieved it from below.” Raúl Fernández, currently at Granada, who debuted in the First Division in a Basque derby with victory in 2011, “has had many ups and downs, but his quality is perseverance. Through tenacity he has overcome several serious injuries and has managed to return to First Division.” The last gem to leave Lezama was Ander Astralaga, currently at Barça, “and he is pure competitive talent, a very complete goalkeeper, who when he arrived, seemed like he was going to break, but based on that talent he stood out among everyone.”
Pello Agirreoa, who experienced his departure from the club, “with sadness and pain,” is proud that “the method has worked and that goalkeepers continue to come out of Lezama,” among other things, “because they have had trainers and coaches of the highest level.” . I hope things continue to be done the same.”
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