This article was written by Victor Garcia for El Confidencial; original article here http://www.elconfidencial.com/deportes/2013/01/04/de-que-material-esta-hecho-carles-puyol-112222/
Training again with a battle scar
What is Carles Puyol made of?
This coming April, he will be thirty-five, almost as many as the injuries he has suffered since he started defending the crest of FC Barcelona in the first team and that of the Seleccion. Fighter, seasoned, combative… the descriptions point in the same direction when defining the principal charateristic of Carles Puyol. He has fallen many times, but he has risen up to be one of the greatest centerbacks in Spanish football. This past Wednesday, he wore the shirt of Catalonia and, as expected, Puyol gave everything… in this case, including part of his eyebrow.
The words “football” and “relax” are antonyms in Puyol’s dictionary. Friendly? Maybe someday the Barcelona captain will know what these types of games mean. He always goes full throttle, and the coach of his team — in this case Tito Vilanova — is left to tremble every time he participates in an unofficial match, because the man from La Pobla de Segur always gives what is required on the field.
A cranial contusion and four facial fractures. He takes the phrase “hay que partirse la cara por el equipo y los compañeros”* to the extreme, and so that the rest of his body will not be outdone, you can list around thirty other injuries from December 2000 until the previous month: six in the torso, six in the right leg, fifteen in the left leg and the dislocation of his left elbow three months ago.
Two years without seeing Puyol on the pitch
Not all of the injuries have been major, but all in all, they’ve kept him off the pitch for about two years out of his thirteen years as a professional. He has undergone surgery four times (osteochondritis with an osteochondral fracture in the medial femoral condyle plus involvement of the cartilage in the right knee in 2000, septal deviation in 2003, tear of the the lateral external ligament of the left knee in 2007, and tendinopathy of the left knee in 2011). The good thing about his list of injuries is that none have kept him out of the pitch for more than three months.
“Puyi” has been seen playing with neuromuscular straps, ankle guards, elbow pads, a mask to protect his face, and even a staple that he himself asked to be put on his brow during the Zaragoza-Barcelona match April last year. “It’s a shame that my point** wasn’t counted,” he joked after the match.
Some other player in his place would probably have thrown in the towel already, not only because of his age but also because he’s already gotten all the trophies that a player can want (missing only the Copa Confederaciones with the national team). Puyol, however, has not yet had any sign that will point to retirement… at least it felt that way when in May 2012 he expressed wanting to continue for “many years”.
Shorts and a short-sleeved sweatshirt
Last Thursday, Puyol was the only member of the team training in shorts and a short-sleeved sweatshirt. Raised in the hills of the Pyrenees, he is a steadfast man and is always aware of how privileged his job is. “It’s very simple to be happy… what is hard is to be simple,” he wrote on twitter a couple of weeks ago to greet his followers a good morning. An exercise in reflection that helps explain why he plays the way he does in any match.
He is known as “Tiburon”***. During the World Cup in South Africa, he scored not a goal but a “Puyolazo”, and in both his team and the Seleccion, there’s still no one who’s been able to replace him.
Despite giving him a swollen left eye, the blow he received last Wednesday during the friendly against Nigeria will not prevent him from being available this weekend for the derby against Espanyol. Not this Robocop disguised as a football player.
As stated in his contract, Puyol will continue wearing the blaugrana shirt until June 2016… Will he be able to retire at 38? If with every fall he gets up stronger, it will be difficult to retire.
*this is an expression that means “you must fight for your team and teammates”, but the literal meaning is “you must split your face for your team and teammates”
**a stitch or staple is a “punto” in spanish, same word for “point”
***”Tiburon” is one of puyi’s more popular nicknames; it means “Shark” (or according to hemingway, “eshark” 🙂