Every football lover knows that Irene Paredes (July 4, 1991, Legazpi, Gipuzkoa) football owes him a Champions League. She, however, and always from the humility that characterizes her, prefers to say that “it will be necessary to do merits to achieve it”.
The FC Barcelona central defender, who explains that “I started kicking a ball when I was taking my first steps”, spoke to SPORT, from the Prensa Ibérica group, before traveling to Eindhoven to play their third European final, something that “not even from afar” she imagined when she was a child, “I played in the street until I was fourteen because then there were no women’s teams”.
Of the thousand good things it has, its ability to always remain in the background stands out above the rest. He does not seek prominence. She stays away from the spotlight and, even so, acts as a leader and assumes responsibilities like few footballers. On and off the pitch.
Do you also look like this?
I like being a leader and I work as such, but it is true that I don’t like being the focus of attention, neither inside nor outside the locker room. Sometimes I avoid, even too much, the media part. But hey, in the end, within a locker room there have to be profiles for everything, a balance.
Is it difficult, nowadays, to escape the luxuries and ostentation of elite football?
I lead a very simple life, even sometimes my colleagues laugh a little about it [ríe]. For me, a luxury is being able to spend time with the people I love or in the places I love. I recently read an article in a newspaper that talked about our cars, and it is something that I give zero importance to. I prefer to spend my money on other things, even if I can afford some luxury.
For a couple of years there has been a lot of talk about the existence, now, of female references. However, the first referents for girls and boys are usually mothers or fathers. They do everything they see, they are their first examples in almost everything. You are the mother of Mateo, how important is it for you and your partner that he grow up in this environment, seeing his mother be a pioneer in women’s sports and breaking barriers?
It is totally basic. We are in charge of breaking barriers in soccer practiced by women. I am already perhaps one of the few that remain that has never had female references. I really liked playing soccer, but I knew, or thought, that I could never do it professionally, because that didn’t exist.
It’s totally normal now…
Luckily, Mateo will grow up with it. When he tells her that when I was little girls didn’t play soccer, or that we didn’t go on TV later, he’s going to think it’s like a movie. The other day I recognized a former soccer player in a restaurant and my parents asked me how I had met him. And it is that he had it on the cards. It’s basic. If not, in life he would have met him. This is going to happen now with women and it is very very important.
You are known as a vindictive person. What is it like to be in a club that is part of the change?
At Barça we are a totally direct agent of change. We are breaking barriers within the game, in the way we play. Many times we have been blamed for the fact that the game in women’s football is slow, boring and such. Well, I think that this blow to the table of making attractive football has been taking place for a long time.
And off the field…
Also. In the women’s movement in society and in sport, it is clear that we are making that change. We are generating it, there are many people who follow us. I hope this is the beginning for it to spread to other clubs and even countries.
We are breaking barriers on and off the pitch
Racism in football is another topic that is on everyone’s lips today. However, historically, this sport has also been a space for machismo and homophobia. Is it utopian to think of football without these ‘isms’ and phobias?
I hope it is achieved. It is something that is impregnated in society but perhaps football allows it more. Well, perhaps we have to take advantage of this moment to eradicate it, to make a much cleaner and more respectful sport.
Spanish women’s football is now at a standstill with the negotiations for the collective agreement. Looks like we’re not progressing…
I think you have to know how to seize the moments. Society and football are in a moment of change and right now it is essential that we fight for our rights. In the end they are labor rights, it goes beyond a minimum wage. It’s about conditions, about being treated and respected as the professional footballers that we are. We have to fight it and that’s where we are.
At Barça you are normalizing the extraordinary, in sports and socially. Is it something that will be valued more over time?
Now is a key moment because most of us here have experienced the change. From playing on very bad artificial turf pitches, even sand, to filling a Camp Nou. This change is amazing. It must be valued as we value it now and that it continue to be done. We talk about it many times, because it seems that we are forced to win titles and win every game, and we have already seen that if things are not done well, anyone can beat you. There is a lot of work behind everything we are doing every day, not just ours or the ‘staff’ on the pitch. It’s a lot of people who work around us to make all this work.
Proof of this is that Barça will play its fifth final in five years. Is there desire?
Many. It is the most important game of the season. We are having more time to prepare it and these two weeks are going well for us to arrive in the best possible way. Of course, it is a final, and in a final anything can happen.
How have you worked these days to not lose pace?
Mentally, a Champions League final already motivates you by itself. And in the physical and tactical aspect, we are surrounded by the best professionals, and each one in his field measures to the millimeter what stimuli he has to give us and how he has to do it. On Saturday we played a game against each other so as not to interrupt that rhythm and during the week we are given the physical and technical-tactical stimuli to arrive in the most optimal way and at the most optimal time.
What do you expect from the final?
Whoever is most successful will win, it will be a matter of details, as in all finals. We have focused on improving all those things that have not gone so well during the season, or especially in the last few weeks. We have seen what they can propose to us and we will have to execute our plan well.
Like Chelsea, it is a very powerful team at the offensive level.
We will all have to be ten. We are a block, both in attack and defense. We all attack, we all defend. We have to be together. If they go from one, don’t go from the other. And be very precise in each pass so that everything goes well.
We all attack, we all defend. We have to be together.
On an individual level, you will have to defend Pajor and Popp, among others. What a duel, huh?
They are players who have been in the elite for a long time and who have put Wolfsburg back in a Champions League final. They will be duels of a high level. We have to be all ten.
Two years ago, when PSG faced Barça in the semifinals, I asked you for three proper names. One, Hansen’s. You told me that she was a great soccer player but that you didn’t know her very well. What can you tell me about her, now?
I’m going to talk about more of the personal aspect, because it’s clear that football is a machine. I think we have a very similar personality, she is also a leader inside and outside the locker room and is always in the background, which is also why many times she is not recognized as the great player that she is. I have a very good relationship with her, she is very hard-working and committed. I like that and she goes with me a lot.
And Alexia has already reopened the can. How is she?
The fact of marking is always good, and more for people who play forward. She has been injured for a long time, she is back and little by little she is rediscovering herself. She is returning to her level but you have to leave her time. In training she is showing that she is very good. And marking always gives you that little point of feeling better. Alexia’s return, with all that it entails, makes us all happy.
Alexia’s return, with all that it entails, makes us all happy
What learning do you take from the Turin final?
Every year we are adding experiences and everything is learned. This year we have had different situations, more compromised, that we have been able to move forward. Each game is different, and last year we conceded goals very quickly against a Lyon team that had everything very clear. And this prevented us perhaps from playing our game. We are going to try to avoid this type of situation at all costs, we could already see ourselves in this context of inferiority, with one less, in the Super Cup. And everything serves to improve. We knew how to move forward and I have full confidence in this team.
There was massive displacement last year and there will be again this year.
For us it is very important that the Johan be full every weekend, that when the Camp Nou opens the fans respond, and they have always been at the big events. We feel its warmth very much. We don’t like to lose, neither in a game nor in training this morning. And it’s maddening to see people turn so much to you and not be able to give them their reward, that’s why it hurt so much last year. Now we are in a new final and we are going to try again.
Did you expect such a connection with the fans when you arrived?
I don’t know if I expected it, but it didn’t surprise me. I arrived when they had just won the Champions League and I saw how something big was brewing. It was part of the reasons why I came. It is no coincidence that titles are being won as stadiums fill up. They are part of this and I am personally very grateful to them.
It is no coincidence that titles are being won as stadiums fill up. The fans are part of all this.
We’ve seen you more daring lately with Catalan. To what extent is it important for you to get involved in this way with the culture of the team you are in?
For me it is basic. In fact, I’m already mad enough that it’s my sophomore year and I can’t speak fluently. Because I’m also good at languages. When I went to France, it was one of the first things I did, learning the language, because this immerses you much more in the culture, makes relationships better, helps you understand the people there and why different situations arise. . It is true that there have been so many changes in my life that they have not allowed me to learn it as I would like, but I try. There are colleagues who help me a lot. Little by little. Let’s see if I’m capable of even giving an interview in Catalan.
Deserving is relative, there are people who work hard for something and who deserve a reward and then it is not given. If I had to assess all the things I’ve done, the finals I’ve lost, I wouldn’t be able to continue playing football. I really enjoy what I do. Now we are in a new final and we will have to make merits to achieve it. Both teams deserve it, but I fully trust my team and I believe we can do it.
#Irene #Paredes #ten