Updated Saturday, October 16, 2021-23: 48

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Between the boy who was leaving the La Salle school in Eibar, aboard a taxi chartered by his club in the direction of Zubieta, and the striker who last Sunday scored the 0-1 against France in San Siro, the way of

Mikel Oyarzabal

has maintained a pace as tenacious and measured as that of Real Sociedad, a team that 11 years ago roamed the Second Division and now rubs shoulders with the LaLiga aristocracy. The obstacles never disturbed the spirit of Mikel, nor did they modify the model of the Real, based on the care of the quarry and the comprehensive education of its players. Today Oyarzabal resides in Donosti, but those who know him say that they do not see him with another car other than that utility vehicle with which he went to the University of Deusto, where in 2019 he obtained a degree in Business Administration and Management. Meanwhile, in the sports city, hundreds of kids continue to fill the classrooms and training fields with the dream of wearing the colors of a team that last year had the highest percentage of homegrown players (48,2%) and the youngest average age (25.4 years) of all LaLiga.

"It is true that in Zubieta more people go up to the first team, but at the same time we put a lot of energy in that the children follow their academic rhythm. When we talk with the families and tell them that we are going to sign their son we are very excited, although we also clarify that it is a long and difficult dream ",

Luki Iriarte

, director of the La Real quarry

, explains to EL MUNDO

. To place the blue and white example -or that of any elite club- it is enough to remember that the federative records in our country amount to almost one million -more than 200,000 already women- although the places reserved for First, obviously, remain stagnant in the middle thousand.

"The clubs should worry about personal training, because it is most likely that their youth players will not get to live off football," says

Carlos Lago

, professor at the Faculty of Education and Sports Sciences of Pontevedra.

In his view, a "true elite" club should be able to offer both very good training incentives, based on the quality of training, and other academics that are even better on track.

"Plan B should not be the study; Plan B should focus on what to do if something as unusual as success is achieved," adds Lago in conversation with this newspaper.

Black triennium in Second

Among the data that Real manages, an example of so many things, we can highlight three: 1. Six players from the first team, with Oyarzabal at the helm, have university training. 2. In the subsidiary, which is active in the Second Division, 16 of the 24 footballers are in a medium or higher grade. 3. In team C, third place in Group II of the Second RFEF, all have enrolled, with 100% passing in Baccalaureate and another in Selectivity. "These figures are not by chance, but respond to the strategy outlined. Our challenge is to continue improving and making training compatible with the training requirement," adds Iriarte. Now, how has Real managed to become a benchmark for grassroots football?

The turning point, according to sources close to the club, came during the economic anguish of the strenuous journey through Segunda. From the ascent, through systematic and rigorous work, the current guidelines were established. One of the witnesses of this growth is

Ibon Etxeazarra

, Doctor in Physical Activity and Sports Sciences from the University of the Basque Country.

"I have verified that there is confidence and patience, with continuity well above the average. This factor is key because it stabilizes a work model," says Etxeazarra, with extensive and proven research work in training processes.

"The most common thing in the competition is that whoever arrives from the hand of a sports director enters and leaves with him, so that the model disappears in the short or medium term. However, in the Real the projects not only remain in the time, but they are updated with incorporations of a very specific profile, "he analyzes.

Maddi Torre, during one of his study sessions.REAL SOCIEDAD

The network woven by Iriarte extends from the Colegio Mayor Olarain, five minutes from Ondarreta beach, to the south of France or the Rioja Alavesa, the radius of action of its area coordinators. In any case, the heart of the network continues to beat in Zubieta, where

Maddi Torre

, captain of the first women's team, usually arrives at 11:00, from the Faculty of Medicine. His day has started at 6:30, with classes from 8:00 to 10:00. From the classroom, to training and at 3:00 p.m., after the shower and lunch, back to the Faculty, if there is any free space in your schedule.

"I can spend half an hour staring at any calendar. My brain elaborates a logistics to know on which dates I should take what topics or what subjects I am going to present myself in the ordinary call and which ones I am going to leave," says Torre, who since September alternates fourth and fifth grade. His example, also in terms of training, makes itself felt inside the booth. "If some of them are not studying, they see themselves in some way isolated, because many conversations are about class topics. Of course we also discuss football matters, but if they talk about the university next to you and you are not in that environment, maybe you you can feel a little out of place ", underlines the leader of a team that counts its six league games by victories. "I always try to keep my colleagues training in something they like.If they haven't found something I try to encourage them to try ", abounds on a changing room where even foreigners sign up for courses


and academies to learn Spanish.

He always brought the maximum.

It's nice to work with a student like that, with that attitude.

Jon Mikel Zabala, Mikel Oyarzabal's tutor at Deusto.

Torre's authority with the bracelet is only comparable to that of Oyarzabal, a great idol of the



and an essential piece in the Spanish team.

Jon Mikel Zabala



tutor during his stay at Deusto, recalls for this newspaper some of his experiences with the forward. "The first time he was summoned to the U21 he wrote to me from Las Rozas, telling me about a pending work. He had not been able to contact the teacher to deliver it on the agreed date and he asked me to give him a couple of days more. Even at that moment of high he put everything on his side ", says Zabala, also a former tutor of

Aritz Aldasoro

, current capital of Real B.

The exchange of notes, the constant participation in team work, the hours in the library or the



in the cafeteria forged the university spirit of Oyarzabal. "How could we not help someone who took everything so seriously and who was so excited? From the club they told us that he was very professional and at Deusto we thought the same, because he always contributed the maximum. It is a pleasure to work with such a student. , with that attitude, no matter how much he needed special coordination, "admits Zabala. During the first two years, Mikel lived in rent in a shared apartment, together with a couple of friends from his childhood in Eibar. He still had a lot to learn from veterans like

Asier Illarramendi


Xabi Prieto


Imanol Agirretxe


A differential tool

Today it is Oyarzabal who advises

Martín Zubimendi

(22 years old) and

Ander Barrenetxea

(19), two young people who combine their talent on the green with the discipline of the campus.

For those around him, he is still the same as always, the one who goes out with the same girl with whom he started at age 13 and the one who enjoys ball games at the Eibar fronton.

For these reasons, its future is drawn with a fairly defined profile.

"I am sure that when he retires he will develop a career in the business world. He has great facility for the organization of human groups and a head that structures everything very well", predicts Zabala, doctor in Engineering and Innovation Projects.

In some way, this innovative learning absorbed by Oyarzabal can be considered as another pillar in the realistic model.

Etxeazarra knows about this, almost better than anyone, after many efforts made to resist change.

"Science always goes faster than society and in this case, much faster than football," says the technical advisor of the San Sebastian club.

In Zubieta, today, they have resources and supports, custom designed, out of the reach of many of their rivals.

One of the classrooms where the young people of the Real are trained.REAL SOCIEDAD

"It is a


that allows you to put a number on what a coach does throughout the season. It tells us what is done at each moment of training and what it translates into, how long has the player had the opportunity to make decisions or how he related to his teammates and in what area of ​​the field ... "By breaking down each level in detail, it is possible to specify very well the type of proposal for each age and for each team.

And this integral work in Zubieta, from children to the immediate surroundings of professionalism, is what has placed the Real almost at the height of a benchmark such as La Masia. And around it, interesting projects have sprung up, such as those directed by

Luis Martínez


Marco Otero

at Valencia, or the one at Granada, with

Luis Fradua

at the helm. The strength of these cases contrasts with a certain decline in Barcelona. "The recent statements by

Joan Laporta

on the need for a

head of performance

offer signs of a lack of scientific support in the detection, selection and, above all, development of talent", reveals

Julen Castellano

, Professor of Physical Activity and Sports at the University of the Basque Country. "Everything indicates that his formidable group of professionals, the largest in LaLiga, has been disconnected from the pitch," completes this professor, who for a decade has combined classrooms with part-time work as a scientific advisor at Alavés.

Now, for any of these equations to be closer to success, at no time can the role of the coach be lost sight of. In this case,

Imanol Alguacil

, whose pulse has not trembled when it comes to giving opportunities to young people. At the moment, 19 of the 27 players used this course by the Orio coach come from Sanse. And 16 were trained as children in Zubieta. "This factor causes any footballer in the branch structure to know that things well done can be rewarded. It is an extraordinary encouragement for them to persevere in their commitment. As head of grassroots football in other clubs I can tell you that when this rise is broken vertical, footballers usually stop trying so hard ", develops Lago.

Finally, the professor from Pontevedra emphasizes the benefits of activity in the classroom and its correlation in the training field.

"A child must learn life lessons through football. For example, that effort is essential to improve or that self-evaluation will be a key aspect in his future. When you meet footballers with a certain training, you realize that they are capable to focus their efforts much better. On the contrary, those who do not have studies tend to disperse when things go wrong. Times has collaborated with

Francisco Seirul-lo

, Barça's physical trainer between 1993 and 2014.

Sangalli's worst exam

On October 31, 2018, Luca Sangalli wanted to travel with the first team to Vigo and play a Cup match. That is why he did not hesitate to lock himself in a classroom, at six in the morning, for one of his exams. Master of Engineering.

Right there he suffered a mild stroke that would not leave him sequelae, but which did cut a progression also compromised by a serious knee injury.

These mishaps have not undermined the morale of the midfielder, who still combines football in the subsidiary with his PhD.

"Since I was little I saw model airplanes at home and I loved messing around with them. Engineering was something vocational. I liked doing exercises and tests in Mathematics, Physics ... I never felt them as obligations," he recalls.

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Keywords: mikel oyarzabal, hundreds, school, club, boy, direction, real sociedad, zubieta, team, striker, jon mikel zabala, university of deusto, miguel a. herguedas@herguedasmadridupdated, model, university students