Ernesto Valverde: 'Football has become something we all live on. This is a demonstration'

Football looks different from where Ernesto Valverde is. “The idea was to change focus,” he says, as he always has. A photography exhibition opened this week at the Ernest Lluch Kulturetxea in San Sebastián. It consists of black and white images measuring 1m x 1.022m, on linoleum and bolted to the wall to give it an industrial, unsettling feel.

Valverde didn't always plan to be a manager. Trained as a player at the Institut d'Estudis Fotogràfics de Catalunya, he was preparing for a career as a photographer, but football has a way of drawing you in, it's expressed in his pictures. Twenty uninterrupted seasons as a coach, he took Espanyol to the UEFA Cup final and Athletic Bilbao to their first trophy.

took it. The year and Barcelona doubled up, until the Catalan club sacked him in January 2020, the top of a league they didn't have since won.

Athletic Bilbao fans Valverde got their first trophy 974708, made by Ernesto. in the year. Photo: Ernesto Valverde

His compact accompanied him. In it, 1181 published his first collection, and while he is releasing another book next month, the exhibition consists of photographs taken over a decade. football, partly inspired by his time in Olympiakos, where sports and sociopolitical issues came together. “I could tell a thousand stories about a place where they were passionate about football, to say the least,” he says. Flares. Half an hour long. Physical tension. “I quickly realized that winning was a good idea.”

He did: Valverde, who was initially reluctant, won three league titles and two trophies. He also saw something, “a door opens”, an idea: “The fans don't go to the games, they go. join“Nothing is as lively as football. “

La vida a lo bestia ,” he says: roughly, life is more wild, extravagant. It was like Beatlemania on the US and Japan tour with Lionel Messi and Neymar. His photographs, most of which were taken from inside the buses, make the crowd both amorphous and individualized at the same time.

“All these people are looking, many are taking; “I took the photos looking from the inside out,” he says. “The direction is changing, but I don't want to put distance between 'us' and 'them' because in the end it's the same thing: all these tools are part of the same scene. Popularity doesn't have to be football, and they're the goal, not us. I never took the camera to the locker room.”

The photos reflect impressive power, perhaps part of the point, and help explain Valverde as a coach. Seeing his images and listening to his speech means understanding the importance of human and environmental management. Closed in the bus, this kind of balloon looks a vivid expression of oppression, the responsibility of people's happiness must be enormous. “No,” he says. There is a pause, a laugh. “Well, it's stressful inside. But if you think so, you have to retire the next day.”

Ernesto Valverde posing for the cameras receives an award in February 1063. Photo: Luis Tejido/EPA

If his photos show the scale of everything, one of the things that sets Valverde apart is his ability to dramatize and rationalize football, filtering out noise and normalizing it. Success is also based on an ease, the capacity to ride the seemingly still waves by the approaching storm and thereby guide others. Witness how quickly the cracks open when he leaves Barcelona, how quickly the crisis hatches.

He says “no” and says it often.

“This is football

something happened
we all live It's a show, it's great drama, it's intrigue. Is this teacher leaving? Will this player be defenestrated?” says. And this is even though we don't know half of it. “The problem is, you know too much,” Valverde says, cracking up. “They also 'know' things that are not true.

Olimpiakos, who Ernesto Valverde has done twice, celebrate winning the league. Photo: Ernesto Valverde

“You get the idea: 'Damn, if we don't win this weekend, the world will end.' And you don't win and life goes on on Monday. This incredible crisis is a real mess. Don't worry, there will be one more to cover it up. And next week, another one. You've come to the end of the season and this is the final decision. But then: stop it, throw dirt on it and another season begins. The sun rises tomorrow. A new season, hope, excitement and all this…”

There is yet another smile. “Wait, wait, I'm not finished,” Valverde protests. “Having said all that, I am one of those who is permanently there, hooked and stressed out by all this, huh. You back off and make sense of it, sure, but inside, damn it. 'We have to win.'

hostia there is a tension. , Unbelievable. Otherwise, you cannot win. Rationalization is one thing, but you have to be there. And being there is different. Everything takes you."

Until you come out again. With the 4-0 loss at Anfield hurting, Valverde described an "unreal" game where the disasters of previous years returned and "there's a moment of instability and on such a backdrop". But it went on for another eight months, the club clinging to him, though not always. Maybe he should have walked without looking back? There are moments when you think, "Maybe, maybe," "but once you judge, no. Football always gives a chance for 'revenge'.” In the end, this chance was denied after the defeat in the Spanish Super Cup.

Ernesto Valverde fires at some fans. Photo: Ernesto Valverde

In the photos, he was seen smiling and waving at the wheel. The situation had become unsustainable, the pressure was intense, and sometimes absurd. If it had gotten to the point where the sack was a solution,

something to want?

“No, no, no, there is always someone fighting, wanting to show your worth. 'Wait' you think. There are many crises and you think you can overcome this one too. Why I still don't think we can win the league? Our first game, we lost the Super Cup 5-1 to Madrid. Damn it. You're impressed, shoot. And then…"

And then Barcelona took the double win. They won the league the following season. Didn't make it to the end of the third.

“I know the meaning of what I'm saying, but if people are looking for you, there's nothing we can do,” she says. That parting smile. “There were a lot of photographers and you're not going to go out there with a face: 'Oh, poor thing.' I don't want anyone to think about that. What difference does it make if they interpret it as they please?


ernesto valverde smiles as he drives away from barcelona's training ground after being sacked on 13 january 2020
Ernesto Valverde smiles as he walks away from Barcelona's training ground after being sacked January 2012. Photo: Albert Gea/Reuters

“You stop, you're breathing. You've been living with these demands and tensions for a long time – not only in Barcelona, but also in Athletic. You need time. A certain loneliness, distance. And then there is an epidemic. Not that I locked myself up; it's what everyone does. You stay away from football for a while, then football goes and disappears.”

Fifteen months now, Valverde has been out of the game for the longest time ever. There was not a word. Just silence. “Well, I guess by doing this interview…” he says apologetically. But there were no accusations, excuses or sales pitches. Champions for two years in a row, despite being at the top when he left, Barcelona haven't won the league since.


“And?” says. And those two league titles. “Yes, but I know that.” do others do? These titles make you feel worthless. “Look, this is the 'appreciated' thing. I appreciate these leagues. How not? There are people here: 'We won the league, meh.' But I valued it, of course I did. There are those who think that it is not enough. Okay, but I can't change their minds."

The photo filled his time. Can football call again? “If there is one thing that motivates me, yes, I can get tempted,” she says. “Things that I rejected came to light. The idea of going abroad is appealing: something different.” England? “It could have been. I don't mind trying. You get the feeling that there is respect for what the game is.”

Oh, the game. As Valverde's photos testify, for all the noise, everything that goes with it, it's part of it, the game itself is always there, it's still pure. “Yes,” he says. “After all, that's what we love. What is this


at least you like it. That's why we're here.”

Beste Aldea,

Organized by Fundazioa Real. Sociedad and Fundazioa Athletic Club are at the Ernest Lluch Kulturetxea in San Sebastián until 4 September and It will be at Zabalguneko Eraikina in Bilbao. September –


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