Where to go for a Spanish ‘Who Are You?’ in response to Edgar Meyer’s Dutch preview of the 2010 World Cup final. Marta in Belfast? “Typical kneejerk fan – probably couldn’t name any players,” said her husband. The tapas bar I like so much in Ealing? It’s Portuguese. Let’s try the Spanish Embassy in London then. And into our lives, with many thanks to the press office for putting us his way, came Benjamin Leyton* a fan of Cadiz, a Chelsea steward and, best of all, a man who admires Sunderland and Darren Bent. Three-nil to Spain, he reckons …
At one stage, people were saying Spain might go out at group stage. Now you are a step away from winning the World Cup – what went right?
Spain played very well in all the matches. The first one was an accident. Switzerland was very defensive as were other teams (I mean: Honduras, Chile, Portugal and Paraguay. I would say as well Germany) and it has the luck to score one goal. I am convinced that if Spain and Switzerland played 100 times, Spain would win 99. Another important point is that Spain is currently European Champions and everyone talks of them as one of the best team of the world. This is too much pressure on their shoulders.
To answer this question properly from my point of view, the entire national Spanish team were/are convinced they can win against anyone. The determination and clear ideas are something not to forget.
Who has really impressed you so far in the World Cup – Spanish or otherwise – and who has been a complete disappointment? How do feel Fabregas has played?
There are some teams I like in this World Cup. I love USA, Chile and Ghana. I do not want to forget Germany, Brazil, Argentina and Holland. For me the disappointments are Cameroon, Italy and France. I thought Ivory Coast would do much better and finally, England has amazing players but they did not find their identity. I love the Premier League and the way you British people live this sport and I hoped England could do better.
Fabregas is one of the best player in the world. I hope Arsenal can keep him. If he goes to Barcelona he will be in a big club but he will not be the captain and the leader as he is in Arsenal. Let’s see what happen. In this World Cup, Fabregas did not enjoy too much time to show his potential and this is because the huge national team Spain has.
What do think of the standard of refereeing, and also about the much-criticised ball and the extent of cheating (pretence at injury, diving, trying to get opponents red or yellow carded, shirt-pulling etc)?
The referee’s job is very difficult. I think they are doing as best as they can and of course there is not any conspiracy or bad intention in their actions and decisions. I totally agree on including modern technology and a special jury team to decide the controversial situations like other sports do. I do not think it takes too much time to decide if Lampard’s goal against Germany was in or out. It would bring, besides, peace of mind for the referees.
Did England’s early exit – and the even worse showing by the Italians and French – shock you?
Yes, definitely. Italy and France did not play well previously in their qualifications phase. In contrast, England won 9 of 10 qualifications matches. I think England had the same problem as Spain. There is too much pressure from the media to deal with and so on.
Are you pleased it is an all-European final, especially after all the criticism earlier in the tournament suggesting that the grand footballing nations of Europe were being eclipsed?
I am so happy with this point. I do not have any bqd feeling of prejudice against the South-American teams. I love the pressure of Chile, and its manager Marcelo Bielsa for me is one of the best in the world. But I do not enjoy with the arrogance of Argentina and Brazil by which they think they would be the champions without playing the matches. In contrast, take account of the humble Uruguayans; they went to the semi-final with a bit of luck but I think they fight a lot and Forlan is one of the forwards I would like to have in my team.
And overall, how good or bad a World Cup do you think it has been?
I think the World Cup in South-Africa is totally a success. There were some controversies about the security and the poverty in the country but we have to give to Africa in general the chance to organise these kinds of events. Speaking about football, I am enjoying a lot with every match. The venues are magnificent and the grass, did you see the grass? It is comparable with a carpet. Watching on TV with these impossible views and slow motion tracks… wow … I repeat, I am enjoying a lot.
La Liga is often said to be, with the Premier League, the best and/or most exciting in the world. Do you agree, and how would you compare the two?
Both of them are the best leagues in the world. It is very difficult to say which one is the best. There is something I want to share. Last year, the Spanish Liga was very similar to the Scottish one because of there are only to teams capable to win the title. Barcelona and Real Madrid. I do not like that. We can enyoy in the Premier League bigger clashes: Chelsea, Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, etc… all of them can win the title.
Which club do you support in Spain and do you tend to put club before country, as a lot of English supporters do?
Cadiz CF is my Spanish Team. This year was relegated from the Segunda to Segunda B. This is similar to being relegated from the Championships to League 1. I do not mind in which division they play, of course I prefer in Primera, but I will support Cadiz, anyway, wherever, whenever…
I think the supporters who put club before the country are minors. When the National Team plays, we all of us play, in Spain and in UK. Anyway, we have to respect the people decision and it is a pity when football is mixed with political points of view. This is happening in Spain. Football is football and that’s all.
How long have you been in England and do you go to football games there?
As you see, my surname is British. One brother of mine and me were very interested in knowing our ancestors and we were making some investigations. We reached to our great-great parents. As far as we know, all of them were Spaniards. I have been here in London for almost five years. I came in august 2005.
I am very lucky man. I attend in these five years to many games, Premier, Champions League, Championship, even League 2, two years ago (Brentford-Bradford 1-0). But, one wonderful thing happened to me. I obtained a job as a security steward in Stamford Bridge. So, I was working last season 2009/10 in the entire home Chelsea matches. Of course, next season I’ll be there as well.
Do you have any thoughts about Sunderland AFC or any of its players? Were you aware of historical links between Sunderland and Atletico Bilbao?
I love Sunderland. Darrent Bent is a very good forward. Last season he scored a controversial goal to Liverpool. I remember it. I also remember an interesting situation with a former manager. Roy Keane who was a tremendous Man U player was complaining once because he was interested in signing some footballers and these players didn’t sign because their wives considered that Sunderland was very small town and they preferred London or other big cities. Curious, uh! As I said before, we have to respect people decision but I think this is not very professional by these players.
Athetic de Bilbao is one of the oldest team in Spain. They dress like Sunderland, red and white stripes and black trousers. I though the connection with this point was with Southampton. Anyway, these kinds of links are very interesting and I love and enjoy it a lot.
How would you compare Real Madrid/ Barcelona rivalry with that between Celtic and Rangers, Arsenal and Spurs, Sunderland and Newcastle etc?
In Spain we (also) call these kinds of matches Derbys. They are the classics. As I said before football is to enjoy, not to mix with politics or something else. We can compare these matches all around the world. Madrid-Barcelona and Celtic-Rangers would be a national derby, Arsenal-Spurs the North-London one, etc…
By the way, I do not know if you are happy with the Newcastle’s promotion being a Sunderland supporter. You will have two interesting matches next year. And that’s the point. I am a supporter of my team and I do not mind what other teams are doing. But, some supporters, you know which ones I am speaking about, are paying a lot of attention of historical enemies and wishing these teams to lose. For me, this is not good.
Crunch question: how and where will you watch the game on Sunday and what will be the score?
We made a draw between all the staff in the Embassy and I said we will win 3-0. I am very confident and this is our year. I love to watch football at home with my family. I am used to doing that. But last semi-final game, I went with a friend to local pub and I enjoyed a lot. I will be very excited and will follow very intensively. I will go mad if we win.
* Benjamin Leyton, pictured at Wimbledon where he saw Rafa Nadal warming up (as if he needed to) two hours before the final:
I am married and we have to daughters, 6 and 4 years old. I am one of the operators in the Spanish Embassy switchboard and love any kind of sports, specially football, tennis, F1, basket, even golf. I love as well music (Keane, Coldplay, Freddy Mercury…) and films. (Actions and comedies…) ,
I am originally from Cadiz, the most southern province in Spain, peninsula (remember Canary Islands and Ceuta and Melilla province which are in North Africa). Our intention is to live here for some years, four, five or six After that we would return to Spain, but we do not know what will happen. We are very happy here in London, but I miss a lot my weather, my food, my ambient… you know what I mean because you are not living in England, are you?
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