The modern history of the Selection is not understood without the figure of José Antonio Camacho (Cieza, Murcia, 8-6-1955). It has been 45 years since his debut and he and Sergio Ramos are the only field players who have held the international record in these 100 years of history. The rest are goalkeepers.
-His friend Del Bosque is the only one who has more games (132) joining his careers as a soccer player and coach. You stay at 125, 81 + 44. To which must be added the meetings as a camera commentator for the national team …
-Oh! Do the commentator also work? The most important is the player career. You are waiting to be called and then you have to give up. It is the one you enjoy the most, the most beautiful. As a coach you are responsible for everything. You have more problems. Much more trouble: looking for players, attending to all the facets of the position. It doesn't give you time to enjoy anything.
– Do you remember the first time?
-Perfectly. Against Scotland in Valencia. It was early 1975 (February 5), 45 years ago and I was 19. I had already been to the previous game in Glasgow, but I was on the bench. That day I played left-back but had to score the best of his … (Cooke). When I was summoned the first time, my mother and my aunt were in Madrid, who had come to see me and were scared to see so many journalists waiting for me at the door of the pension. On 0'Donnell Street. We were shopping in the Goya area, in the Galerias Preciados at the time. They also looked for me like crazy in the club, Mr. Malbo and they did not find me. An emissary, Angelito, was at the door. All to tell me that I was going to the Selection.
-From the first day they entrusted him with the mission of drying the best of the opponent, a constant in his career both in Madrid and in the national team.
– What happens is that those moments you do not have so much responsibility. You do not see it as after you already realize that in every game you have a stroke. Also, a year earlier, at 18, at Real Madrid I had to score Cruyff. At that age you can handle everything and you get used to it. I have even played as far left as the best player in Bulgaria was the right back (Kostov) and had to cover the band. It was a match with the Olympics. We qualified for the Games, but I couldn't go because as I was an absolute international they didn't let me.
“I got to play on the far left to mark the Bulgarian winger who was the good side of the team”
-What do you mean they didn't let him?
-There was a rule that prevented it. They screwed me. I was very excited to be in an Olympics. Back then the ratings for these events were not as easy as they are now. It was difficult to qualify. It was not normal. You had to accept it. Madrid also told me that it was better to rest for the following season.
– Disputes two World Cups (1982 and 1986) and two Euro Cups (1984 and 1988). You know little, right?
-Yes, I miss the 78 World Cup in Argentina due to injury. I had played every game and every minute of the qualifying round. And the 80's European Championship in Italy. I was injured for 20 months.
-With those two tournaments I would have reached 100 games without messing around.
-I think so. When I got injured I had been 13 times international and when I reappeared, in 1981, on the tour of South America, in one year I made 12. It was much less played. From the World Cup in Spain, a little more play began.
-He was the first field player to break the international record. Before, he had always been a goalkeeper: Zamora, Iribar, Arconada …
-That's how it went. Arconada and I were very close. The captain was one or the other because we were the ones with the most. The day I made my debut with the National Team, Iribar broke the record of then, Zamora. I reached 69 against Belgium in the 86 World Cup. One more than Acornada who had stayed at 68 with the arrival of Zubizarreta.
-And Andoni is the one who takes it off. You held the record for seven years. He makes 82 against Ireland in 93.
-Not bad for the little that was played.
-Share with Sergio Ramos the honor of being the only two field players with the most games.
-Sergio is going to get many more. How many do you need to be the world record? 14. Then you get it for sure. Two more years he plays them with the cap. Right now there is no fierce competition between the Spanish soccer centrals to remove him from the middle because the time has come. He's in great shape.
– it got to him to annoy that in the Selection, as it happened in Madrid, they always sent him to score the best of the opposite team. It was as if it only served that.
– It was also a way to lower the performance of those teams. Boskov put me in the center of the field to score and told me that when I stole the ball I would go on the attack. Those types of players I scored were not very defensive and did not follow me. I even scored goals. In the Selection it was the same. It was a matter of cutting the game supply to the contrary.
The coaches told me that my role was very important. In a way it unbalanced the rival. It made them nervous and they could make more mistakes. There were also days when I was free to go up my band. I liked to play more than left back. Deep down I liked to attack and have freedom. Sometimes if we lost or who I scored scored a goal I felt responsible for the defeat. That happened to me especially in the final of the Eurocopa of Paris (1984). I scored Platini, who did not touch her throughout the match and then scores a goal from a foul, which hits her on the ground. I shit in milk! If he hadn't touched her. France depended on him, he doesn't see her and then he puts a churro on you. I was used to playing everything. What I wanted is to play.
-He had three coaches: Kubala, Santamaría and Muñoz. Three war veterans.
-Kubala took me with 19 years. He had complete confidence in me. He never took me away and when I was injured he called me or came to see me. He told me that when I recovered, I would return. He even wanted it to go to Argentina 78 anyway. That is why I remember so much about that World Cup. He felt like one of the footballers. Santamaría was always good to me. I had your confidence. He had to deal with the World Cup in Spain. All expectations were set and we did not do well and that affects the coach. Everyone talks, he says. We did good things with him. In the end, one always gets the saddest thing. And it is clear that in the World Cup it did not work.
“As a player I enjoyed playing, as a coach you don't enjoy anything, you have a lot of trouble”
-That World Cup has a good book for many years that have passed.
-There were different things than normal. Around the team there were problems that became problems. In the end the important thing is if the ball goes in or not and then it did not go in. When people talk a lot there are things that are true and others that are not. We also had our internal problems in Euro 84, perhaps much more trouble, but as we scored the goal that to Germany in the last minute and reached the final, it seemed that less things had happened than we talked about. And in Mexico 86 and we were close to reaching the semifinals. Every time there was a World Cup or a Eurocup there were problems, yes it is true.
-At worst we never won anything for that. Because every major competition was a focus of interest.
-When we won Euro 2008, it all started because we won one of those penalty shootouts that we used to lose before. Spain has always had good selections. Always. The backing of the semi-finals or final was missing. When we passed once everything else came. Before that European there were also their problems, but it happened against Italy and no one remembered anymore. In addition to having good teams, the ball has to enter.
-The topic of the ball is very recurring.
-But it was true. Or not? It was not normal that they had shot us so many times on penalties, we were among the best, but something always happened or there was an arbitration decision like in 2002. No one could ever say that the opponent passed us by. They beat us for little things, not because the rivals were better. If anything in the World Cup in Brazil. In all the others, we have been there and something strange happened to us. In Korea and Japan, until later they recognized their mistakes. Fortunately, in the end it has been shown that Spain was always among the best and has won two Euro Cups and one World Cup.
– Withdraws from player after Euro 88.
-In addition to the injury we talked about earlier, he had another three or four months. I reappeared, I was injured again. It was time to go. The injuries were taking their toll on me and I couldn't combine National Team and Real Madrid.
-Your best memory as a player.
-The 12-1 to Malta and the victory at Wembley. Those are the things of soccer. We got to the stadium late because of a traffic jam. We were putting measures through the tunnel and it was a great match. As coach I am left with 9-0. All things were done well.
-A decade later he returns as coach.
-Totally different. Now it is you who has to make all the decisions. The experience of being a captain and negotiating situations came in handy. I was happy those years. They let me work very comfortably. We start to change everything. To collect data from all the players and work with them. The team in those four years gave a good measure. We lacked what we have talked about before. We won the best France in its history in the European 2000. We went from you to you, we could have passed perfectly. We missed a penalty. And in Japan we find a referee.
– It did not arrive too young to the position. 43 years.
-I do not think so. After the World Cup I was clear that I had to go. I needed to spend more time on the field of play. Other types of responsibilities. I was not tired. What came next was not acceptable. Everything was fine. But we were missing something. I do not know. Maybe luck. I saw that going on wasn't going to be good for things. I saw that more was wanted. Another European and another World Cup were coming and it was going to be difficult. When you've been four years. At six it's not the same. Whoever comes new is seen differently. In soccer it is difficult to stay. When you are in a team for four years, there start to be problems that you cannot solve, which are derived from the player environments … All that paraphernalia that exists around a team in the fifth year is a slab. You have to change very important players. The speech no longer reaches the press, the fan, the manager, and that makes things deteriorate and that the victory costs you much more.
-The coach Camacho surprised us as an innovative coach and with a soccer trend that was not identified with the Camacho player, who thought more about destroying than building.
-I was a footballer. I did what my coaches told me. As a player I had my concerns. I liked soccer. I liked to see the coaches' methods. I never put up with boredom in training. I always knew what I had to do on the field of play and as a coach, at that time, I had to explain it to my players.
-Iron said in these pages that you taught him how to defend.
-I explained to him that at his age he could not get worn jumping 40 times in search of balls. What I wanted is for him to play football from behind and we would put someone else to jump and not get so worn out. Each jump was one less bullet.
– That National Team of yours was a goal-scoring machine. Nine to Austria, eight to Cyprus, six to San Marino.
-The players convinced themselves that in addition to going out to win, you had to have fun and score the more goals the better. I motivated them with things. If you put five or six, you have one more day off. Or that of the capea. Find motivations for not being alone in victory. Do more. I didn't like 1-0. You had to do different things so that they would come to the Selection with enthusiasm and be at ease.
–Guardiola, Fran, Valerón, Raúl … gathered many “gamers” like later in the great era.
– It was necessary to reconcile. There was also Albelda who played very well, Baraja… I liked those players. Now it is played in a different way. I liked having the ball and that the opponent did not. In Spain always good soccer players. At one point there was a lot of air, strength football. That was countered by throwing the ball down. Another different concept.
“I corrected Raúl and Pep, they always gave the ball back. I told them to play forward”
-With Guardiola and Raúl he had his tactical changes of opinions… He had to correct them.
-It is that they, each in their area, were used to the fact that every time the ball came they gave it back. Touch and touch back. And I told them to turn around and with the wide field that each of them had in their area, they would play forwards and so the whole team would play forwards. They watched the videos and they told me it was true. They were his characteristics, each one in his own, but they could be changed. If instead of playing backwards they turned and looked at the other area, it was better for the team. The two climbed up from below and that is not easy. If they played on their teams it is because they were very good. They signed others to checkbook.
– Your national team was one of the best in football in recent decades.
– Yes, but let's not kid ourselves, the best team playing soccer has been the one that has won both Eurocopas and the World Cup. That was playing soccer well. It will be very difficult to see a team like that again. No one will match it. Soccer is not a single thing. The important thing is to say that we have won 1-0. That triumph gives you more morale, more security. Between winning 1-0 playing badly and losing 1-0 playing well… Uncertainties and doubts arise and that is not a good thing. When you win all the footballers appear on the field, they all want it. If you lose, they whistle four times and the player does not appear. There are players who hide from the public.
“They took off the backpack from the penalties and flew. They created a school and everyone came to copy us”
-And of those three selections, Camacho liked the most.
-They were very even. A group of players almost the same. Everyone has also won in their clubs. They took off the backpack from the penalties and without a backpack started playing soccer and flew. They created a school. The world of soccer changed. They all started copying us. They were another class of footballers.
– And in the end, over time, he becomes the quintessential commentator for the National Team.
-I've done something else… I don't like to comment every week. There comes a time that you no longer know what to say. So I accepted the selection. Then comes the Iniesta of my life and other phrases and how everything is going well, because I keep on going. We were winning everything and I have been identified with the Selection, I feel comfortable. My goal is not to mess with the coach or the players when you play badly. I know how difficult it is to explain when you are wrong. I am not going to say that so-and-so is very bad. That does not enter my philosophy. I'm going to see the game. And explain how they play.