Zuhaitz Gurrutxga career as comedian after LaLiga career

Did you listen the only in regards to the footballer who were given despatched off on his debut and scored two objectives the day he were given his first, and closing, sport for his nation?

He gave up and become a comedian as an alternative.

It’s humorous as a result of it is true. Well, Zuhaitz Gurrutxaga says, 95% of it’s. There is a little little bit of artist license for comedian impact, however that is as just about fact from throughout the sport as you are ever going to get. “It’s hard to imagine me as a footballer when you see me standing here on this stage,” he says initially of his newest stand-up regimen. He’s lately doing a two-month run on the Teatro Reina Victoria in Madrid. “And it’s even harder to imagine me as a footballer when you see me there.” Behind him, a display presentations some “highlights” from his career.

It’s now not beautiful.

And so it starts. Zuhaitz opens his display via explaining how Javier Clemente, the famously feisty, straight-talking former Spain supervisor, gave him his debut with a easy instruction: Don’t do anything else in any respect, nonetheless much less play soccer, with the exception of observe Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in every single place and now not let him get a marginally. That method each groups would have 10 males. “And trust me,” Zuhaitz recollects Clemente telling the workforce, “we’re the winners in that deal.” Twice over, actually: they lose Hasselbaink, we lose Gurrutxaga.

Zuhaitz was once 19. Hasselbaink was once arguably Spain’s absolute best striker on the time, scorer of 33 objectives that yr. The debutant did what he was once informed — there is a second when he pauses the display and hones in on Hasslebaink’s face, a bewildered stare that implies what the hell is that this man doing?! — till the inevitable took place. Sent off within the 78th minute, he protested, complained, shook his head and regarded as disappointed as he may. Played the section, mainly. Faked it, which might be a routine theme — one thing he would finally end up doing for too a few years. Secretly, he says, he was once pondering: Zuhaitz, you have performed a blinder right here.

Yet that wasn’t one thing he would assume frequently. He left different video games early, too — inventing accidents to flee, the force changing into an excessive amount of. He talks about making an attempt to bear in mind which leg he was once intended to be limping on as he headed off, glad to have conned everybody till Clemente made it crystal transparent that he had rumbled him. “I reached the point where I no longer want to play. I prefer to be on the bench because I am so scared of making mistakes and I start to think that primera [Spain’s top division is too good for me,” he says. Eventually, primera concept so, too.

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Zuhaitz’s display lasts 91 mins — one for each minute he performed the 2002-03 season when Real Sociedad completed runners up. Not that it stopped him going out and celebrating the workforce’s luck, after all, returning house 3 lengthy days later, a large number in each method. He had performed one sport plus a unmarried minute from some other wherein he was once despatched directly to waste time, which he says was once about all he was once excellent for via then. Not lengthy sufficient to do anything else… with the exception of get snapped via the photographer from Panini. No, truly: Zuhaitz places the ensuing soccer sticky label up at the display.

That’s now not beautiful both.

It will get fun, despite the fact that, and that is the reason how it must be. Zuhaitz talks about comedy as remedy, on degree and stale it, his display very uncooked and really humorous. “Comedy saved my life,” he explains a few days after his newest display.

That yr was once his closing in primera. He was once long past six months later, now not such a lot slipping down the leagues as spiraling, from being in a Champions League workforce — or, extra to the purpose, now not being in a Champions League workforce — to Spain’s regionalised, theoretically newbie Segunda Division B with its 80 golf equipment and 4 teams, by no means to go back. Something was once happening that no person noticed, a struggling he did not percentage. Until now, many a real phrase was once mentioned in jest.

One day Zuhaitz were given a choice from Marcelo Bielsa, the executive of Athletic Club, inviting him to Bilbao. But this was once to not play, no less than now not like that. It was once 2013 and Zuhaitz was once nonetheless enjoying for tercera department facet Beasain, however rise up was once already rising as a possible career, and the Athletic supervisor concept that his regimen could be excellent for morale earlier than dealing with Espanyol.

“He called me personally, which says a lot about him,” Zuhaitz recollects. “He asks: ‘what do you charge?’ I said no, I’ll do it for free. There were players there I knew: Aritz Aduriz, Iraizoz, Gabilondo. He got angry with me and said that art and culture needs to be valued; he wasn’t going to let me perform without charging.”

“I was leaving football soon, coming to the end, I had this other job. But I was playing that day for Beasain,” he continues. “Well, I was sitting on the bench. And all I could think about wasn’t the game, but the jokes I would be telling when I got to Lezama, Athletic’s training ground. ‘I wonder if they’ll like it…’ Bloody hell. I was quite tense. I was thinking: I hope the coach doesn’t put me on because my mind’s not on this; I’m thinking more about my monologue. Why? Because I was scared.”

“I thought my stand-up set worked, but it worked with people who weren’t footballers — fans who enjoyed being told stories from inside the game. How could they be interesting to actual primera players? They have thousands of stories like this of their own, and miles better than mine. They were at the Bernabeu yesterday, they’ll be at the Camp Nou tomorrow. They won’t like what I have to say.”

“But I went there and bloody hell, they were the best best audience I’ve had in my life. Do you know why? Because I realised I was their voice. I said the things they can’t say because tomorrow, it’s a headline. People think you’re a machine, but you’re a person. I say what a player really thinks when he scores a goal or misses a penalty, what really happens. I felt that they were laughing because they were saying: ‘bloody hell, this bastard’s telling the stories I wish I could tell’ or at least that I reflected how they feel. Afterwards, Marcelo Bielsa said thanks. They were really motivated for the next day’s match.”

Athletic misplaced 4-0.

If probably the most regimen is the voice of each participant, a lot of it’s extra non-public. Very non-public, actually. Zuhaitz talks about how he struggled with the force, how he got here to hate soccer. How a lot he feared being at the box. How that gave option to his OCD.

Zuhaitz needed to pass each line, together with the ones at the pitch, proper foot first. He become obsessive about hygiene, without end washing his arms. The simplest time he seemed on El Dia Despues, Spain’s flagship TV soccer display for twenty years, was once when cameras stuck him sitting at the bench time and again making use of cream to his arms. Over and another time, obsessively. Everyone laughed — and it was once humorous — however one thing was once critically unsuitable.

“I suffered in silence. Even I didn’t know what I was doing, all sorts of strange things. It became an obsession and I tried to hide it all because it was embarrassing,” he says. “With time you can’t hide it any more, your behaviour is so odd. My mum was the first to notice it, and she took me to a psychologist. My teammates Gabilondo and Jauregui helped. I would wash constantly and part of the treatment involved breaking that behaviour. They would literally ration the shampoo I used in the shower, not letting me have more.”

When did all of it get started going unsuitable? Players are frequently requested after they realised they had been truly excellent at soccer; so when did he realise that he was once now not excellent at soccer? Or, extra appropriately, when did he consider it? Because Gurrutxga was once excellent.

“I had been at la Real as a kid. At 15 I played at the old Wembley, against England. I was a European champion at U16 level with Iker Casillas. Third in the World Cup at U17. At that age, I felt that I was quite good. At youth level we won a Spanish title for la Real. I was one of the best players in the final and immediately joined the first team for preseason training. Everything’s flying. I make my debut with Clemente at 19 against Atletico. I man mark their best player, Hasselbaink. It worked, despite the red card: he doesn’t do anything.”

“So we did it against everyone: Salva, Savo Milosevic, Raul, Tamudo. I stop them all. I get great ratings in the paper. I’m going to be la Real’s centre-back for 15 years. They love my fight, my character, it’s huge. Everyone knows me suddenly.”

“That year is magnificent, but the second season I’m no longer this youth team kid who’s forgiven anything. It’s no longer enough just to follow their best player. I have to hold the line, play offside, be in contact with the ball. I have a responsibility I’m not ready for. When I was a kid I wasn’t Franz Beckenbauer, sure, but I could play. Now I feel I can’t play, I make mistakes, I keep playing people onside, I start to sink, heading down, down, down until I reach the point I no longer want to play. I prefer to be on the bench because I’m so scared of making mistakes and I start to think that primera is too good for me, which is where it all starts.”

Even then, he will get a choice for the Spain U21 facet. That’s when he ratings two personal objectives. He does not get known as again.

“At 19, you’re a kid,” Zuhaitz says. “All my mates from home go out every weekend and have just one concern: how they’re going to get over their hangover on a Sunday morning. I go from playing in front of 100 people to 30,000, to the papers rating me, people saying things on the street. That changes your life, and I wasn’t ready. The first year was simple: be strong, go in hard, that’s it. But from the second year I have more responsibility and I feel an incredible fear of getting it wrong. If the game is on a Sunday I’m already nervous by the Thursday. Don’t mess it up, don’t mess it up, don’t mess it up, don’t mess it up.”

“Looking back, I think to make it at that age, you have to be really mature or just totally unaware of the implications of it all, what football means. I was neither, sadly. I couldn’t handle it. There was always a touch of sadness inside me. I made people laugh at football, in the dressing room, with mates, but not so much at home: I always carried a sense of responsibility and anxiety. I think the pressure of primeraignited something that was already inside me and it exploded, becoming something that can actually be diagnosed.”

It’s a cliché, admittedly, however he insists that laughter truly did grow to be the most efficient drugs. How despite the fact that do you pass from footballer to comedian?

“Going down to Segunda B so fast changed my life. I felt I had failed as a footballer and I tried to find a way of feeling special, worthwhile,” he explains. “Although I was still playing, I felt the need to find something else to identify with, to make me stand out, to make me worthwhile. I started to learn to play the guitar. I wrote songs, lyrics. It sounded more or less ok. And when I was at Real Union …”

An apart right here, which Gurrutxga does not say, however must be mentioned: When he was once at Real Union, regardless of being a Segunda B facet, they knocked Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey. OK, lift on…

“… when I was at Real Union, we set up a band called Van Popel, after the Dutch cyclist. I wrote songs and sang. We started to do gigs in small bars in the Basque Country, making the most of the fact that here’s a footballer who’s also a singer. People would come and watch because it’s a bit different. If I’m not a good player, at least I’m an unusual one. Between songs I would explain the lyrics or tell stories about my team. And I realised that people were laughing, they really listened. They were more interested in what I said than the music.”

“I’d always been funny. I wasn’t happy on the pitch, I just suffered there, but I was in the dressing room, on the bus. I would crack jokes. I reckon almost all my jokes have been tested on teammates before — not consciously, because I didn’t know I would be a comic one day. If former teammates come to my show, they’ve heard them before.”

There’s a pause. “Javier Clemente came once, too. I did a show in San Sebastian and when I looked out over the audience I saw him. That was quite hard. I’m nice to him in the set, I talk about him giving me my debut, but there are jokes — and he has his character. I’m there on stage and every joke, I’m thinking: ‘is the next one going to annoy him? Should I change it?’ He comes to the dressing room afterwards. ‘Javi, I didn’t annoy you, did I?’ And he says: ‘Bah, I don’t care. You can make it all up if it works for you.’ Life, eh: if you had told me when I made my debut that 20 years later, my manager would be coming to see me do a stand-up routine in a theatre…”

“That started with the band. Suddenly, for the first time, I felt that comic side of me coming out on a stage — not as a comedian but a singer. I started to risk it, push the boundaries, tell more and more jokes. And one day, I think: ‘bloody hell, Zuhaitz: a singer? I’m not so sure. But a stand up…?’ I had never really thought of it and there wasn’t much of a stand-up culture in Spain, unlike the UK or the US. I didn’t really know how a monologue worked but I gave it a go. I went on a stage to tell stories about my days as a footballer: no script to start with, just stories. People laughed. I thought: ‘blimey, this could be a job’.”

More than a role. There’s a line within the display when Zuhaitz asks: why pay a therapist to hear me pass on, laying myself naked, when I will be able to be paid to have an entire target audience concentrate as an alternative? He’s simplest half-joking. That previous line about tears of a clown? There’s one thing in it, he says.

“There’s the OCD, the depression. I don’t know if I am a sad person, but I turn things over and over. I’m introspective. Talk to my family and sadly I’m not so funny at home. Comedy is a kind of armour, protection. Humour is a way of surviving, keeping going. It’s survival and it became therapy, treatment, a way of dealing with things.” Some way of convalescing what he misplaced.

“Football was my passion, but I started to suffer with it and ended up detesting it,” Zuhaitz says. “I would stop people watching it at home, refuse to go to a bar if it was on. I wound up hating my passion. But with this monologue, I’ve started to make peace with football. I’m falling in love with it again, via comedy, my stories, nostalgia, the connection with the audience. I’ve started to go games again. For me, this has been closing a circle, understanding at last. And that makes me happy.”

“I said I felt I had failed as a footballer, and I play on that in the routine, but looking back now I don’t feel that I failed any more. I failed in only one thing, which was ending up detesting this great passion I had always had as a kid. I hated what I loved. And this stand up set, being a comedian, laughing, has allowed me to love it again.”

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