Iñigo Córdoba “I Will Work So That The Coach Can Count On Me When We Come Back”
The current football stoppage is an unfortunate but absolutely necessary response to the coronavirus pandemic that has struck the globe. At the moment there’s no clear idea when or if the season will resume and players in Spain are working hard at home to stay in the best shape possible in hopes of a return. For players like Iñigo Córdoba, who was just finding his best form, the break has come at the absolute worst time.
“That’s how it goes sometime,” Córdoba said in an interview with Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo. “I went months without participating, but in the last matches I was doing very well and it’s a shame that the competition stopped. It’s the most logical and responsible thing given the situation. I will work on what I have to do so that the coach can count on me when we come back.”
Despite being a regular starter at the beginning of the season, Córdoba lost his place following a scoreless draw against Eibar in December. The 23-year-old wouldn’t play again until March but was ready when his time came again.
“The truth is that I started the season playing, I was participating, and then I had a phase in which the coach decided to use other players. I worked to make the coach see that I was there and when he gave the opportunity I took advantage of it. It wasn’t easy. You suffer when it’s not your turn to participate, but I never give up.”
When asked if he was given a reason for not playing Córdoba said that he wasn’t owed an explanation. “No, the coach has to make decisions,” he responded. “He doesn’t explain the reasons when you are playing and it’s the same when you aren’t playing. You have to work and make a place for yourself.”
Although Córdoba wasn’t at his best in the Eibar draw, in fact he was taken off at halftime, he doesn’t think that was the reason why he was ultimately dropped. In his opinion, the decision came as a result of Gaizka Garitano’s switch to a 5-3-2 formation.
“I don’t think that decision was based on a single match, but the Mister decided to play with another system. He changed his mind and started playing without wingers, something that doesn’t favor Ibai nor Larra nor myself. These are situations that sometimes occur. With three center-backs I could play on the left and contribute in that position, but that depends on the coach. We already have Yuri and Balenziaga in that position.”
Interestingly, Córdoba was the last Athletic player to score a goal before the stoppage, netting the team’s fourth in a 4-1 win over Real Valladolid. It was the winger’s first goal of the season and he was excited to help the team rediscover better form over the last three games.
“I was very excited because it had been a long time since I scored a goal. I have to take a step forward in this area. It was good to score and have a reward for the hard work. The last games were important because we came out of a complicated situation in the league. It gave us a lot of confidence to win at home against Villarreal and advance to the Cup final, which was the goal that we had set. Then to top it off we want to Valladolid and won with a very good result.”
Earlier in the season Córdoba was actually jeered by fans during a game at San Mamés and had teammates quickly come to his defense. The Lezama product says there’s no reason to discuss it any further as he has since been applauded for great performances following his return to the lineup.
“I don’t think many fans whistled at me. I had made some mistakes and there was some murmur, but there’s no reason to give more attention to the subject. Football changes day by day. I spent two months without playing and in one week I participated in three games and the fans cheered me when I came off against Villarreal. Football is a rollercoaster and we have to be prepared for what comes.
Córdoba may have not been in the lineup to start the Cup semifinal second leg against Granada, but his introduction in the second half helped the team ultimately win the tie and advance to the final.
“No, we never thought we were going to be eliminated at Granada because this team is aware that all matches are complicated and that this group is capable of turning around any adverse situation. Before the game the atmosphere was great. That always gives you strength and motivates you and we were thankful for all the fans that were there from Bilbao.”
With football having come to a halt the players must take responsibility for staying in shape at home. Athletic have given everyone individualized plans to follow in hopes of being ready to play when the season resumes.
“We are at home training and preparing for the return and trying to take advantage of the time to do things that we usually can’t do during the season. I wake up and try to make the most of the day. I usually do two workouts, which they have given us from Lezama, and since we can’t go outside I use bike, treadmill, do core exercises, and lift weights. They have a schedule for us and they us homework daily. We can do little more.”
Looking beyond football, Córdoba admits this is a time that nobody was prepared to face. He praised those who are working every day to fight the pandemic and says that everyone else should follow the orders to stay home because that’s the best thing they can do to help.
“This is a new situation for everyone. We must be more responsible, aware of the situation, and do everything in our power to end all of this as soon as possible. In our case, the most important thing right now is to stay at home. The doctors and everyone who is working for us in this extreme situation every day are heroes. At the moment everyone else has to be at home. We are footballers, but also people, and right now this is the best way to help. We all have to do our bit to get this over with as quickly as possible.”
Only time will tell when football will return, if it ever does this season. As cases continue to rise across Europe it’s hard to image that a ball will be kicked at San Mamés again soon. For now, players like Iñigo Córdoba are doing their part to fight the pandemic and will keep faith that the season isn’t over yet.