Dani García “If They Want To Test Us, Perfect, But Only If Tests Are Available For Everyone”
Football is one step closer to return following Spain’s decision to allow teams to return to training facilities in early May. Routine testing will be required for all players and staff and there will be strict guidelines in place, but plans are being made for the season to resume in June. While answering questions during a virtual press conference on Wednesday, Dani García shared that he’s excited to get back on the field, but only if it’s truly safe to do so.
“We want to return to normality as soon as possible. We want to play games and everyone go out to do normal things, We need more tests and must study the situation well. Each of us would like to know whether or not we have the disease, but we must take a look at it. There are others who need tests more.”
The Athletic midfielder went on to give his opinion that testing players shouldn’t be a priority when there are others who are in more difficult situations.
“If they want to give us tests, perfect, but only if tests are available for everyone. Having health workers and people in hospitals who have suffered from the disease and haven’t been able to undergo tests, it would separate us from the social reality. People would take it badly. When there are resources it should be done for everyone.”
In the end, if the season returns García says the players will have to take the field, although he pointed out that even holding games behind closed doors would come at a risk.
“The most important thing is health. If they want to force us to play then we will do it. Football is good for society, take this the best way possible, but it will put so many human lives at risk…coaches, trainers, doctors, the press…You have to study it all well and come back as soon as possible when it’s safe.”
Finishing the season will require games to be played behind closed doors which García can’t even imagine.
“It will be very strange for the stadiums to be empty. The return of football will help people who are locked up at home during the weekend. If the only way we can play is behind closed doors then so be it. I hope that soon there will be an open door and we will celebrate with everyone.”
Without fans at the stadium the sounds and voices of players will be more clearly heard. When asked who is the most vocal on the team, García didn’t have to think about his answer.
“Raúl García and myself because we are the ones who talk the most to the respect and in general. Players already cover their mouths when they speak so people can’t read lips, now we will have to contain ourselves when we speak.”
Playing games behind closed doors in the league is one thing. Holding the Cup final without fans is completely different and, to Dani García, would be absolutely inexcusable.
“Knowing how all of Bizkaia lives, playing without an audience wouldn’t be fair for us or anyone who supports the club. It’s the most important game of my life and playing without fans would be wrong. We want it to be a Basque party, being able to celebrate that we have overcome what we’re experiencing and that we can all come together to enjoy the final and hopefully we will win.”
On a personal level, García has never been in a final and he doesn’t want his first to be in an empty stadium.
“This is the first final I’ve ever reached. Hopefully there will be more, but it’s one of the most important matches of my life. If we win I would dedicate it to the person who has supported me the most, my father. He has accompanied me to every tournament and deserves a title.”
If at all possible there’s no question that the players would like the final to wait until fans can safely attend. On the other hand, the longer is pushed back the more difficult it will be for Aritz Aduriz to postpone retirement and be available for the historic derby.
“I prefer to play with the fans and Aduriz feels responsible to play the final. Postponing it until next year would give us a lot of life. Apart from football, it gives a lot of life to the locker room. When I came here he was one of the players who surprised me the most. When you play against him he makes thing so difficult and I didn’t imagine that I would get along with him so well. Now we have a close friendship. It would do us a lot of good in the locker room for him to play the final and retiring by winning the Cup would be the best.”
The final will not only be two eternal rivals facing off, it will also be a clash of styles. “La Real and Athletic represent different models of football,” said the 29-year-old. “As an idea, they have more possession and those in attack can create danger. We both know each other well and it will be a nice game.”
García almost missed out on the final altogether when Athletic were nearly eliminated in the semifinal by Granada. He was suspended for the match due to yellow card accumulation and admitted that it was difficult to watch without being able to help the team.
“The week was quiet. I saw the team train and I was confident. When Granada scored the first goal I was quite nervous. We were sitting with the Granada fans in the stands and between the nerves and the stands being so alive I had a pretty bad time. Beñat told me that if the fans started giving us problems we would get up quickly. It was good for us to wake up. When Yuri scored I was much calmer and I went down to celebrate with everyone on the field.”
García took some time to reflect on his career, sharing that his first season in the Primera was much more challenging that he expected. Getting used to the quality and pace of the league took some time, but now he’s confident that he’s playing the best football of his career.
“I went from the Segunda B to Segunda. I spent a year there and you don’t know what level you’re going to give. As the games went by, I knew I could be on top and that I could play in the Primera. The first year in the Primera was a real blow to reality. I was realistic and stuck to it. I saw the level that there was in the league and I didn’t give it during games. Now I can say that I’m a Primera player, but there were moments that surpassed my level and accepting it helped me improve every day in training. This has been my most complete and consistent season season. I had very complete games at Eibar too, but my most consistent season in the Primera has been this one.”
It was far from a natural path to the Primera, but García’s hard work certainly paid off. When asked which coach had helped him the most through his career the midfielder was quick to mention his current manager, Gaizka Garitano.
“The coach who has impacted me the most is Gaizka. He came to a veteran team and bet one players like myself, Yuri, and Capa. We owe him a lot. He bet on us in the Segunda B, he continued betting on us in the Segunda and then now in the Primera. It’s because of him that I’m where I am today.”
Dani García was thrilled to join Athletic two years ago, but wasn’t sure what it would be like going to a new club. The former Eibar captain was established at Ipurua and found a new family at San Mamés.
“I couldn’t have imagined what I’ve found. I thought it would be different. My biggest fear was coming from Eibar where I was so comfortable and arriving at a new place not knowing what I was going to find. If I came from one family I found another one. I didn’t think that the club had such an impact or that there were so many fans around the world. Every time we go to England, Germany, or Holland for preseason, or wherever we go anywhere in Spain, you can’t imagine where those fans come from. I’ve realized the size of the club and how big it is.”
There’s been both good and bad moments in García’s Athletic career and he had no issues sharing the biggest high and low. Eliminating Barcelona from the Cup was the pinnacle of his time in Bilbao thus far, but he hopes it will be topped by winning the title.
“The worst moment of my time in Bilbao is clear, it’s last year’s game in Seville. It was difficult to digest that match, to be in Europe and then fail. Nobody, footballers or other athletes, are used to losing. It’s something we’re taught from a young age. It was hard and it took days to digest the defeat. This year’s Cup match against Barcelona was my best moment. The hours leading up to the game, arriving at San Mamés, the reception, celebrating with the fans, the goal in the 92nd minute, it was all incredible. Let’s hope the next best moment is winning the Cup final.”
García is thoroughly enjoying life in Bilbao, but at 29 years old there are questions over how long he can continue at this level. When asked if he would like to retire at Athletic the veteran explained that he would, though he isn’t thinking about that right now.
“In the world of football you don’t know when you’re going to say it’s over or if you will get tired of spending so much time at this professional level. There are days when I say I would like to play as long as Aduriz and others that are hard defeats. Football burns you a lot. I hope I have the legs to continue playing and that I can retire at Athletic.”
This season García has been one of the most important players in Athletic’s system. Tasked with protecting the back line and winning balls, the former Eibar captain has been a mainstay in the lineup and a key to the team’s success. In just a short time Dani García has earned his place and now dreams of bringing the Copa del Rey trophy back to San Mamés.