Iñaki Urbieta is very concentrated on his studies, but in the horizon he can already see glimpses of a bright future, a future in the world of professional Jai Alai. This young man from Zumaia will this July, only 19 years old, make his debut in Dania Jai Alai in Florida. There he will be united again with some of his friends, Enbil, Korta and others.
Are you excited about your debut in America?
Yes, very. I didn’t expect to take this step so soon. I’m going in July when my studies end, and I will stay there one season and then we will see what happens.
What are you studying?
A “modulo superior” in development, the same thing as Gotzon Enbil. It is working alright and I pass my courses.
Will it be hard to adapt to a new country?
I’m sure I will miss my family and my friends, but I imagine that it will help a lot to get to know the other players over there.
Will you watch some NBA games live?
Yes I would really like to. I like the Lakers and I think it is a great show to watch.
Have you ever competed in a quiniela game?
Yes, in the final of the Master Jai International Open, and in my town I have also played quiniela games a couple of times. But alltogether they aren’t really very many games, and we will just have to wait and see how well I will manage to adapt to it.
What will be the biggest challange during the first months in the USA?
Learn the language, adapt to the way of life and show a good level of play in the cancha.
What did your friends say when you told them you were going to Florida?
They don’t know anything, because first I want to pass everything, and then I will tell them that I’m going. At the moment, only my parents know.
And what do they say?
They are a bit sad that I’m leaving from home, but they notice that I’m very excited about it and that makes them happy.
What memory will stick in your mind form your time as an amateur player?
It has been a really nice time. I competed for may years together with Gorostola, and a bit later together with Peio. When it comes to championships I’ll stick with the one in Gipuzkoa this year, and the championship of Euskadi in 2008.
You will get to know many players in person.
Yes, Goikoetxea, López, Luis, Enbil… When I started playing, Goiko was just about to make his debut. I have always gotten along very well with them all, and I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to train together with them. Sometimes I went by bus to watch them play in Gernika or St Juan de Luz.
Zumaia has always been an important place in the world of Jai Alai.
There are much passion for the game here, and many of the young players have high expectations for the future. But at the moment it’s a bit tougher with the closing of the fronton, and the new one hasn’t opened yet. The players have to practise outside, and in addition to that there are many other sports in the village now like soccer, team handball and Remo.
One of your friends has been playing brilliant in Remonte lately.
Yes, Etxabe II, who is a professional and a god friend of mine. He went to the cesta school in Zumaia. We studied together and sometimes we would even have dinner together. He just recently made his debut, but is already playing really good. I would like to go and watch him play live.
How was Etxabe as a Jai Alai player?
He was good. He didn’t play for a long time, but he was always in good shape and had a great quality in his play. What happened was that he didn’t want to go to America to play, so he sticked to Remonte, and now it seems like he made a good choice.