Monthly Archives: March 2010

Second Tier Manomanista presented in Bilbao

The fifteen pelotaris who will take to the fronton in the Second Tier Manomanista Championship were presented to the media in Bilbao today, at the headquarters of sponsor, Ipar Kutxa. Nine are from Asegarce and Six are from Aspe. They are as follows:

For Asegarce: Argote, Arretxe II, Ibai Zabala, Iza, Leiza, Mendizabal II, Olaetxea, Penagarikano and Urrutikoetxea

For Aspe: Aritz Lasa, Beroiz, Cabrerizo, Merino, Retegi Bi and Zubieta

See here for dates and fixtures

Mikel Beroiz returns to defend his title

Mikel Beroiz returns to defend his title

Image from: Deia

Arretxe II and Ibai Zabala crowned Second Tier Pairs Champions

Sunday 28th March, Pamplona


Second Tier Pairs Final

The final of the Second Tier Pairs Championship seemed on paper to be an enticing prospect. The fans, with their banners, certainly came with enthusiasm to see the battle between two pairs who have matched each other win for win through the competition as a whole. However, the result was in reality a forgone conclusion from very early on, for Arretxe II and Ibai Zabala defied the bookies to thrash Saralegi and Eskudero 22-7.

The winning pair had a clear game plan and their opponents fell for it, hook, line and sinker. They bombarded Eskudero, their rival defender, with long ball after long ball and his armoury proved to weak for the task. Arretxe and Ibai did not open well, their rivals taking a 3-0 lead. They levelled at 3-3 and 5-5, scores which hinted at a tight match. It was however, not to be, as they raced to a 16-5 lead which proved utterly insurmountable. Iker Arretxe controlled the game from the front with ease and interacted well with his partner, who left Eskudero with no room to breathe. Ibai managed some stunning pieces of play, including taking a near impossible ball on the rebound, and ended with four winners. Saralegi, who has showed great spirit both in this competition and in the main championship, where he deputised for Olaizola I, failed to fire and was unable to release his hapless partner from the stranglehold.

Scoring sequence: 3-0, 3-5, 5-5, 5-16, 6-16, 6-17, 7-17, 7-22.

Earlier in the evening, Labrit staged a stunning curtain raiser between Martinez de Irujo-Eulate and Olaizola II-Apraiz. It was taken by the latter by 22 points to 18, with Olaizola showing freedom to swing. Apraiz, too, was highly impressive, and hinted at great things to come.

Source: El Correo

Photo by Javier Sesma, Diario Vasco

Live Pelota 26th-28th March: 2nd Tier Pairs Final

Friday 26th March, Casalarreina



Saturday 27th March, Pamplona


Followed by: SARALEGI – ESKUDERO v ARRETXE II – IBAI ZABALA 2nd Tier Pairs Final

Sunday 28th March, Eibar

17:05 (CET) URBERUAGA v CABRERIZO II 2nd Tier Manomanista qualification


To watch, go to

Ekaitz Saralegi seeks glory on Saturday

Ekaitz Saralegi seeks glory on Saturday

Image from: Diario Vasco

Second Tier Pairs Final: the Preview

Saturday sees the final of the Campeonato Parejas Promocion, the second division pairs championship, featuring the ‘best of the rest’ who are not involved in the top tier affair. I have said little about this competition as owing to the constraints of time, I have to prioritise, but for the players involved it is a big deal. Eight pairs have been fighting it out weekly since January 17th:

From Asegarce: Urrutikoetxea-Argote, Diaz-Apraiz, Saralegi-Eskudero, Arretxe II-Ibai Zabala

From Aspe: Cabrerizo-Larrinaga, Aritz Lasa-Merino, Olazabal-Arruti, Retegi Bi-Cecilio

Eight weeks later we were down to the top four. In the first semi final, Arretxe II-Ibai Zabala beat Olazabal-Arruti 22-9 and in the second, Saralegi-Eskudero triumphed over Aritz Lasa-Merino by 22 points to 15. The all-Asegarce final will go some way towards restoring dented pride after the Aspe rout in the first division championship.

On paper, the finalists look evenly matched. Each pair won five and lost three in the initial round robin stage, and each won their semi final convincingly. The form book is however troublesome, as Inaki Eskudero was the only player to take part in every match. Ekaitz Saralegi was absent from the tournament for three consecutive weeks when he was called up to substitute for the injured Asier Olaizola in the main championship. He was replaced by Aratz Mendizabal, and in that time, the pair suffered two of their three losses, one a particularly heavy defeat to Aritz Lasa and Merino in week seven. The reintroduction of Saralegi turned their fortunes and his presence in the final will be a big fillip given his lively recent form.

Three substitutes played for the Arretxe II-Ibai Zabala pair. Both Kepa Penagarikano and Hodei Beobide stood in for Ibai Zabala, in weeks five and six respectively, and in the eighth week, Iker Arretxe was replaced by Mikel Olaetxea. It is difficult therefore to judge the consistency of this pairing, but of the six games they played together, including the semi final, five were won, which can only bode well.

In terms of past championship pedigree, Arretxe II gives his pair the upper hand. The 24 year old forward from Valcarlos in Navarre already has one edition of this title to his name from 2006. He has also been runner up in both this competition, in 2008, and the second tier Manomanista in 2006. His partner Ibai Zabala, who is 22 and hails from Berriz in Bizkaia, was runner up in this tournament last year, with Aratz Mendizabal. As far as their opponents are concerned, Eskudero is the more decorated, despite Saralegi’s higher current ranking. The 27 year old from Erasun in Navarre was runner up in this competition in both 2005 and 2008, with Leiza and Saturday’s opponent Arretxe II respectively. The latter resulted, indicentally, in a 2-22 rout against Retegi Bi and Argote. Saralegi, 30, from Amezketa in Gipuzkoa, surprisingly, has never won a championship of any level.

The election of material went ahead yesterday, Wednesday, without incident. The balls chosen were as follows:

Saralegi-Eskudero: 106, 104.3 and 105.3g

Arretxe II-Ibai Zabala: 106.9, 104.8 and 104.8g

The game, which takes place at Labrit in Pamplona, will be shown on etb-sat on Saturday 27th March, along with a highly attractive curtain raiser between Martinez de Irujo-Eulate and Olaizola II-Apraiz. The broadcast starts at 18.05 and ends at 20.30. To watch, go to

Iker Arretxe aims for a second title

Iker Arretxe aims for a second title

Image from: Gara

Injury to Asier Olaizola

Asier Olaizola suffered an injury to his right side in the doubles match at Labrit on Saturday which preceded the championship game between Martinez de Irujo-Beroiz and Xala-Zubieta. The game had to be abandoned with the score at 2-0. According to Asegarce, the forward from Goizueta underwent an MRI scan in Tolosa, which revealed an oedema in his right abdominal oblique muscle. The required treatment involves physiotherapy and approximately twelve days of rest before exercise can recommence. His injury raised immediate worries over his participation in the Manomanista Championship, the presentation for which takes place on Tuesday 6th April, but it now seems that his chances are better than initially feared.

Sources: eitb, Asegarce

Image from: Noticias de Navarra

Gonzalez-Laskurain crush the dreams of Titin III-Pascual

Sunday 21st March, Logrono


Pairs Semi Finals

After Saturday’s starter, in which Xala and Zubieta cemented their credentials as txapela contenders, came Sunday’s main course which would decide who would meet them at the top table. The eyes of the pelota world alighted upon Adarraga, in the Riojan town of Logrono, the home fronton of Titin III, and the stage seemed set for the local hero to grasp the last pass to the final. The baying crowd certainly hoped and prayed for such an outcome, and for Gonzalez and Laskurain, this fixture must have felt like running headlong into the jaws of the enemy. However, the ‘away’ couple were not to be overawed, and clinched their ticket to Ogueta in commanding style.

Aritz Laskurain, the unassuming but quietly devastating defender from Soraluze in Gipuzkoa, was the man of the match. He has played this year as if newly invigorated, and can now eye his first major final since 2008, when he along with Titin lost in the final of this very competition to Olaizola II and Mendizabal II. He seems a more consistent player these days, having held his form almost the tournament through, and read the game on Sunday with aplomb. He dominated Pascual, who himself has turned in some stellar performances of late, including that of last weekend, which eliminated Irujo and Beroiz. He and Gonzalez went for the jugular from the drop of the flag, racing to a 14-2 lead, and putting Titin under extraordinary pressure in the process. That the eventual losers pulled the score back to 22-16 by the end could be seen as something of a triumph but in reality their comeback ensued only after Gonzalez and Laskurain had let their foot off the gas. All Rioja was stunned into silence.

Many believed that the insatiable desire of Titin, coupled with the ruthless form of Pascual, would see them through, but they reckoned without the emergence of a rival pair who’s eyes are focussed firmly on the prize. The upshot is that Gonzalez will face Xala in attack on April 4th in the first all-French-Basque forward battle in the history of championship finals. Xala has been the more consistent across the tournament as a whole but Gonzalez on his day can beat anyone in the world, as he showed in the Cuatro y Medio final against Irujo in December. The defensive battle will be no less fascinating, with a white hot Laskurain fighting Zubieta, who has grown by ten feet since January. After nearly three months of enthralling sport, all is set for the Eastertide showdown in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Scoring sequence: 0-3, 2-6, 2-14, 4-14, 4-15, 5-15, 7-15, 6-16, 10-16, 10-17, 13-17, 13-18, 13-20, 16-20, 16-22.

Aritz Laskurain: in form

Aritz Laskurain: in form

Image from: Gara

Xala and Zubieta remain unbeaten in txapela chase

Saturday 20th March, Pamplona


Pairs Championship Semi Final

On many levels, this match did not matter in the slightest; Xala and Zubieta had already qualified for the final and pre tournament favourites Irujo and Beroiz were already out. Such dead rubbers can be hard to predict, with one side potentially taking a breather and the other perhaps having given up the ghost, but to their great credit, Saturday’s protagonists made quite a match of it. Irujo spoke in the press before the game about showing respect to the paying public, eager to see a contest and in truth, the man from Ibero is never one to lie down and surrender his pride. Xala and Zubieta clearly saw this as a confidence building exercise ahead of the final, which they now enter unbeaten in the semi final stage, the undisputed form pairing.

In fact, the finalists may be considered lucky in their win, for they were chasing the game right up until the final point, when they edged ahead for the first and only time. Irujo and Beroiz came out fighting, perhaps seeking to show that their semi final disintegration had not been total. They put eight points on the board without answer, and as Irujo loosened his arm, the red lead extended to 13-2. However, Xala, for many the player of the tournament, settled into the match and never allowed himself to be overawed by Irujo, who has proved himself fallible in recent weeks. He orchestrated a comeback which turned the match on its head and displayed for all to see the fighting spirit of his duo. This attitude to the game can only serve them well come the final showdown.

So, Irujo and Beroiz did indeed put on the show they promised and only the cold hearted could have left Labrit disappointed. If nothing else, this was a useful guide to form for us, the public, and a high octane workout for Xala and Zubieta, who will now seek to hone their skills and their senses to perfection ahead of their big day out in Vitoria-Gasteiz. The losers bow out with their heads held high, and will certainly be back for more come next year.

Scoring sequence: 8-0, 8-2, 13-2, 13-4, 14-4, 14-7, 15-7, 15-10, 16-10, 16-11, 17-11, 17-13, 18-13, 18-14, 19-14, 19-18, 21-18, 21-22.

Xala: never say die

Xala: never say die

Image from: Aspe

Beloki extends with Asegarce until 2012

Asegarce have announced an extension to the contract of Ruben Beloki, which will keep him in the employ of the Bilbao based company until March 2012. Beloki, who is 35 and hails from Burlada, played his first match as part of the Asegarce family in 1993 and has gone on to win the Manomanista Championship on four occasions.

Ruben Beloki

Ruben Beloki

Image from Gara

Pelota on the web, 19th-21st March: Pairs Semis and a test for Barriola

Friday 19th March, Eibar



Tonight’s doubles match is Abel Barriola’s second encounter since returning from serious injury last Friday. He has stated that he will use this game to decide whether or not to play in the Manomanista Championship. All eyes will be on his match fitness.

Saturday 20th March, Pamplona


The first of this weekend’s two pairs semi finals is a dead rubber. Xala and Zubieta are already in the final and early favourites Martinez de Irujo and Beroiz are already out. Still, watch for fireworks as the arch competitor Irujo seeks redemption.

Sunday 21st March, Logrono



Adarraga hosts the must see match of the weekend. A place in the final is at stake in this winner takes all contest between two form pairs who will fight tooth and nail to preserve their place in the competition, and to take on Xala and Zubieta for the prize on Easter Sunday.

To watch, visit:

Adarraga is the place to be this weekend

Adarraga is the place to be this weekend

Image from: Manista

Xala and Zubieta reach the final

Sunday 14th March, Eibar


Pairs Semi Finals

In comparison with Saturday’s extravaganza at Labrit, the second semi final of the weekend was something of a let down, both in excitement and atmosphere.  Given how much was at stake – an automatic place in the final awaited the winners – attendance was disappointing. Perhaps the Eibar faithful sensed the likelihood of a drab affair. This match could have been a tight one, pitting as it did two in-form pairs against each other. The bookmakers had Xala and Zubieta as fairly strong favourites, but with Laskurain, particularly, in stellar shape, the match could have gone either way. But one sided it was, and the excitement was all the favourites’, as they became the first partnership to clinch a spot at Atano III.

Xala and Zubieta gained the initial advantage but their rivals fought back to 7-8; it looked like an open contest which would come to the boil nicely over the next minutes. However, from this point on, the eventual winners imposed themselves in ruthless fashion, and much to the chagrin of the opposition and the neutrals, Gonzalez and Laskurain had very little answer. Gonzalez did not play his best, leaking seven errors and managing only three winners. In contrast, Xala hooked powerfully, only let two balls defeat him and turned in eight winners. Laskurain gave his all but was not as sharp as in previous weeks and could not match the power of Zubieta in defence. Once Xala and Zubieta had bent the game to their will, their lead never fell below four points, with 7-12 giving way to 10-14 and then 10-22. It was not quite a rout but from the mid point, victory was a foregone conclusion.

Xala and Zubieta can now look forward to the final at Easter with bullish confidence. They appear to have risen to the top in this competition at the best possible moment. The outcome of their game this weekend against Irujo and Beroiz is immaterial as they are through and their opponents, much to the surprise of many, are out. The real interest of the coming week will reside in the prospect of Gonzalez and Laskurain playing Titin and Pascual for the last grand final place in what promises to be an encounter of searing intensity. Titin and Pascual will be the likely favourites, and one suspects they are the pair Xala and Zubieta would be least happy about facing in the final, but in such matches form is wont to go out the window. Miss it at your peril.

Scoring sequence: 0-3, 2-3, 3-7, 4-8, 7-8, 7-12, 9-14, 10-14 and 10-22.

Aitor Zubieta: Power

Aitor Zubieta: Power

Sources: La Rioja, Aspe. Image from: Diario Vasco