Fernando Goñi (Goñi III) was born in 1973 in Zubiri (Navarre). After an amateur career in which he won several important competitions, he turned professional in 1998. He has since won the Pairs Championship on four occasions (2001 with Olaizola I, 2004 with Titin III and 2005/2009 with Martinez de Irujo). In addition to his sporting career he owns and runs the Hostal Quinto Real in Eugi (Navarre). Dos Paredes thanks Fernando for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions, in the first interview ever to appear on this blog. I hope there will be more to come.
How did you start playing pelota and how old were you?
I started playing in my hometown, Zubiri, just like any other kid, doing the typical things kids do, playing football, pelota, bike riding. Maybe it was important that I lived in front of the church and I used to go to play pelota against the atrium. We always liked doing sports at home. I guess that my first games, dressed in white, were when I was 6 or 7 years old and when I was 9 years old I won the schools’ championship of Navarre.
Who were your role models when you were young?
It was the time of the rivalry between Retegi II and Galarza III. I also liked very much Martinikorena’s elegance and the efficiency and rockyness of Maiz II.
At what point did you decide you wanted to be a professional?
You always think that becoming a professional pelota player is something important, but if I became one is because I was never obsessed with it. My goal was always to do my best so that I could never blame myself for anything and be able to enjoy myself while I was playing.
How hard is it to make the jump into the professional ranks? Is there a big gap in terms of standard?
Obviously, the gap is big although it depends on what pelota players you come across at the time. I remember that in the same week of my debut, Barriola, Berasaluze VIII, Patxi Ruiz, Otxandorena, and Esain made their debuts as well. Aimar’s turn was two months after that. The level amongst the amateurs was high.
Of your four Pairs Championship victories, which do you consider to be the greatest and why?
The four of them are important. The first one was special because was is the culmination of something that starts when you are a child, where you can somehow thank all the people who have helped you to get there. And the last one, because of the difficult situation I had to overcome on a personal level to win it.
Tell us about your typical day. For how long do you train, and what does your training consist of?
I wake up at about 7:15 and get my sons Amets, 5, and Kepa, 2, ready for school and kindergarten. My wife works in the mornings. Then I go to Zubiri to the gym or to the fronton to train, although on Tuesdays we always go to Labrit. My training sessions are not very long, more or less an hour and a half. Now, I try to search for quality rather than quantity when I train, although it depends on the time of the year. Before the morning is over I get to the hotel to start working. I usually have lunch there and I go home mid-afternoon to spend some time with my family, depending on the time of the year and the amount of work at the hotel. I spend almost all the weekends at the hotel and go from there to the games I have to play, the same thing in summer.
Do you combine your time on the fronton with any other sports, either for fitness or for fun? What other sports do you follow?
I have always considered myself a sportsman rather than a pelotari. I usually follow soccer, cycling, motorcycling, Formula 1, athletics, handball, basketball, etc… and all I can. During these years, I have hardly practised any other sport but I miss it as my friends and brothers have always been good sportsmen, and still are, and I would love to have enjoyed more sport with them.
How do you relax away from the fronton?
I usually like to spend as much time as I can with my family or go walking in the mountains to be on my own, enjoy the outdoors, take some pictures or meet some friends in Zubiri. At night, I spend some time on the computer, Facebook and Twitter, while I listen to music. I do not watch much TV.
How would you like to be remembered as a player?
I don’t know…everyone surely has his opinion. So simple and so difficult at the same time; as a good “pelota player”.
Have you played any of the other varieties of pelota? Where you come from, how do the different modalities of the game compare in popularity?
In my hometown, we have always played pelota mano and some paleta goma, but not so much.
Do pelotaris form a close knit community? How possible is it to form close friendships with people who are regularly your sporting rivals?
The relationship among the pelota players is really good. What happens on the court stays there. Besides, pelota is a minority sport and we know each other quite well so it is quite easy to have friends among your rivals.
Who would you regard as the most complete all round pelotari amongst today’s players, and why?
In my opinion, Juan Martinez de Irujo is nowadays the pelota player who has the greatest potential.
Which young players do you think will go on to great things? Who should we look out for in the future? Among the pelota players that have made their debut lately, the one whom I like most is Idoate. He’s got very good condition and enthusiasm.
Tell us a little about your hotel. Is it difficult to combine the running of it with your sporting career? I have had the hotel for 10 years and I have been the manager for 5 years. It is my future and I like it doing it. I can do both things at the same time, although when difficulties come up, it requires much time, such as any other job. It would have been impossible without the help of my family.
If you could invite any five people to dinner, living or dead, who would they be? Iñaki Ochoa de Olza, Miguel de La Cuadra Salcedo, Indurain, my dad and some of my best friends.
With many thanks to Igor Lansorena for his translation
Image by J.A. Goñi, Diario de Navarra