Monthly Archives: September 2011

Players Named for 2011 Cuatro y Medio

The 2011 Cuatro y Medio Championship begins on Friday 7th October, with the final to be held on 27th November at a location yet to be decided. The competitors for Martinez de Irujo’s crown will be as follows:

For Asegarce: Arretxe II, Bengoetxea VI, Berasaluze VIII, Olaetxea, Olaizola II, Patxi Ruiz, Saralegi, Urrutikoetxea.
For Aspe: Martinez de Irujo, Aritz Lasa, Barriola, González, Idoate, Retegi BI, Titin III, Xala.

The promoción championship, the second tier competition, will be disputed by: Argote, Albisu, Iza, Lemuno, Rico IV, Tainta and Untoria from Asegarce and Apezetxea, Cecilio, Gorka, Jaunarena, Mendizabal III, Merino, Olazabal, Ongay and Zabaleta from Aspe.

For the full calendar, see here

Aimar and Beroiz, Kings of San Mateo

Many apologies for the lack of recent updates; I have been in France and unable to post. I missed the San Mateo final as a result, but I can report that it was won by OLAIZOLA II -BEROIZ, comfortably beating MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – MERINO 22-13 at Adarraga. Quoted by Asegarce, Olaizola stated that they had been focussed from the start, with Beroiz playing a good game and himself taking the sting out of Irujo’s pace. Beroiz, for his part, expressed his delight at winning his first title for his new empresa. Olaizola was named the undisputed player of the tournament, continuing in the final where he had left off in his devastating hammering of Berasaluze VIII in the previous match.

Pelota on ETB, TONIGHT: Barriola’s Return

Tonight sees the return to competition of Abel Barriola after five months on the sidelines following a wrist operation in April. The defender has been cautious about the timing of his return, fearing a relapse and wanting to be fully fit for the Cuatro y Medio Championships. Also tonight, there are two semi finals in the San Mateo Cuatro y Medio tournament. Retegi Bi plays Idoate in the first, which will be televised. The second is between Arretxe II, replacing Saralegi who has a hand problem, and Olaetxea. Cecilio and Lemuno have already progressed to the next stage, beating Zabaleta and Untoria respectively.

Monday 19th September, Logrono



To watch, go to

San Mateo: Aimar Olaizola Destroys His Opposition

Sunday 18th September, Logrono


Aimar Olaizola was in devastating form in the opening match of the San Mateo tournament, putting to the sword Pablo Berasaluze and champion defender Aritz Begino in staggering fashion. He amassed sixteen winners and nobody else managed a solitary one. The game started competitively, with the sides drawn at 3-3, but from there the floodgates opened. Berasaluze has been in fine form in recent weeks, but here he was taken apart as Aimar displayed the full range of his shot making, pulling off nine gantxos, two dejadas, four volleys and a beautiful dos paredes. By the closing stages, Berasaluze appeared to have given up, utterly outclassed and without a hope of stemming the tide. Begino did what he could to keep Olaizola out of the game, but it was to no avail. Beroiz was an excellent support from deep, making only one error and providing Olaizola with immaculate service with which to work his magic. The victors play Titin III and Zubieta on Friday; it remains to be seen whether the former can do anything about the Goizuetarra’s elemental force.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, 3-3, 3-11, 4-11, 4-14, 5-15 , 5-22

Match time: 38 minutes, with 16 minutes of actual play

Service winners: Olaizola 2, Berasaluze 1

Winners/errors: Olaizola 16/0, Berasaluze 0/2, Beroiz 0/1, Begino 0/3

In the San Mateo encounter on Saturday 17th, MARTINEZ DE IRUJO and MERINO I beat BENGOETXEA VI and PATXI RUIZ 22-13. The losers will have to defeat Xala and Laskurain on 2oth to stand any chance of progressing.

Berasaluze was taken apart by Aimar

Berasaluze was taken apart by Aimar

Image: mine

Pelota on ETB, 16th-18th September

The San Mateo tournament commences in Logrono tomorrow. The pairings are as follows:

Titin III – Zubieta, Olaizola II – Beroiz, Berasaluze VIII – Begino, Xala – Laskurain, Bengoetxea VI – Patxi Ruiz, Martinez de Irujo – Merino I

For the full schedule, see Asegarce. EITB has a new platform for viewing their online programmes HERE and I haven’t fully worked it out yet. I think the schedule below is correct, but it appears that tonight you can also watch the match from Bermeo here at 22:30. The listings are not clear about Sunday’s match, so forgive me if this is inaccurate!

Friday 16th September, Logrono



Sunday 18th September, Logrono


Followed by BERASALUZE VIII – BEGINO v OLAIZOLA II – APRAIZ San Mateo round robin match


A Pelotari’s Farewell: Saying Goodbye to Oier Zearra in Galdakao

I was in Galdakao on Saturday night for the farewell match of local pelotari Oier Zearra, who has retired after fourteen years as a professional. The 34 year old made his debut in Eibar in 1997 and his greatest achievement came in 2006 when he finished as runner up in the Pairs Championship alongside Olaizola II. In addition, he triumphed in the second tier Pairs and second tier Manomanista, both in 1998.

Oier Zearra’s swansong coincided with Galdakao’s fiesta and the streets of the Bizkaian town were awash with people, many bedecked in local dress, celebrating under ikurriña bunting. I had arrived by train directly from Durango, to which I had walked from the summit of the Urkiola climb having watched the Vuelta a España pass through a sea of orange. The party atmosphere I had witnessed on the mountain appeared set to continue into the night. Almost as soon as I entered the main street from the station, I was passed by groups of people wearing stickers which bore Zearra’s portrait; it seemed the whole community had pulled together to celebrate the career of their famous son, while also still revelling in the glow of fellow local Igor Antón’s Vuelta triumph the previous day.

The jubilant atmosphere extended from the street into the fronton, which was nigh on sold out for the big game. I had secured my ticket in the standing section of the balcony by calling past the box office two days before, desperate not to miss out. As the first match got underway there were still some empty seats below me but as the start of the second  drew closer, the throng of people on the street migrated to their positions for the big event, with the strains of a traditional band, who were perhaps somewhat incongruously playing Yellow Submarine, growing louder. The curtain raiser appeared as if it would expire with the whimper of a routine win for Olaetxea and Iza, but the crowd was whipped into fervour by a near miraculous comeback from Urrutikoetxea, only for he and Ibai Zabala to fall three points shy of victory. But this was a mere amuse bouche and a respectful and almost religious hush descended as Oier Zearra took to the fronton, a warrior about to play his last.

Zearra stood alone, facing his friends, family and fellow citizens, backed by his sporting colleagues. Two dancers, clad in white with traditional red belts faced him and bowed. Accompanied by a single musician in command of both a txistu and a drum, they performed for his honour, a touchingly intimate tribute in the midst of something far larger. There followed a procession of gifts, presented one by one, culminating in the granting of that most evocative Basque prize, the txapela. From the mass of players, well-wishers, and young boys dreaming that someday such honours might be afforded to them, stepped a lone singer. His haunting melody made the spine shiver, and his swirling notes rose and met with the rafters as if another chapter in the history of the sport was being soaked up by their all-seeing beams before our very eyes.

As the ceremony ended and its various characters left the playing area to the slap of ball on stone, we awoke to the reality that Zearra had one more war to wage. He took to the fronton alongside the great Aimar Olaizola, with whom he had journeyed to the Pairs final in 2006, the best possible partner to assist him to a fitting final victory. In their way stood Pablo Berasaluze and Oier Mendizabal, in the unenviable position of potential party wreckers, knowing they must play their match despite the baying crowd’s fervent support of their retiring friend. In the emotion of the circumstances one might have forgiven Zearra for blowing it, but he and Olaizola were a steady and serene ship, long delivery feeding winners at the frontis. They held their nerve despite the typically dogged efforts of Berasaluze, who grew in stature and venom but could not stand in the way of a 22-20 win at the last. We applauded Zearra as he stood alone and applauded us, before leaving the fronton behind, we to the continuing fiesta, Zearra to the next chapter of his life.

 All the photographs are mine

Irujo, Zubieta and a Very Basque Rumba

Add two great pelotaris to a swell of guitars, dance beats and swaying villagers, gathered around a fronton from a bygone era, and you get the new music video from Arrebote, designed as a vehicle for their song, ‘La mejor dejada’. Arrebote was formed four years ago in the Navarrese town of Alsasua. Member Iñigo Muñoa, who came to know the rhythms of the rumba catalana as a child hearing gypsies sing on his family’s travels, is a friend of Aitor Zubieta who lives in nearby Etxarri-Arantz. Zubieta agreed to appear and spoke to Juan Martinez de Irujo, who also became involved in the project. The result is a 3 1/2 minute video following a group of friends who attend a pelota match, along with botilleros, bookmakers, a priest and an officer of the Guardia Civil. The technical production in this very home-grown project is the handiwork of another villager, Javier Galeano.

Watch the finished product here!

Image from Deia

Lekeitio Semi Final: Stunning Berasaluze puts Irujo to the Sword

Friday 2nd September, Lekeitio


The one abiding memory from the first Lekeitio semi-final is the scintillating play of Pablo Berasaluze. He was utterly superior to the great Juan Martinez de Irujo in all areas, and the game revolved around him, his irrepressible spirit, insatiable drive and stunning shot making. He manoeuvred Irujo around the fronton as if he was a puppet on a string, supported excellently by champion defender Aritz Begino, who was a pillar of strength from the back and rarely lapsed in his delivery. 

Berasaluze gave the first point away with an almost-perfect gantxo which just skimmed the board, but the two winners which followed signalled his intent, as a looping ball to the corner forced Irujo low and a txoko into space induced a fist pump in its creator. Begino also got in on the act with a  low skidder which foxed Irujo, and soon 0-1 was 6-1. Irujo and Pascual recovered to 9-6 with a run of three points, two of which were rare errors from their opponents and the other a cross court winner handed to Irujo on a plate by Begino. They again briefly threatened a comeback when they closed to 13-10, but Pascual let their momentum slip when his ball from the rear of the fronton hit Berasaluze in the back. From 14-10, the trailing pair managed to accumulate another three points in the game, and the one which took the score to 19-12 showed that Irujo had not completely lost his shot making abilities, as he whipped a gantxo towards the crowd.

However, it was one way traffic in the latter part of the game as Berasaluze, like a never-relaxing terrier, pounced on everything and turned the screw. Irujo was run ragged, with his opponent winning even points where he was forced to scrap, turning defence into searing attack. There was never any doubt about the result, and the Asegarce pair wasted no time in closing out the match as three winners turned 19-13 into 22-13 in the blink of an eye. Berasaluze and Begino embraced in genuine joy at a job stunningly done. They will find out today who they will meet in tomorrow’s final, as Titin III and Zubieta take on Olaizola II and Apraiz.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, 9-3, 9-6, 12-6, 12-8, 13-8, 13-10, 16-10, 16-11, 19-11, 19-12, 19-13, 22-13.

Winners/errors: Berasaluze 15/3, Irujo5/2, Begino 3/4, Pascual 1/2

Balls hit: 329

Match time: 50:24 with 15:50 playing time

Pablo Berasaluze: irrepressible

Pablo Berasaluze: irrepressible

Image from Deia, by Javier Bergás

Pelota on ETB, 2nd-4th September: Torneo Sanantolines de Lekeitio

The Lekeitio tournament begins today, the first of two semi finals. The other semi takes place tomorrow and will be between TITIN III – ZUBIETA and OLAIZOLA II – APRAIZ. The final will be shown on Sunday.

Friday 2nd September, Lekeitio



Sunday 4th September, Lekeitio



To watch, go to