Monthly Archives: November 2011

Joseba Ezkurdia signs a three year deal with Aspe

Aspe today announced the signing of 20 year old Joseba Ezkurdia for the next three years. The forward, who hails from Arbizu, will play his first professional match on 28th December in Tolosa. His partner and opponents are yet to be named.

Name: Joseba Ezkurdia Galárraga
Place and date of birth: Arbizu, 22/4/1991
Position: Forward
Weight: 93 kgr.
Height: 1,91 m.
Amateur results: Campeón Campeonato de España manomanista 2011; Campeón Copa del Mundo manomanista 2011; Campeón Torneo Elgeta 2011.

Image from: Diario Vasco by Felix Morquecho

4 1/2 Promocion final postponed, and a little trip to Euskadi

In addition to the main Cuatro y Medio final, postponed until 4th December due to Aimar Olaizola’s broken finger, the Promocion final has now been delayed. Stephane Lemouneau and Aitor Mendizabal were due to play this coming Saturday but their match has been moved to Saturday 3rd December because of Lemouneau’s hand problems.

On another note, I am going to the Basque Country tomorrow, despite the fact that there are no Cuatro y Medio finals to attend. The best laid scheme failed to work out, but I will be in Pamplona on Saturday and Eibar on Sunday and will report back on the matches when I’m home! Until next week, agur!

Ruben Beloki announces his retirement

After an illustrious nineteen year career as a professional, Ruben Beloki has announced his retirement from the sport. The 37 year old from Burlada holds the distinction of being the youngest ever Manomanista Champion, a title which he won in 1995 at the age of 20. He also took the prize in 1998, 1999 and 2001 as well as the Pairs Championship in 1996 and 2003. He will bring his wealth of experience to Asegarce’s technical staff.

A tribute match will take place on Saturday 3rd December at Labrit. Beloki was to have been joined by Aimar Olaizola but following the postponement of the Cuatro y Medio final to the 4th, a replacement will be sought. He and his partner will take on Oinatz Bengoetxea and Aritz Begino in this his swansong game. We wish him all the best in his new role.

Image from Marca

Pelota on ETB, 18th-20th November

Friday 18th November, Estella-Lizarra



Sunday 20th November, Logrono



To watch, go to or

Cuatro y Medio final postponed as Aimar Olaizola’s finger fails to heal

The Cuatro y Medio final between Juan Martinez de Irujo and Aimar Olaizola, due to be held on Sunday 27th November, has been postponed until Sunday 4th December. Asegarce requested the delay after Olaizola’s finger injury failed to heal as quickly as expected. The star from Goizueta stuck the middle finger of his left hand on the ground attempting to scoop up a serve in his semi final win over Abel Barriola last Sunday, suffering a hairline fracture. The Asegarce medical staff were confident that he would be able to resume training after four days of complete rest and a course of anti-inflammatories, but the injury has not improved significantly and still causes a lot of pain. Certain in the knowledge that Olaizola would not be able to play on the 27th, his empresa requested the match be postponed by one week, as is their right.

On a personal note, the postponement means I will no longer be able to go. I was intending to make the trip over to Bilbao next weekend for the match and cannot manage the following week. I am still going to go to the Basque Country for a few days however, and will try to get to whatever matches are accessible. This may involve the Promocion final, if it happens on the 26th; there may be a postponement there as well as Lemuno has an injured hand. He will visit a specialist today before a decision is made. If the news is bad, it will be delayed until Friday 2nd December and will take place in either Tolosa or Zarautz. It seems I am jinxed!

Aimar must rest further

Aimar must rest further

Image from Noticias de Navarra by Juan Lazkano

Cuatro y Medio: Olaizola II repels determined Barriola to reach the final

Sunday 13th November, Bilbao



It was do or die at Bizkaia. The baying capacity crowd knew it and the players knew it. The atmosphere was that of a final and the intensity almost overwhelming as Aimar Olaizola and Abel Barriola battled for their lives in the championship. The winner would net automatic qualification and the chance to take on Juan Martinez de Irujo for the txapela and the loser would leave with nothing. Aimar, the best player of the year, was the clear favourite, especially in the light of Barriola’s drubbing at the hands of Irujo the previous week, but the majority of the support was for the underdog who pushed the more fancied player for almost every minute of the hour it took to decide the winner. Aimar took the spoils in each department but was forced to scrap as hard as he has done all year, always ahead of Barriola but never able to bang the final nail into his coffin until the very end. Barriola’s refusal to lie down made for scintillating theatre but his beligerence must surely have pushed the nervous of disposition on both sides of the fence to the limits of their endurance.

A roar of anticipation rose from the crowd as Aimar took the first serve but fell rather flat as he opened his account with a falta. This was not the way the four time champion would have wished to start and although he negated the error in the next point when a powerful gantxo clattered into the seating like a warning shot, he lost the next two points to an error and a dos paredes from Barriola. Barriola seemed the more assured on this first assessment, and Aimar appeared unusually nervous. Two winners, and airez into space and a gantxo returned the score to parity at 3-3 but Barriola moved again, taking a 5-3 and 6-4 lead. Barriola controlled the space better and picked and executed the better shots, while Aimar chased the game, fighting like a demon to stay in each point. In this early passage of play, the does paredes proved both Barriola’s ally and his downfall. Two he hit with aplomb and two missed their target, ultimately handing the serve back to Aimar, and bringing him back to within one point. Given Aimar’s apparent unease, it seemed likely that the game would continue to hang in the balance, but from 6-6 he lit the fuse and pulled away, a different player in sweeping unopposed to 14-7. Barriola had a chance to stem the tide when an airez winner gave him the serve back at 7-11, but he handed it straight back with a most untimely falta. He was unable to counter the power of Aimar’s shot play, paticularly the searing strength of his left arm crosscourt play; five of his points in this run were taken with either a gantxo or an airez from left to right.

The Olaizola camp breathed a sigh of relief, for it was difficult to see how Barriola could overcome their man’s resurgent force. However, Barriola was anything but bowed by his predicament and set about plugging the gap in the scoreline. He gradually played his way back into the match and started his retaliation with three straight points to stand at 10-14. He closed further still to 12-15 before coming withing two points at 14-16 with a powerful service winner. Aimar eeked out a three point lead once more with a textbook ganxto-followed-by-txoko routine and then a service winner of his own and it appeared as if calm had been restored; four points stood between him and the final and his opponent stood a further four points in arrears. Barriola, though, never gives up and when Aimar carelessly hit high to make it 18-15, the door was open once again. Within three points Barriola had put himself firmly back in the frame, sitting at 17-18 and with his tail up. Aimar, rattled, retreated to the chair for the counsel of his brother Asier. When he returned he achieved three point lead once again but he was forced to fight tooth and nail for it. The first of the two points was gifted to him by an error from Barriola but the next was unbearably tense, a salvo of balls flying back and forth before he somehow, maybe through willpower alone, turned Barriola’s dos paredes into a miraculous winner across the frontis to the left hand wall. As the adage goes, no guts no glory. Abel, extraordinarily, came back again with a stunning gantxo eliciting a furious fist pump. Aimar was two points from victory but the line still seemed so very distant. Fortunately for the favourite, Abel gave him the help he craved, hitting low twice in a row to crown an auspicious effort with an inauspicous ending.

The relief was written for all to see across the faces of both Olaizola brothers as they embraced, but as we were later to find out, a lingering worry lurked behind their smiles. Aimar had hurt his finger trying to sccop up Barriola’s point-winning serve at 18-17 and went straight to hospital for a scan. The scan revealed a small crack in the tip of the middle finger of his left hand. This injury puts into a cetain degree of doubt the date of the final, due to be held in Bilabo on Sunday 27th November, All the signs are that he will be able to play and the Asegarce medical staff see no major cause for concern, but a decision will be taken after he has trained tomorrow or Friday following four days of rest. In the event that he cannot play on the 27th, the final will be moved to the 4th December. Whatever the outcome, Olaizola II and Irujo will renew their scintillating rivalry on the biggest stage in a match not to be missed.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-1, 3-1, 3-3, 5-3, 5-4, 6-4, 6-11, 7-11, 7-14, 10-14, 10-15, 12-15, 12-16, 14-16, 14-18, 17-18, 17-20, 18-20, 18-22.

Balls hit: 270:

Match time: 59:51 with 12:22 of actual play

Olaizola II: winners 13, errors 8

Barriola: winners 14, errors 5

Aimar Olaizola will go for his fifth title against Irujo

Aimar Olaizola will go for his fifth title against Irujo

Image from El Correo by JM Lopez

Cuatro y Medio: Xala nets consolation win over Irujo

Friday 12th November, Pamplona


Yves Salaberry walked out to play against Juan Martinez de Irujo on Friday knowing that his Cuatro y Medio challenge had already shuddered to a halt following defeat to Barriola and Olaizola II. Conversely, Irujo was already assured of a place in the final. Though this was a dead rubber, it was no dud match as both players went for the jugular, Xala to salvage some pride and Irujo to maintain his status as favourite. After a scintillating comeback from a position of 9-16 in arrears, it was Xala who took the victory to soften the blow of his exit.

The first part of the encounter was all about Irujo, who controlled every aspect of the play. The pace of the match was infernal, but Xala was outdone by Irujo who hit strongly to all areas. The game turned when Irujo retired to the locker room without permission to protest about a call which went against him. Upon his return, Xala, ever calm and collected, was a different player. Irujo appeared suddenly out of sorts, and his opponent quietly and efficiently accumulated points, nine in a row before Irujo could put a halt on his progress. This halt was as temporary as could be however; he won only one further point before Xala took a further string of four to seize the day.

This championship has assuredly not ended in the way Xala would have liked. The Manomanista champion had his chances to reach his third major final of the year but was lacking in his first two semi finals. This win will, however, serve as a reminder of the stellar year he has had.

Scoring sequence: 0-1/ 1/ 2-1/ 2/ 3-2/ 3/ 4/ 4-5/ 5/ 5-11/ 8-11/ 8-14/ 9-14/ 9-16/ 18-16/ 18-17/ 22-17

Match time: 40:00 with 10:00 of actual play

Balls hit: 222

Xala won but failed to reach his third final in a year

Xala won but failed to reach his third final in a year

Image from: Pelota, Mano y Remonte

David Merino to return on Friday in Soraluze

David Merino returns to the fronton on Friday after a ten week enforced layoff. The 21 year old Riojan has been suffering from Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare but serious neurological condition of viral origin which effects only one in 100,000 people. He had fallen on his way to train at Adarraga and experienced such weakness in his legs that he could not stand. The syndrome, which causes the body’s immune system to attack the peripheral nervous system, was diagnosed after a battery of tests in Pamplona. He spent six days in the hospital of San Pedro in Logroño followed by a further week of rest before he began his rehabilitation. Quoted in Diario de Navarra, Aspe’s Dr Jose Maria Urrutia stated that Merino had recovered well without complications. It was thought at first the prognosis may be worse but these fears were unfounded, and Urrutia praised Merino’s positivity and resilience.

He has been given the all clear and is physically well, the only change being a weight loss of two kilos, and will return to action tomorrow in Soraluze, partnering Gonzalez against Aritz Lasa and Laskurain. Aspe plan to give him a match each week in the hope that he will be in a position to play in the Pairs Championship which begins on 15th December.

We wish David all the best for a successful return!

Source: Diario de Navarra

Image from La Rioja