Tag Archives: Goni III

Presenting the Finalists: Berasaluze II and Albisu

Pablo Berasaluze Zabala was born in 1977 in Berriz, a town of around 5000 inhabitants nestled between Durango and Zaldibar in Bizkaia. He made his professional debut in 1998 at the age of 20, at the Municipal Fronton of Bergara, after a successful amateur career which saw him take the Liga Vasca de Clubes title in 1994 and the Torneo El Diario Vasco pairs title in 1997. Although he has been a regular feature in the top flight of pelota for many years, Berasaluze has yet to win a major championship title. His Pairs Championship record is not a stellar one; he has reached the semi-finals on only two occasions in seven attempts, but the second of these appearances came last year with Albisu, his partner this time round. On that occasion they won only one of their semis in what was essentially a dead rubber against Titin III and Zabaleta (the latter replacing Merino II for the eventual champions). This year they have fought to the death and come through against all the odds, testament to the fighting spirit for which Berasaluze is famous. He plays with commitment and extraordinary verve, his small stature combined with his determination reminding one of a terrier at work. A terrific player who has bloomed late in his career, Berasaluze surely deserves at least one major championship txapela to show for his efforts and in the year when he changed his playing name from Berasaluze VIII to Berasaluze II in honour of his late father, a win on Sunday would be a fitting tribute.

Pairs record
2003 with Beloki, group stages
2004 with Zearra, group stages
2005 with Patxi Ruiz, group stages
2009 with Zearra, semi-finals
2010 with Begino, group stages
2011 with Apraiz, group stages
2012 with Albisu, semi-finals

Previous professional titles

Jon Ander Albisu is, at the age of 22, a pelotari just coming into his own. Regarded since the start of his career as a huge talent who could not find consistency, this tournament has represented a watershed; his playing has at times been erratic but at times inspired and coupled with the dynamism of Berasaluze his determination has seen him through. Albisu was born in Ataun, in the Goierri region of Gipuzkoa. He has an impressive amateur palmares which includes the Torneo del Antiguo pairs title in 2008, the championship of Euskadi individual titles in 2009 and 2010 and the GRAVN individual crown in 2010. These showings were enough to merit a contract with Asegarce, with whom he made his debut in July 2010 in Tolosa. A year later he took his only professional title to date, winning the Promocion Pairs Championship with Olaetxea, beating Gorka and Merino I in the final. In 2012 he was promoted to the top tier tournament, making the semi-finals with current partner Berasaluze. Whatever happens on Sunday, the 2013 Pairs final will be a defining moment in Albisu’s career, the moment he moved from promising young player to genuine title contender. He has shown a great deal of grit in this championship, absorbing much criticism in the press to come good when it matters. He will be scrutinised more than anyone else, for Asegarce’s victory bid rests on which Albisu takes to the fronton, the confident new star or the inconsistent youngster.

Pairs record
2012 with Berasaluze II, semi-finals

Previous professional titles
2011 Promocion Pairs Championship, with Olaetxea

Photos: mine

Mikel Idoate signs with Asegarce

Asegarce yesterday announced the signing of Mikel Idoate from Aspe for two years. He follows in the footsteps of Mikel Beroiz and Ladis Galarza who have both left Aspe for the Bilbao company in recent times. The move is likely fuelled the abundance of talent in the forwards department at Aspe, counterbalanced by the relative lack of it at Asegarce. Idoate has fallen into the gap between top tier pairs selection and the promocion tournaments, and is increasingly losing out to new talents like Ezkurdia and Jaunarena who are being pushed into the limelight. He is too good to be allowed to fall by the wayside. This move should revitalise the career of the 23 year old from Txantrea and afford him plentiful opportunities in the top flight. Asegarce have struggled for two or three years for a fourth elite forward to sit alongside Aimar Olaizoola, Bengoetxea VI and Berasaluze II. Asier Olaizola has been on the wane for a while and Iker Arretxe has failed to rise to the task on too many occasions. Idoate gives them new young blood and a talent bursting to show itself. He will play his first match for his new empresa on Saturday in Pamplona, where he is paired with Apraiz against Urrutikoetxea and Begino.

Live Pelota on ETB Sat this Weekend: Masters, and Goñi’s Farewell

This weekend sees the semi finals of the year ending Masters Kutxa manomanista tournament, which invoves four of the top players from the last twelve months, two from each empresa. Aspe held a play-off last week, in which Aitor Zubieta beat Sebastien Gonzalez, so the Pairs champion takes his place in tomorrow’s semi final at Labrit against Oinatz Bengoetxea. This first semi will not be shown on ETB Sat, but you can follow live updates here. On Sunday, newly crowned Cuatro y Medio king Juan Martinez de Irujo plays Patxi Ruiz, who along with his regular partner Bengoetxea, had a stellar run in the summer festivals. Sunday also sees multiple Pairs champion Fernando Goñi’s last match for Aspe.

Friday 17th December, Zarautz



Sunday 19th December, Eibar


Followed by MARTINEZ DE IRUJO v PATXI RUIZ Masters Kutxa Semi Final

To watch, go to https://www.eitb.eus/television/etb-sat/en-directo/

Fernando Goñi plays his last match for Aspe

On Sunday, Fernando Goñi, winner of four Pairs Champioships in an illustrious twelve year career at the pinnacle of the sport, will play his last match for Aspe. The 37 year old from Zubiri made his professional debut in 1998, and took his first txapela in 2001, partnering Asier Olaizola to victory. Three further triumphs followed, in 2004 with Titin III, and in 2005 and 2009, both with Martinez de Irujo. He will be remembered as one of the greatest defenders of the decade. Aspe granted him a one year contract extension last year, and have declined to renew it. Offers from other empresas have not yet been forthcoming. Goñi has much to occupy him outside the world of pelota, running as he does the Hostal Quinto Real in Eugi, Navarre, but has hinted in an interview with Noticias de Gipuzkoa that he hopes to remain connected to the sport in some way. Whatever he goes on to do, Dos Paredes wishes Fernando all the best for the future.

His farewell game, which he will play in Eibar with Retegi Bi against Apezetxea and Beroiz, will be shown live on ETB Sat on Sunday from 17:00 CET.

I interviewed Fernando Goñi earlier in the year; if you missed it, you can read it here. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Image from El Correo, by Iosu Onandia

Fernando Goñi Interview

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.

Follow Fernando on Twitter and Facebook

With many thanks to Igor Lansorena for his translation

Fernando Goñi celebrates becoming Pairs Champion in 2009

Fernando Goñi celebrates becoming Pairs Champion in 2009

Image by J.A. Goñi, Diario de Navarra

Fernando Goñi renews with Aspe

Fernando Goñi has signed a contract with Aspe to play for another year. The defender from Zubiri is, along with Juan Martinez de Irujo, the defending doubles champion. Aspe have also announced the contract renewals of Pedro Martínez de Eulate (for one year) and Íñigo Pascual (until 2014).

Fernando Goñi

Source: Diario de Noticias, image from: La Rioja

San Sebastian round-up

Last night, Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino became the first pair to progress to the final of the Torneo Cuidad de San Sebastian. The Asegarce pair dominated proceedings at Atano III, defeating Xala and Fernando Goñi by 22 points to 12. The victorious partnership outplayed their rivals both in attack and defence; Begino was especially impressive, showing terrific strength, accuracy and range which put the usually unflappable Goñi in the shade. Berasaluze continued in his recent vein with some stunning forward play and all of the fiery defiance for which he is known. Xala was a contradiction, playing at times with mastery and at times with baffling carelessness, stinging airez winners mixing with too great a number of txapas. The result was never in serious doubt.

 The second semi final takes place this evening as follows:


 Sadly there will be no webcast.

 The first game, a ‘special’ match, of the festivities in San Sebastian was an unusual one, pitting as it did Juan Martinez de Irujo (playing with Titin III) and Aimar Olaizola (playing with Pablo Berasaluze) against each other as defenders. As one might expect, it was an extremely atypical encounter. Neither of the ‘defenders’ seemed terribly keen to play as such with all four pelotaris at times in the front portion of the fronton. This led to a fast and furious encounter with some highly entertaining points. However, Irujo did not appear entertained in any way, shape or form. The Manomanista champion looked like a fish out of water as he made error after error and constantly found himself out of position. Confusion reigned between him and Titin. In contrast, Olaizola and Berasaluze had a ball, perhaps ironically given Aimar’s reputation as a poor back court player in his junior days. They appeared relaxed and worked swimmingly together as a team, resulting in a crushing 22-7 victory. Despite being an encounter of little importance, Aimar will surely have been delighted with yet another score over his old rival this summer. The pair will meet again, rather more conventionally, in a mano a mano game on Saturday.

Begino and Berasaluze VIII

Begino and Berasaluze VIII

Virgen Blanco Final: Xala and Goni III weather the storm at Ogueta

Sunday 9th August
Ogueta, Vitoria-Gasteiz

Battles locked in attritional stalemate are wont to turn with sudden and brutal force. On 21st June 1813, Joseph Bonaparte found this to his cost as his French defences crumbled at the hands of Arthur Wellesley at the Battle of Vitoria, signalling a virtual British victory in the Peninsula War. Today another battle was fought in Vitoria, which though less deadly in a literal sense, followed a similar pattern. For an hour or more, four of the best pelotaris the Basque Country has to offer flew at each other hammer and tongs until one side cracked. For Bonaparte read Mendizabal and for Wellesley read Xala, who in an ironic twist, if our metaphor is to be played out, hails from the French side of the Pyrenees. In a match of searing quality, it was the forward from Lekuine who turned the tide.

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 1813

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 1813

Both partnerships had won their respective semi finals with consummate ease and happily for the enthusiastic but not overly large crowd at Ogueta, all four players carried their excellent form forward to the showpiece match. Matters began in whirlwind fashion with Pablo Berasaluze unleashing a txoko and two hooks to stamp his authority. Xala could only stand by and admire. However, if this early dominance by the pocket dynamo from Berriz appeared total, his rivals had other ideas as from 0-3 down, Xala produced two hooks and a devastating smash on his way to a 4-3 lead. And so the battle proceeded, neither side ceding a significant advantage for point after point. Berasaluze and Mendizabal perhaps held the marginal upper hand for the majority of the game, but only by a proverbial hair’s breadth. Berasaluze in particular displayed white hot form. The Asegarce forward is nothing if not a fighter and time and again he rescued points when all seemed lost. On several occasions, he dug out what should rightfully have been txoko winners from Xala and turned defeat into victory. Focussed and indefatigable, he threw himself in all directions, even finding the energy to encourage his partner mid point, all taut muscles and pumped fists. Particularly extraordinary was his return of Xala’s hook in the point which took his pair’s lead to 10-6 and his stinging airez following a brief but vicious forward battle at 13-11. Oier Mendizabal too played his part, managing some towering returns from Xala’s considerable serve and showing tremendous willingness and skill in coming forward to cover for Berasaluze when it was required.

The scores drifted upwards in the favour of the pair in red but Xala and Goni were always in comfortable touching distance with the gap never growing beyond four points as the tally moved from 4-4 to 16-15. In style, Xala and Berasaluze are chalk and cheese. Berasaluze appears to play on pure adrenaline and desire, but Xala’s more measured, almost brooding approach is no less effective. Despite a pair of faltas, he served clinically, inducing two consecutive errors from Mendizabal, which brought the score to 7-6. His tactical intelligence led to perfect placement in the three points which brought his pair to parity at 11-11, two txoko winners and a whipped crosscourt volley leaving an out of position Berasaluze with no chance. Goni, as he was in the semi final and as he has been almost all year, was extremely solid. He was also marginally less error prone than Mendizabal, and proved once again the perfect partner in a battle where no inch can be lost.

Despite this near stalemate, the feeling persisted that the Asegarce partnership would come through, such was the firepower of Berasaluze. However, as with military warfare, one seminal moment is often all it takes for well founded conviction to be blown out of the water, and so it was when Xala stepped forward to serve with the score at 17-17. He had hinted at his growing confidence with a devastating dosparedes winner in the previous point and he now produced two long dipping serves just as required. Mendizabal swung and struck but could not make good contact. Twice he tried and twice he failed. All of a sudden, the ASPE pair was ahead for the first time since the score stood at 4-3. Mendizabal’s double failure triggered meltdown for the duo in red; Berasaluze hit wide and Mendizabal mishit completely before Xala caught him napping with an innocuous looking txoko while he loitered far too far back. When Beraslauze hit low the game was up. As the curtain fell on this modern Battle of Vitoria, blue was the colour of victory.

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 2009

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 2009

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 3-0, 3-1, 3-4, 4-4, 7-4, 7-5, 7-6, 8-6, 10-6, 10-7, 10-8, 11-8, 11-11, 13-11, 13-12, 14-12, 14-13, 15-13, 15-14, 16-14, 16-15, 17-15, 17-16 and 17-22.

Virgen Blanco Semi Final: Xala and Goni through after show of strength

Wednesday 6th August
Ogueta, Vitoria-Gasteiz

Ogueta was strangely under-populated for the first Virgen Blanco semi final on Wednesday. Whether this was due to the lack of star attraction on the fronton or to more attractive happenings elsewhere at Vitoria-Gasteiz’s fiesta is anybody’s guess, but these pelotaris deserved better. However, despite the absent sense of occasion, Xala and Goni III put on a display worthy of the largest possible stage.

For nine points, the match was a tight affair, characterised by some superior play by Aritz Begino, who initially had the better of his opposite number, Fernando Goni. However, with the score at 5-4 to the eventual losers, the game blew apart with eight unanswered points from Xala and Goni. Begino suffered an all too obvious errosion of confidence and went on to commit eight errors. In contrast, Goni was unflappable and as solid as the proverbial brick wall, maintaining the form he showed in partnering Martinez de Irujo to pairs championship glory earlier in the year. Xala took some time to hit his stride but when an astonishing hook from the ASPE forward took the score to parity at 5-5, the die was cast for the remainder of the match.

At the front of the court, Xala moved the ball at will, toying with both the walls and his forward opponent Oinatz Bengoetxea. The former Manomanista champion has been absent through injury for the past two months and sadly for him, it showed. He fared well in the flow of play but lacked any kind of closing power when it came to striking winners, something which came naturally to his opposite number. There was also an apparent lack of teamwork in the play of the Asegarce pair, who have not played together at all in recent months. On several occasions, Bengoetxea left balls for Begino which he should rightfully have taken himself, resulting in confusion and mishits. All in all then, this was a night to forget for Bengoetxea and Begino, but one which will provide Xala and Goni with a massive boost ahead of Sunday’s final.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 3-3, 4-3, 4-5, 12-5, 12-6, 14-6, 14-7, 17-7, 17-8, 20-8, 20-9 and 22-9.

Xala on song in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Xala on song in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Mano results roundup: Ipar Kutxa Final and Cecilio's debut

Ipar Kutxa Final

The Ipar Kutxa Tournament is a doubles competition involving some of the best pelotaris not entered, or no longer involved, in the Manomanista Championship. Each empresa entered two pairs as follows:

For Asegarce: Berasaluze VIII – Begino and Olaizola I – Mendizabal II
For Aspe: Gonzalez – Laskurain and Titin III – Pascual

In the first semi final, which took place in Villamediana de Iregua on 16th May, Asier Olaizola, a losing Manomanista quarter finalist, and Oier Mendizabal defeated Titin III and Pascual 22-15. The second was a tight affair which saw the victors escape the clutches of their opponents only in the dying points of the game. Those victors were Sebastian Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain, who triumphed over Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino by 22 points to 18 in Bermeo.

The final was held on Saturday 30th May at Beotibar in Tolosa and in a tough encounter, where the scores were tied at 15-15, the plaudits went to Gonzalez and Laskurain, who eventually ran out 22-16 winners over Olaizola I and Mendizabal II. In a match which lasted 73 gruelling minutes, fatigue set in for the losing pair as the skill of Gonzalez proved telling.

Cecilio delivers dream debut

Today (Sunday 31st May) saw the professional debut of the 21 year old Riojan Cecilio Valgañón in his home town of Ezcaray. The defender recently signed a two year contract with ASPE. Hailing from the Titin III Centre for High Performance, Cecilio is the under 22 World Champion and also won the Diario Vasco Tournament in 2008.

In his first match for his new empresa, he was paired with his fellow Riojan Titin III against Capellan and Goni III and he could not have got his career off to a better start. In a 22-7 victory, the debutant and his veteran partner crushed the life out of their considerable opponents. Titin was on sparking form, particularly ruthless in his aggressive hooks and beautifully delicate in his deft touches to the corner. Cecilio too showed impressive skill, especially from the back of the fronton from where he let rip with his powerful right arm. He displayed a young man’s lack of nerves as he entered into the tough new environment of professional mano, and on this showing he should thrive. He and Titin were aided by the errors of their adversaries; while Fernando Goni was for the most part his usual solid self, Capellan was a clear second best to Titin and appeared at sea. As the winning shot was struck, Cecilio’s sizable fan club erupted with a barrage of drumming and shouting, before the young man was hoisted aloft, the hero of the evening.

Cecilio Valgañón González
Date of birth: 28/09/1987
Place of birth: Ezcaray (La Rioja)
Weight: 92 kg
Height: 1.89m
Position: defender
Past results: Campeonato del Mundo, sub-22, 2008; Campeonato de España de Clubes, 2008; Campeonato Diario Vasco 2008; Campeón GRAVN sub-22 parejas, 2007

New pro Cecilio

New pro Cecilio

Image from: ASPE