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When The Seventh Minute Starts: The Story Of Juanito’s Spirit

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The article includes illustrations, gifs, videos, quotes, chants, a poem, and a song. 

Juanito Maravilla. Illustration by Sofi Serg.
The legend with the number 7
Sofi Serg

The seventh minute of every Real Madrid match at the Santiago Bernabéu is always dedicated to Juan Gómez — a complicated person, who was a great player and a potentially great coach, and who is still known by his nickname Juanito. This story is about him and about his famous spirit. His story is one that inspires the fans and the players. It’s a story worth telling.

The beginning of the journey, and the biggest dream

Juan Gómez was born in 1954, in Fuengirola — in the province of Málaga — and started playing football first in the streets, and then in a local club called Aspen. At the age of 14, he joined Atlético Madrid’s youth team, where he spent three years but was perceived as a bench player most of the time.

A few years later, during one of the matches of the U-18 team, Juan got a fractured bone and was knocked out of football for a year. There wasn’t a chance for him to debut in Atlético’s first team, because the club’s coaching staff didn’t see potential in him and also didn’t want to wait until the end of his long recovery from the injury.

The managing board of Atlético preferred to sell Juan to Sevilla, but the transfer failed and they decided to send him on loan to Burgos instead. Juan helped this team win the second division in 1975–76, in his second season there. He also helped Burgos to stay in La Liga in the following year and was eventually named “Spanish player of the season” by prestigious magazine Don Balón.

At that time, some big Spanish clubs, including Barcelona, wanted to sign Juan, but he refused them all because he was waiting for only one offer — from Real Madrid. Though in childhood Juan positioned himself as a fan of Zaragoza, with each passing year, he started to admire Los Blancos more and more and dreamed to become a part of the club.

On 19 November 1976, Juan’s dream turned into reality, as he joined Real Madrid. However, his official presentation as a player happened a year later, in 1977, and culminated his legendary phrase: “Entering this club is like touching the sky, I’d prefer Real Madrid among all the clubs and Madrid among all the cities”.

Juanito Maravilla. Gif by Sofi Serg. Sofi Serg

A true Madridista, with a spirit of comebacks

Juan spent 10 years at Real Madrid, where he got the nickname “Juanito Maravilla”, which translates to “little Juan the Miracle”. He won five league titles (three of them were consecutive), two Copa Del Reys, two UEFA Cups, and reached the 1981 European Cup final, in which Los Blancos lost 1 - 0 to Liverpool.

He also won the Pichichi trophy as the best goalscorer of the 83-84 season, though he never was a very prolific-scoring forward. He also wasn’t the quickest, the most skilful, or the most creative player. So, why was Juanito so special for the club?

Those were the years of Real Madrid’s incredible comebacks in the play-off of the UEFA Cup — many times the team lost the away match by two or three goals, or in one instance, even with a 1-5 scoreline. But they achieved the victory at the Bernabéu despite everything. Celtic, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Anderlecht — they all were crushed under the pressure of Real Madrid’s drive for a comeback in the second-leg.

After the final whistle of another first-leg loss (2 - 0 to Inter), Juanito said to the opponents: “90 minutes at the Bernabéu is a very long time”. This phrase became immortal, and the rest is just history. The second-leg was under the control of Real Madrid and ended with Juanito’s team winning 3 - 0.

Juanito was one of the main figures of those comebacks. Every knock-out match was like the final stand for him. He never said never, was a motivator and a leader who would fight until the end, and he gave his all for victory. This phenomenon of his character was called by the fans as “the spirit of Juanito”.

Juanito Maravilla. Gif by Sofi Serg.
Corrida was Juanito’s biggest passion besides football.
Sofi Serg / fragment from the “Informe Robinson” documentary series

But there was also another side of Juanito’s character — sometimes he blew up for no apparent reason. He was irritable and explosive, and also completely uncontrolled from time to time. His teammate Antonio Camacho — Real Madrid’s legendary left-back from that squad — said once: “It was useless to tell Juanito not to do something because he wouldn’t listen anyway”. Juanito had two versions of himself and the furious one sometimes broke out of control.

Obviously, this part of Juanito’s personality caused a lot of problems for him and for the club. Confrontations on the pitch, some spits on the faces of the opponents, and even pushing a referee — those were the provocative things Juanito did that often made him banned from football for some time and also rebuked by the fans.

Speaking of the fans, though Madridistas weren’t happy about Juanito’s offences, they still admired him no matter what, while the supporters of some other clubs totally hated him. He was booed and not welcomed at many stadiums and sometimes it produced some scandals.

One of those scandals happened when Juanito was in the Spanish national team which was trying to qualify to the World Cup in Argentina. It was the last group stage match against Yugoslavia in November of 1977, and Spanish players couldn’t even warm up on the pitch because all sorts of objects rained from the stands filled with 100, 000 loud Yugoslavian fans. Spain was leading 1-0 in the 76th minute of the game when Juanito made a displeasing gesture to the stands while being substituted, and seconds later, a glass bottle flew into his head, leaving him unconscious.

Juanito’s most dramatic moment happened in April of 1987, when Bayern Munich hosted Real Madrid in the semi-final of the European Cup at the Olympiastadion. The whites were losing 0 - 3 when Lothar Matthäus hit Chendo’s ankles in a fierce tackle. It caused a scuffle which involved other players, including Juanito, who violently stomped on Matthäus who was lying on the ground.

Juanito always regretted the mistake he made that day and continued to apologize in ensuing interviews. Immediately after the incident, he was not only sent off from the pitch, but also banned from the competition by UEFA for five years. He was fined by Real Madrid and got a termination of the contract with the club. That was a dramatic end of Juanito’s magnificent ten-year Real Madrid career.

The new biggest dream and the end of everything

However, Juanito’s career in football wasn’t finished — after leaving Real Madrid, he played at Málaga for two seasons and then became head coach of Mérida. It was the start of the way to his new goal — a dream to come back at Real Madrid as a coach which was something he was obsessed with it.

Juanito as the head coach of Mérida.
Sofi Serg / fragment from the “Glorias Blancas” documentary series

Juanito really did have great potential to be hired as a coach of Real Madrid one day. Spanish football experts predicted his coaching career to be very successful and outshine his career as a player. On the bench he was even more motivated and expressive than on the pitch, so maybe he really could’ve become a legendary manager. Sadly, we will never know.

On 2nd April 1992, after watching Real Madrid against Torino at the Bernabéu, Juanito was killed in a road accident while returning to his house in Mérida. He was only 37.

The seventh minute at the Bernabéu

Nowadays, in the seventh minute of every home match of Real Madrid, the group of active supporters known as the Grada Fans makes a tribute to the legendary player with number 7. The group starts it by chanting “Illa, illa, illa, Juanito Maravilla!” for four times and then the fans also sing another rhyme which is often called as “Arriba”.

The Bernabéu never forgets.

The lyrics and also the translation of the chant:

“Arriba,

Arriba, arriba,

Arriba con este balón,

Que Juanito lo prepara,

Que Juanito lo prepara,

Santillana mete gol!”

“Run forward,

Run forward, run forward,

Run forward with this ball,

Juanito prepares it (makes a pass),

Juanito prepares it (makes a pass),

And Santillana scores a goal!”

Sometimes the Grada Fans create special performances based on Juanito’s story. The latest one happened before the starting whistle in the match against Alaves last April. The supporters made a banner which read “We don’t forget you”, and it was dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the legend’s death. Here’s the video:

A poem about Juanito Maravilla

While working on this article, I got inspired to write a poem about Juanito, and the very special minute of every home match.

“When the seventh minute starts

In the home matches of this squad

The Grada Fans get out their drums

To play a tune which is well-known

And then the loud echo of the claps

Fills the Bernabéu’s stands of stone

The light shines on the waving flags

Don’t sit here alone, let’s sing along

To one of the most touching chants

Dedicated to the legend who is gone

Who was a forward or a sudden storm

With the number 7 and a reckless soul

A dreamer who didn’t go with the flow

He turned his life into the corrida show

Because sometimes he fully lost control

Maybe he never did magic with the ball

But there was a daring in his every goal

He could play even with a broken bone

And could fight for the club on his own

Once he reached the top and didn’t fall

On his way he broke through every wall

But he won everything just to lose it all

He’ll stay our inspiration forevermore

Even though he is not here anymore

He was a leader with a special role

A real hero who died on the road

More than twenty-five years ago

But his spirit is gonna be reborn

When the seventh minute starts

At the stadium he called home”

November 2018, “When the seventh minute starts”

Juanito celebrating his goal against Milan in the third-place match of the first ever Bernabéu Trophy. September 1, 1979. Illustration by Sofi Serg.
Illustration of Juanito celebrating his goal against Milan in the third-place match of the first ever Bernabéu Trophy. September 1, 1979.
Sofi Serg

A song about Juanito Maravilla

It was 2008 when Madrid-based music band Calamidad Garcia released a song called “Minuto 7”, that narrates Juanito’s story and spirit. The Spanish-speaking fans of the club started to like this song very quickly.

The translation of Juanito’s words (from an old interview) at the beginning of the song:

“I’ve been feeling like this since my transfer to Real Madrid, and above all, I’ve become a true Madridista thanks to the fans and the stuff, I’m a Madridista to the core. They all made me love the team, the Madrid city, everything. Because of the incomprehension in this team, and above all, because of the relationships that all those people from Real Madrid have with me... I’m not sure if I’m a ‘symbol of the club’ as people keep calling me, but it’s clear that I’m a Madridista to the core.”

The translation of the song:

“I put on the white jersey with the number 7

And the genius doesn’t die

The beating of a heart which is so big and so small

A flying bottle and a stomped opponent

And an evening stroll

Europe won’t understand anything about him

He was like a toreador in football

The wave appears from the Chamartín Stadium to Fuengirola town

And with this dribbling and filigree technique

He makes a pass to Santillana...

Illa, illa, illa, Juanito Maravilla!

He gets down on his knees and begs the man in black

Illa, illa, illa, Juanito Maravilla!

Every seventh minute at the Chamartín Stadium

Long live Juan Gómez “Juanito”! Hala Madrid!

He’ll conquer 2 Copa Del Rey, 5 La Liga trophies

Pichichi trophy, 2 UEFA cups and 100 bulls

And he’ll also play at two World Cups

He’s a man of noble presence, but he’s different

Take a deep breath, Bernabéu

The seventh minute is close

Illa, illa, illa!

Every seventh minute at the Chamartín Stadium

Long live Juan Gómez “Juanito”! Hala Madrid!

Illa, illa, illa, Juanito Maravilla!

He gets down on his knees and begs the man in black

Illa, illa, illa, Juanito Maravilla!

He left us with the moon

He was going to his house in Extremadura region

Illa, illa, illa, Juanito Maravilla!

Every seventh minute at the Chamartín Stadium

Long live Juan Gómez “Juanito”! Hala Madrid!

Illa, illa, illa, Juanito Maravilla!

The wave appears from the Cibeles square to Fuengirola town

Illa, illa, illa, Juanito Maravilla!

Every seventh minute at the Chamartín Stadium

Long live Juan Gómez “Juanito”! Hala Madrid...”

2008, Calamidad Garcia - Minuto 7

The meanings of some of the lines:

A flying bottle and a stomped opponent” — a reference to Juanito’s famous dramas on the pitch.

Chamartín” — the old name of the club’s stadium which was changed to “Santiago Bernabéu” after the complete rebuilding in 1947. However, even nowadays. the Spanish fans like to affectionately call the current stadium “our old good Chamartín” (and that doesn’t mean they are disrespectful to Bernabéu).

He gets down on his knees and begs the man in black“ - a reference to a situation in the match between Real Madrid and Zaragoza on 12th April 1981, when Juanito was begging the referee to not show him a card.

Juanito Maravilla. Illustration by Sofi Serg.
“Y sale el hombre de negro y le recibe de rodillas...”
Sofi Serg

To conclude

The choice of Juanito as a protagonist of this article isn’t random. As you all know, this season began not in a good way for Real Madrid, but now it’s time to make a comeback. Now the players have to bring up some of “Juanito’s spirit” and keep fighting because there’s still a possibility to achieve the trophies and make this season successful, while the fans should not forget about the incredible players who put their hearts and souls into creating this club’s great history.

Just don’t forget — especially at the moment when the seventh minute starts.