There weren’t many things about Real Madrid to discuss during the last two weeks thanks to the International Break. Some interesting matches happened and a few of our players scored hat-tricks, but now it’s time to think about the club again.
So, it’s 1 April 2018, and here are the things that we have: Real Madrid is out of the fight for La Liga, out of the Copa Del Rey, but the club is still on its way in the Champions League, which means we still have hope for a positive ending of the season. By the way, talking about the season... the main problem of the team is a faded and unimpressive style of play, and Zidane still hasn’t fully solved it. But why?
We all have been discussing this topic a lot; scores of articles, hundreds of posts, thousands of comments. If you want to know the main reasons behind Real Madrid’s struggles in this season, just scroll down the socials of Madridistas - you’ll see a lot of phrases like “lack of creativity,” “lack of motivation,” “lack of concentration,” “lack of good rotation,” “lack of tactical variation”... but the most popular phrase is “lack of luck”.
Luck. What a strange thing. Madridistas say: “Our team had so much luck last season - scoring in the 90th+ minute several times - but now this tradition has ended because luck is not on our side anymore.” So, the question for today - where is Real Madrid’s luck?
To answer this question, we have to take a closer look at Real Madrid’s history and also at some of the lucky charms of other clubs (no, I’m not going to write a lecture about luck in football here, but let’s just figure out how it works). A lucky charm is a something that keeps you feeling more confident in a tough situation, it could be anything - an object, a tradition, a person. Footballers are crazy about their lucky charms, such as lacing the left boot first, stepping on the pitch with the right leg, touching the grass with the left hand, etc. Football clubs use mascots, which could bring some confidence in home matches.
The mascots of many football clubs are mostly based on mythical creations. Arsenal’s Gunnersaurus, Mancher United’s Fred the Red, Milan’s Milanello are probably the most popular ones. Some clubs prefer something more realistic instead of giant stuffed costumes. For example, Benfica’s Aguia Vitoria is a bald eagle, which flies inside the stadium to bring some luck to the team. Thus, it seems like modern football is obsessed with luck.
But what about Real Madrid? Actually, our club has its own mascot. It’s a person, and I would call him “a lucky charm.” His name is Agustin Herrerin; officially, the pitch delegate of the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, and, unofficially, the guardian of Real Madrid’s traditions and one of the most genuine Madridistas in the club’s history.
In case you want to know some details about the job of a pitch delegate, here’s an explanation: “The pitch delegate checks the locker rooms, the conditions of the pitch and the use of sports equipment. He also serves the needs of the referees.”
Now you may be interested why he is related to Real Madrid’s luck or unluck. I’ll explain it later, I promise. But first, let me tell you an exciting story.
This story happened exactly 20 years ago, on 1 April 1998, right before the match of the Champions League first-leg semifinal between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in the Santiago Bernabéu. It was the first ever match between those two teams, Dortmund was the current winner of the Champions League while Real Madrid hadn’t reached the title for 32 years.
It was supposed to be an epic Champions League match and the crowded Bernabéu were waiting for the game to start. But something went wrong right before the starting whistle - it was a moment of true unluck coupled with some disorders by the Ultras Sur - as the south goalposts crashed down. Not an April Fools’ Day prank, but a surprising reality.
The referee of the match said that Real Madrid has 30 minutes to solve the problem. Unluckily, there weren’t any spare goalposts at the stadium, so a few staffers tried to fix the damage, but it didn’t work out.
Fans were getting more and more nervous because the club was at risk of forfeiting 0-3 in one of the most important matches of the season. The situation was dramatic.
There, at the crowded Bernabéu, amongst stressful fans and frustrated stadium workers, was only one person who had an idea - Agustin Herrerin (he was just the field delegate’s assistant back then). He asked the referee to give Real Madrid some more time so he could bring the new goalposts. The referee allowed this.
Agustin and Real Madrid’s ex-goalkeeper, Miguel Angel, jumped into a small van and drove to the club’s training ground (not Valdebebas; it was the old one, just two kilometres away from the stadium, where there are now the Cuatro Torres buildings). They drove fast - really fast - along with a police escort. When Agustin and Miguel arrived at the place, they realised that it was empty and closed, so Agustin (63 years of age) climbed the fence (ripping his trousers) just to open the gates from inside.
But then, there was another problem - their van was too small to transport the goalposts. Fortunately, the men spotted the club’s truck driver who had just parked his truck near the training ground. So, Agustin and Miguel asked him for help with the goalposts.
Candido Gomes, the truck driver, remembers: “I just finished my dinner and then Agustin, Miguel, and eight policemen run into me, rushing and screaming that they need my help.”
But there was one more problem on the way! The room with all the equipment, including the goalposts, was closed, and no one knew where the key was. There was only one solution: to use the truck as a battering ram to break the door open. It sounds crazy, but they really did it.
Afterwards, they put the goalposts in the truck and drove at high speed back to the stadium, ignoring red traffic lights and road marking. It took them less than 8 minutes to get back.
The goalposts were transported to the Bernabéu safely and the fans gave a standing ovation to the heroes. The driver, Candido Gomes, said, “Agustin Herrerin was in a cold sweat. If he didn’t have a heart attack that night he will never have one.”
The problem was fixed and the match finally started - one hour and 15 minutes later than planned. This delay caused some difficulties for the players: Fernando Morientes, who scored the first goal of the game, remembers that he was very hungry during the second half, just because the game started too late. But anyway, after all the troubles, the match was played normally.
Real Madrid beat Borussia 2-0, then played 0-0 in the away match and reached the final of the tournament, which was held in Amsterdam. The rest was the usual story, since as we all know, Real Madrid doesn’t just play in finals, they win them. They snatched a 1-0 win against Juventus and captured their seventh Champions League trophy (La Séptima).
But we must remember that La Séptima wouldn’t have been possible if Herrerin hadn’t fixed the problem with goalposts in the first semifinal. The club awarded it’s heroes properly; the driver got a ball signed by the players and a cash award, while Agustin Herrerin was named the club’s lucky charm. Soon after that, Herrerin became the senior pitch delegate. But, most important of all, they both got Champions League medals.
Fortune favours the brave. There won’t be any luck until we create it ourselves. The adventure of Agustin Herrerin on 1 April 1998 proves it, as our troubles appeared one after another and it seemed impossible to make the match happen. But Agustin wasn’t going to give up and he brought fortune to the club with his own desire and hard work.
To add to his legend, there is another story from the early ’90s, when Agustin worked as an inspector of the matches of Real Madrid’s youth teams. There is a tale that says Agustin was the first one who spotted Raúl’s talent and also talked Raúl into joining Real Madrid’s academy (Raúl was playing for Atlético’s youth team at the time).
Agustin is a role model for many Madridistas. For example, some fans from Totana (Murcia) founded a fan club called “La peña Madridista La Decima – Agustin Herrerin” in 2002. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, “peñas” are official Real Madrid fan clubs.
“La peña Madridista La Decima – Agustin Herrerin” was created as a place where Madridistas from a small town could watch every match of Real Madrid and give their support to the club. The president of the peña, Andres Martin, once said, that the idea of dedicating the fan club to Agustin Herrerin was accepted immediately. Andres also said that it’s a great responsibility for all the members because Agustin is one of the most famous and beloved workers of Real Madrid and also the honorary member of the peña.
But a fan club is not the only thing that was dedicated to the club’s pitch delegate. In 2012, one of the streets in Agustin’s hometown Puerto de Mazarron was named after him, for “his humility, generosity, cordiality and his great love for sports and for the town.” Agustin is very proud of it, as he loves this town and calls it “a paradise place”.
Another interesting thing about Agustin is his bracelet of the pitch delegate, as it’s very similar to the captain’s armband. He always wears it during Madrid’s matches.
Here’s another story. On 6 July 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo was stressed out in the tunnel of the Bernabéu. Eighty-thousand fans were waiting for him to appear as a Real Madrid player for the first time, but the 24-year-old football superstar still wasn’t ready to get out of the tunnel. Agustin Herrerin came to Cristiano and had a warm talk with him, trying to calm the player’s nerves. A few minutes later, Cristiano finally appeared on the pitch of the Bernabéu. The presentation was great and Cristiano said he will never forget the moral support provided by Agustin Herrerin.
Now they have a strong friendship. Each time Cristiano shows his new award (such as a Golden Ball or a Golden Boot) to the Bernabéu, he always asks Agustin to take a photo together. Also, in the 15/16 season, Cristiano scored a hat-trick against Celta de Vigo and then presented that ball to Agustin.
So yes, Agustin Herrerin is a good friend of Real Madrid’s players. They even call him “Grandpa Agus”. Sometimes he visits the dressing room to support the players and to have a heart-to-heart talk with them. That’s why Figo, Roberto Carlos, Seedorf, Mijatovic, and many other Real Madrid’s ex-players still attend the Bernabéu, as they wish to see Agustin, who was a mentor for them during their career in the team. He is happy to support the players with good advice or any other kind of help. For example, Agustin helped Steve McManaman find a house in Madrid, showed him the city, and made him feel comfortable at the club.
Agustin loves to give his support to the players and they always support him back, especially in tough or sad moments. On 6 January 2012, Sergio Ramos dedicated his goal against Granada to Agustin’s wife, Margarita, who died at the end of 2011.
Agustin is always ready to help the club if fortune is not on its side anymore. He is an unsung hero, who stands quietly near the tunnel or working in his office next to the dressing room. He represents the best characteristics of Madridismo: humanity, courage, and diligence. He is the true Madridista. He is the lucky charm of Real Madrid.
He is 83 years old now and he has been working at Real Madrid for more than 40 years; 1974-2017. Yes, that’s right, Agustin retired in the summer of 2017 due to health issues. Now, he is retired, but he never misses a single match of his favourite team.
The new pitch delegate of the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is 51-year-old Megia Davila, who is an ex-referee of La Liga. After finishing his referee career, he joined Real Madrid as a referee delegate in 2009. The main part of his job was clarifying any notion or modification of the rules and referee’s decisions to the team. Last summer, he took over from Agustin Herrerin and we can now spot him standing near the tunnel during the home matches of Real Madrid wearing the same bracelet.
So, Megia Davila is the new field delegate, but is he the club’s new lucky charm? For now, I am not sure, as Real Madrid keep dropping points at their home stadium. There will be a long way to go before he learns how to bring fortune to this club in the way Herrerin did.
Please, never underestimate the capabilities of the fans or the club’s workers. This life is full of unpredictable turns and this club is full of surprises. So maybe someday Real Madrid will need someone creative and brave enough to solve problems quickly, just like Agustin Herrerin did. Be ready, because next time you may be Real Madrid’s lucky charm.
In conclusion, I would like to wish good health and good holidays to Agustin Herrerin. I also hope that Megia Davila will have a long and successful career as Real Madrid’s pitch delegate. And, of course, I wish a lot of luck to everyone reading this article today!