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Monday was a very interesting and productive day for the residents at La Masia. The boys and girls received a visit from Juan Carlos Unzué, former Barça keeper and goalkeeping coach, who presented his new biography alongside its three authors, journalists Ramon Besa, Marcos López and Lu Martín. Unzué has been diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and he gave out some life advice: "We have to look for things we can control to face difficulties; you have kick against it with a positive attitude."
Juan Carlos Unzué enjoyed a successful career as a footballer but it was not without its difficult moments. For the Masia residents to get an idea of what it was like, especially for an Unzué who made his debut in the Spanish First Division at the age of 18, he explained some key moments in his career: "When you have a weak moment, look for someone you have confidence in to share it, that shows humility."
Five stories that are life lessons
The first of those moments came when Unzué was starting out on his career at Osasuna and how he went from being runner-up in the U20 World Cup to not even being in the squad in Pamplona. Instead of complaining, Unzué recalls how he improved as a keeper until he was first choice, outlining the importance of not worrying about things you cannot control and giving everything to impress your coaches.
The second story involved his arrival at Barça at the age of 21. After signing an eight year contract he sees Andoni Zubizarreta firmly installed as first choice goalkeeper. As he did not feel of use in the squad, he decided to search for happiness in another team and he packed his bags for Sevilla. Unzué explained the importance of the 'journey', the day to day and of learning from the competition that you have had.
Unzué jumped to 2010 to explain his third life lesson. It is when Barça under coach Pep Guardiola had just won the treble and Unzué was goalkeeping coach. He decided to jump at the chance to make his life's dream come true, be a coach himself. Everyone says he is crazy to leave a top side like Barça but he tried to show the residents at La Masia that you have to be brave and daring in everything you do.
The fourth story comes from when he was coach at Numancia and he lost his first four games in charge. Unzé admitted he felt helpless, without his family, and with the need to share his worries with someone. It is then that he picks up the phone and explains his worries to his three great Barça friends (Luis Enrique, Guardiola and Eusebio) who encourage him to fight on. Conclusion: don't be afraid to ask for help from your family or friends at a difficult time as it's vital to express how you feel.
The final story comes from when he was back at Barça in 2015. With Luis Enrique as coach, Barça had once again won the treble but several played approached Unzué worried by rumours that the coach was about to leave, and that if he stayed they would continue to win things. Unzué's reflection was on the importance of enjoying the present.
A book to raise money
The three journalists who have put together the biography talked about what a privilege it had been to look into the life of Juan Carlos Unzué. 'Una vida plena' (A full life), is a book based on the recollections of people who have been close to Unzué during his life; family, professional colleagues and friends. Now, as a ALS patient, he is moving into a new stage of his life. A big challenge that has led him to fight for way to raise money to fight the disease. All the benefits from the book will go to such a cause.
Talking to the residents, Unzué explained that "team sport at the highest level forces you to make decisions from a young age," just as the young sportspeople at the La Masia have had to do to leave their families in pursuit of their dreams. The former goalkeeper urged the residents to always try at least to not have "regrets in the future when you look back."
The journalist Lu Martín summed up the book at the end of the event: "The book talks about life, football, goalkeeping and the whole journey." A journey that now involves ALS, another obstacle to overcome.
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