Aragones sticks to his guns on Raul issue in TV grilling

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National soccer coach holds firm to his decision of not selecting Real Madrid idol for his team.

17 April 2008

MADRID - Throughout the grilling served up by 60 interrogators in the TVE television studio, there was one issue that just would not allow a line to be drawn under it: National football coach Luis Aragones' refusal to select Real Madrid idol Raul for his team.

Fielding questions from the public on the live show, Tengo una pregunta para usted (I've got a question for you), a surprisingly patient Aragones had to explain several times the reasons for the former Spain captain's almost-certain exclusion from the squad which will travel to the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland in June.

"Raul knows it's very difficult for him to go," the 69-year-old coach said, adding that the decision to drop Raul "and others" was a result of the bad start to the European qualifying campaign, when Spain lost in Sweden and Northern Ireland. He stressed that Raul "had been" a great player for his country, but that the future lay with a fresh approach.

That said, Aragones didn't appear especially optimistic about Spain's chances, insisting on the division in the soccer world between winning teams such as Italy and Germany, and the rest - although he did recognize that "inferior" nations Denmark and Greece had managed to become European champions.

If Spain wins, Aragones said, he will walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, prompted by the invitation to do so by a Galician woman in the audience. "With my wife," Aragones added.

He laughed off the racism issue that stemmed from his insulting  description of black French player Thierry Henry, saying he had made friends through the game with all races. "Even I am a citizen of the world," he said.

[El Pais / Jaume Bauza Leira / Expatica]

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