La Liga's Real Betis footballer Marc Bartra on the 'worst 15 minutes of his life'

Updated: Nov 20, 2019, 09:05 IST | Shawn D'souza | Mumbai

In an interview, Marc Bartra talks about his early years in football, the bus attack, his return to La Liga, his favourite personality and more.

Real Betis' Marc Bartra during a La Liga game. Picture/ AFP
Real Betis' Marc Bartra during a La Liga game. Picture/ AFP

Marc Bartra who is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a center-back for Real Betis and had also played for Barcelona in the past. In an interview, Marc Bartra talks about his early years, the bus attack, his return to La Liga and more.

You're originally from Tarragona, but first you went to Espanyol's academy before going to La Masia when you were 11. Tell me what it was like to grow up at La Masia, the experiences you had and what it was like to play amongst so many top players.

It was really good. I started out at Barça alongside my brother at the age of 10, so I was very young. I remember that my years there were wonderful, but I had a lot of responsibility at the same time. I think there's a subconscious type of tension to want to train well and improve every day because there's so much competition there with teammates from Catalonia and all over Spain, or even the whole of Europe as you go up through the age groups. There's so much competition and that's a good thing for continued development and improvement, but you do have responsibilities and are under pressure from a young age, which isn't easy to cope with. I was always treated very well there. I didn't go to La Masia for the first few years. I started a bit later when my studies became more difficult as I got older. I enjoyed some very good years there.

On April 11th, 2017, the team bus was attacked and hit by 3 explosions. Unfortunately, you suffered some of the consequences but thankfully you’re in one piece, safe and sound. You once described the experience as 'the longest and hardest 15 minutes of your life.' Do you still think about it, and how does it still impact your life now?

Yes, it's actually something that I've taken as a positive, given all the bad things that can happen in such situations. It was the toughest moment of my life. That's why I've always wanted to separate it and remember the good times I spent there. I always say that you come out of bad moments with gritted teeth and you also learn from them. I think that's also what makes me the person I am today. I believe I'm the same person, but even stronger. I never throw in the towel and I think you have to make the most of every situation to develop, above all, as a person and not just as a footballer.

A few months later you came back to Spain with Real Betis. Was that experience one of the reasons you decided to come back to Spain, or did you just feel it was time to come back home and back to La Liga?

It wasn't an easy decision by any stretch. We made a very good start in my second season, won lots of games and were top of the league under Peter Bosz. I was a key part of the team, but when we suffered lots of injuries one month, I started playing in a different position as a full-back. We began to drop points and weren't winning matches. There was a change of coach and once that happened, I was less involved. I was getting call-ups to the national team and there was a World Cup that summer. If I learnt anything there, it was the importance of not wasting time or making anyone else waste theirs. The opportunity to move to Betis and return to LaLiga came up and the fact that it was Betis certainly made me want to come back more because I knew what a big club it is and about the huge and supportive fan base. I knew it was a good opportunity to pick up where I left off in Germany and before that in LaLiga. I was able to get back into the swing of things and in truth, those first few months were among the best and most important for me professionally. First of all, because of the confidence that Quique Setien showed in me, along with all the fans. We won plenty of games in that time and I was able to get playing time under my belt, allowing me to remain in the national team squad. On a personal level, I had my second daughter, so those five months were very successful. It wasn't enough to go to the World Cup in the end, but I know I went very close and it came down to fine margins. I've been very happy here since day one in terms of the club, the city, my teammates and LaLiga, which I think is the best league of all where the best players in the world play. The level has been going up so much in recent years and the competitiveness is incredible because of the players and teams competing in it. I'm enjoying it.

What’s it like working with new Betis coach Rubi?

Rubi is a coach who likes to keep possession and have a complete team in every sense, whether it means having more of the ball or adopting a more direct approach. I think he's a coach who has mastered every area of the game. Despite that, we've had matches in which things haven't gone our way, but I do think we're becoming a complete team that knows how to play with and without the ball, which is very important nowadays, considering that every LaLiga side is so hard to play against. I think we're also a compact team without the ball and we've been proving just that.

We can’t finish without talking about Joaquin, Mr. Real Betis himself. He’s an absolute icon, both at Betis and in LaLiga, a showman, a comedian, everything… what’s it like to have him as your teammate?

He's the leader in terms of humour and happiness, as well as on the football side of things. You could say he's the thermometer in the dressing room. If we need an injection of positivity and for him to be himself, he always does just that. He can make us all feel better just with his way of being, but when he needs to, he's the first one to take a step forward and be serious. I think that helps in every sense. He's a player with a wealth of experience and now he's around 38, which is incredible. I think that experience brings so much to the dressing room.

Would you say he’s the most unique personality you’ve ever played with?

Well, I've played with so many big personalities (laughter). I remember Dani Alves, for example, but Joaquin is such a fun guy. There's not a bad bone in his body and he's one of those players who you remember because he brings so much to the team's game, which makes him a key figure in the dressing room.

Marc Bartra has previously played for Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. Since he joined Real Betis, defender Marc has played 49 games and scored 2 goals. He has five La Liga titles to his name

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