You might not know it yet but if you like to follow Spain from afar, Paloma Antoranz is very important to you.
She is Spain's Xavi Hernández off the pitch; she is the head of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) press team. Just as some players like to block, divert and shepherd other footballers into areas they'd rather not go, there are press chiefs around the world of football who also prefer the conservative approach.
In modern football parlance, they 'park the bus in front of goal'. Then there are midfielders, like Xavi, who believe that football is a spectacle, that it's to be enjoyed, that there is an inherent duty for entertainment, skill and flair. Hence the comparison with the woman who controls the flow of communication between the Spain players, us in the media, and you the fans, who yearn to know their views, hear their reaction to triumph and defeat – to get inside their world.
Paloma, backed by her smart, friendly team of Susana Barquero and José Manuel Ordás, represents a federation which believes the people who fall in love with Spanish football are important, that the media offer an opportunity for intelligent, articulate young men like Iker Casillas, Gerard Piqué, Fernando Llorente, Andrés Iniesta or Xabi Alonso to express themselves and burnish the image of both Spain and its football.
Iker Casillas believes in the power of speaking to the media" ]Casillas has often told me about how the Spanish national side has helped the country's society, its pride and its sense of identity. His press chief has had her small role in that. The mood is open, forward-thinking (very firm when needed) but always with a view to the greater good of football, its fans and its image.
For any journalist, television or radio presenter, a press chief like Paloma Antoranz is like gold dust. But that's not the key reason for highlighting her work. Spain are now holders of the UEFA European Championship and the FIFA World Cup. Having worked around La Roja at international tournaments since 2006 I can promise you that the explosion in terms of coverage and demands for access has been remarkable.
But, somehow, Paloma and her team, backed by a federation where president Ángel María Villar Llona is himself friendly, accessible, visionary and in love with the sport which he played for both Athletic Club and the national team, find ways to help journalists from Japan, China, England, the United States, Sweden – wherever it may be.
There are rules. There are down days when access needs to be controlled. But, like Xavi, the idea is that football should be fun, full of flair, fulfilling – and successful. We like that, don't we?
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