Gerard Piqué: Andorra and its meteoric rise to the Second Division | Sports | The USA Print

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Andorra training last week.
Andorra training last week.THE COUNTRY

The nerves were palpable in the Estadi Nacional de Andorra, many fans with the airpods hanging by their ears to listen to the radio and pray that Villarreal did not spoil their victory over UCAM Murcia, nor the party with a goal against Linense. Minutes later, the noise echoed in the mountains and there was an invasion of the field to celebrate that Andorra was promoted to the Second Division after 80 years of history. A feat because in December 2018 he played in the Catalan First Division, at which time Gerard Piqué and his company Kosmos together with the Cleyton group decided to buy the club. Three and a half years later, Andorra has risen four rungs: First Catalan, Third Division, First RFEF and Smartbank League. Now the words of Piqué resonate more than ever in the Kosmos offices after acquiring the club and assuming a debt of 300,000 euros. “We are going to make a Monaco!” He yelled, because of playing in Spain from Andorra.

The evolution of the club has been meteoric. In 2018 everything was to be done, since the players crowded into shared apartments and were in charge of doing the laundry. Shortly after, they reached an agreement with the Encamp community and rented the Prada de Moles stadium while making eight signings in one fell swoop and bringing in Gabri as coach. “We became professional. We began to wear Nike, we took care of the players’ clothing and material and we reached salaries so that each one could live at home”, explains Jaume Nogués, manager and sports director of the entity; “Although when we went up in categories we saw that the field was too small for us and we went to the Estadi Nacional”. Field that they have filled with 3,600 people in recent months. “We always believed that if the team went well, the fans would respond because this is a country project”, intervenes Ferran Vilaseca, president of the entity. “Playing in Andorra has the responsibility that a whole country is behind you,” says left-back Martí Vilà.

At the beginning, Andorra went with a loose budget for the First Catalan, so it was enough for them with half a course to ascend. But when they climbed two steps at a time due to administrative promotion –they bought Plaza del Reus–, everything was no longer so simple. “Our budget is around 3.5 million euros, in the upper-middle of the category,” says Vilanova. “Perhaps what has helped us is that we are very clear about the club model and the methodology, which comes from Gerard and Barça because we are looking for associative football, possession football…”, reflects Nogués. This is how they see it in the locker room. “The training sessions are very similar to the lower categories of Barcelona and that is why so many players come from La Masia (six this year),” says goalkeeper Nico Ratti, who arrived in Andorra at the age of 11 and who, after a period away, decided to return to live the project

“There is no magic formula for promotion. This comes because there is a lot of work and because it has been defined from the beginning who has to make decisions. That, plus luck at times and being ambitious has helped us achieve our goals”, Vilaseca resolves. Brave, like last year, when it was decided to fire coach Nacho Castro when they were second. “We were a little surprised because we got the matches ahead, but we lacked a bit of security, a plus, and Eder has given it to us,” says Vilà. “Sarabia has made all the players better because of his understanding and leadership,” adds Nogués, worried that he will have to reshape the squad when he considers everyone in the family. “This is crying at night and making decisions in the morning,” he says. Piqué participates in all this.

It is not strange that Piqué looks out of the stadium when his commitments with Barça allow it. Like this weekend, which celebrated promotion at the Estadi Nacional. “With Gerard I speak almost every day. I don’t hide, all the signings were discussed with him. He is very analytical and likes the big data; it is an important part for decisions”, slides Nogués. In the dressing room they appreciate his presence. “Whatever can come, encourages us and even gets into the locker room,” Ratti extols. “He knows us all and lives this like the most”, adds Vilà. So much so that even when Andorra achieved administrative promotion to the First RFEF, he called the president of the Spanish Federation to ask him not to include Andorra in the Catalan group because he considered it to be the most complicated. I wish that Luis Rubiales said that he would meditate but that he did not accept because the place they bought belonged to the Catalan group. Even so, they have risen and now it is the Andorran entity’s turn to take another step.

It turns out that when playing in the Second Division they need to remodel the Stadium, such as changing the synthetic grass to natural grass. A problem because the field is shared with the Football Federation and the Rugby Federation, and to preserve the pitch they could not use it. “We are looking to reach agreements because we are the last to arrive. But there is no other place where we can play”, regrets Nogués. At least for now because the idea for two years from now is to build a multifunctional stadium in Encamp that has a cost of around 35 million. “We have been working on the project for more than two years with colleagues such as Morabanc and the community of Encamp. We held a competition for architectural ideas, but you have to see the cost because the war in Ukraine makes materials very expensive…”, says Vilaseca. One more step to be that Monaco that Piqué wanted.

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