Chilling with Carli de Murga: On Azkals, panget music, and great literature

Originally posted on InterAKTV.

Carli de Murga does not consider himself a role model for little kids wanting to do well in football.

“I think that I am not especially the role model to look up to, because there are things that I have done well and others not so well,” de Murga explains in Spanish. “To be a good football player, one must do everything well.”

It’s quite a contrast for the surroundings of where this interview took place. It was a bright and sunny late April morning, and the European International School (EIS) Football Cup was in full swing. De Murga, together with Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss and fellow players Chieffy Caligdong, Misagh Bahadoran, and Patrick Reichelt, was invited to grace the event.

Around us, a couple of highly competitive football matches among boys aged 7 to 13 years old are in full swing, with their parents cheering on.

While he doesn’t see himself as a role model, de Murga acknowledges the importance of gracing football events for young kids. “We help promote football among the little kids,” he says in heavily accented English. “Now, football is developing in the Philippines and in a few years, we hope it would take big steps and reach higher levels.”

Carli de Murga has momentum on his side, enjoying regular appearances for club and country since arriving in the Philippines from Cadiz, Spain in late 2011. This right back has shown smarts, skills, and a commendable work rate on the pitch.

Today, off the pitch, he’s just chilling under a tree, taking in everything behind a very hipster pair of shades. Our interview is a smattering of English and Spanish, a rather unusual mix in this part of the world — even I thought this would be a bit of a struggle.

When asked what the most challenging aspect of relocating to the Philippines was, he says, “The weather… and I have a big problem with the traffic.” And the food? “I like Filipino food!” he exclaims. “In Spain, my mom cooks Filipino food for me.”

It’s easier, however, to get de Murga talking when we’re talking about the more personal aspects of football. He’ll openly share his experiences, his preferences, and will even dish out a secret or two about his teammates.

“When I arrived back in Spain (from the Philippines), I found in my place a Filipino community that had shirts with my name, and they had a fan club called Carli’s Angels,” he shares, disclosing the best thing his supporters have done for him.

“I’m very excited to play against China in June,” he chatters away. “I heard the head coach of China is Spanish. He was previously the coach of the Spanish national team and of Real Madrid.”

“Jose Antonio Camacho?” I venture.

“Yes, Camacho,” he agrees. “He’s a very good coach.”

(Editor’s note: The planned friendly against China has been cancelled, with the Azkals taking on Guam instead.)

When asked what else he hopes the Azkals would achieve in 2012, de Murga responds without missing a beat, “The Suzuki Cup, I want to win that.”

I asked if he also thinks his club, Global FC, would win the United Football League, he says: “Yes, I think… I cannot say that we’ll win the UFL, but we’re going to do our best to maintain our position. If we don’t have too many injuries, we have a strong team, and we’ll get there.” He added that Loyola and Stallion are Global’s toughest competitions in the league.

De Murga breaks into laughter when asked about having to replace Neil Etheridge in the Azkals’ AFF Challenge Cup semifinal match versus Turkmenistan, after the Philippines’ first-choice goalkeeper was handed a red card for kicking Gahryman Chonkayev.

“I really like playing as a goalkeeper,” he says animatedly. “In Spain, when I go to play with my friends, I always play as a goalkeeper, because I can’t get injured. They say I’m a good goalkeeper!”

“When Neil got the red card, I thought, ‘This is my time!’” he laughs. “I could finally show my goalkeeping qualities!”

It may not be surprising to display such versatility. After all, de Murga grew up in a land where football is part and parcel of the culture, but his reasons for picking up the sport is just right at home.

“I started playing because of my brother,” he shares. “He taught me and brought me to games. He’s the reason I got into football.” And as with any Spaniard that treasures the romanticism in football, de Murga supports FC Barcelona. “They won’t win La Liga this year,” I jabbed. “No, no, no, we cannot win always,” he responds, taking it good-naturedly.

Being a Culé, one must wonder as to which player de Murga looks up to. He is quick to identify Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Xavi as the players he admires, but upon prodding, the first football shirt that he owned was a Barcelona kit with Pep Guardiola’s name at the back.

De Murga also opens up about his teammates. When asked who is más inteligente (the smartest), he pauses and says, “Yu Hoshide.” The best dressed? “Sorry, I don’t know.” He also goes on to explain why Angel Guirado has the worst taste in tunes — which teammate Misagh Bahadoran describes as panget music. “He always listens to party music… like David Guetta.”

Now this begs the question, what music does Carli de Murga listen to? “I listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beatles.” Impressive, if you ask me.

De Murga also dishes on a question that many Global FC fans may have asked at one point. Who takes the longest in the shower? “Me and Angel,” he quickly responds, eliciting laughter from those that heard the answer.

If there’s one thing that could be gleaned from spending a few minutes with Carli de Murga, it’s the fact that it’s hard to place him in a box. He’s the right back that enjoys donning the goalkeeper’s gloves, the Culé that actually said a Madridista coach was very good, and the football player that enjoys a good book.

“Do you have a favorite book? Líbro? “Matar un ruiseñor,” he shares. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. “It is a favorite of my dad’s, and I was young when I first read it.”

A bagful of surprises, indeed.

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