Interview

My hometown

Villarreal defender Pau Torres takes Santi Retortillo on a tour of the Castellón town he grew up in, which both he and the team he plays for fondly call home

ILLUSTRATION Dan Evans

Pau Torres proffers a phrase that, in his mind, sums up Villarreal – both the football club and the town. “I think the saying ‘Sempre endavant’, which the club also uses as its motto, is very representative of this town: we always look forward, towards the future.”

That motto literally means “Always onwards.” It applies pretty well to Torres’s own career with his home-town side, the fruits of which include the Europa League winners’ medal he collected last May and this season’s Champions League adventure. And, as the centre-back explains, it applies neatly to the place itself as well. This is an unpretentious town, an hour north of Valencia on Spain’s east coast, that is home to just over 50,000 inhabitants but has gained worldwide renown thanks to its football team.

“The club has put Villarreal on the map, nationally and internationally,” says Torres. “In the Valencia region, and the Castellón province, we are like lots of the other towns around us – but because of football, people know who we are.” He should know, having grown up in Vila-real (to spell it as the locals do). Indeed, save for the 2018/19 campaign spent on loan at Málaga, Torres has been with Villarreal his entire career so far. Of course, he may yet head for pastures new but as it stands, he’s in esteemed company: the likes of Paolo Maldini, Paul Scholes and Francesco Totti were all local one-club men.

The 25-year-old goes on to explain how his town has been following a similar path to his career. “It has changed – it’s become a bigger town,” he says. “When I was little there weren’t many of the restaurants that we have now. The town square has also changed completely. We’ve had the same cinemas since I was little but we have those big brands, big fast-food chains. And the biggest change has been the football stadium, of course.”

That tight, cosy ground, flanked by narrow streets, opens at one end onto a square where the locals congregate in bars prior to matches. Indeed, on a big European night, it can feel like the whole town has come out to show support. These days the stadium is wrapped in striking yellow tiles – as befits the club’s Yellow Submarine moniker – and has swapped its original name of El Madrigal for La Cerámica, a nod to the most important local industry. The club’s billionaire owner, Fernando Roig, owns Pamesa, the ceramics company that sponsors Villarreal’s shirts (as well as being a part-owner of Mercadona, Spain’s biggest supermarket chain).

“The club has put Villarreal on the map. We are like lots of the other towns around us – but because of football, people know who we are”
By

“When I was little there was a multi-purpose sports hall owned by the town council and it was knocked down so that the Estadio de la Cerámica could be extended,” says Torres. Though one thing remains unchanged: “In terms of population, it’s always been around 45,000 to 50,000, even when I was little.” That population includes his entire family, as well as good friends such as Asier, owner of his favourite restaurant El Vasco. “That’s the place I choose after a match, after a win,” he says. As for his favourite dish, the proximity to Valencia – famed as the home of a particular national dish – means there can be only one answer. “Every family has someone who cooks a good paella, so that’s very traditional in our town.”

Football success has been a more recent habit for a club that emerged on the European scene in the early noughties, reaching a Champions League semi-final in 2005/06 and winning a first major trophy with last season’s Europa League. “There’s that spirit of knowing we’re a small town fighting against some of the biggest teams,” explains Torres.

“Having said that, we’re getting more and more financial support. The management team is doing a great job, and also the number of fans is increasing. But that footballing spirit we’ve always had is still here.” It’s having a knock-on effect too. “The town’s mayor has ensured that the town is synonymous with sport because, aside from the club, we have high-performance facilities for athletes other than footballers. The city is evolving in terms of sport and that’s very good.”

As for tourists looking for something other than sport, the Mediterranean is only 20 minutes away – and Torres has a couple of other tips as well. “San Pascual Basilica is a must when you visit Villarreal,” he says, highlighting the complex of church, convent and museum that houses the tomb of St Paschal Baylón. “It sort of looks over and protects our town, and it’s a really big and beautiful building. Then you can also visit the Mare de Déu hermitage; there’s a vast pine forest where you can have a picnic and go for a walk. Part of the grounds is near a river, so it’s a place to spend the day out among nature. It’s near the stadium as well, so you can go from one place to the other on foot.” 

Ah yes, the stadium. That bright yellow beacon that brings so many people to Villarreal in the first place – and keeps loyal homegrown sons coming back for more. 

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Interview

My hometown

Villarreal defender Pau Torres takes Santi Retortillo on a tour of the Castellón town he grew up in, which both he and the team he plays for fondly call home

ILLUSTRATION Dan Evans

Pau Torres proffers a phrase that, in his mind, sums up Villarreal – both the football club and the town. “I think the saying ‘Sempre endavant’, which the club also uses as its motto, is very representative of this town: we always look forward, towards the future.”

That motto literally means “Always onwards.” It applies pretty well to Torres’s own career with his home-town side, the fruits of which include the Europa League winners’ medal he collected last May and this season’s Champions League adventure. And, as the centre-back explains, it applies neatly to the place itself as well. This is an unpretentious town, an hour north of Valencia on Spain’s east coast, that is home to just over 50,000 inhabitants but has gained worldwide renown thanks to its football team.

“The club has put Villarreal on the map, nationally and internationally,” says Torres. “In the Valencia region, and the Castellón province, we are like lots of the other towns around us – but because of football, people know who we are.” He should know, having grown up in Vila-real (to spell it as the locals do). Indeed, save for the 2018/19 campaign spent on loan at Málaga, Torres has been with Villarreal his entire career so far. Of course, he may yet head for pastures new but as it stands, he’s in esteemed company: the likes of Paolo Maldini, Paul Scholes and Francesco Totti were all local one-club men.

The 25-year-old goes on to explain how his town has been following a similar path to his career. “It has changed – it’s become a bigger town,” he says. “When I was little there weren’t many of the restaurants that we have now. The town square has also changed completely. We’ve had the same cinemas since I was little but we have those big brands, big fast-food chains. And the biggest change has been the football stadium, of course.”

That tight, cosy ground, flanked by narrow streets, opens at one end onto a square where the locals congregate in bars prior to matches. Indeed, on a big European night, it can feel like the whole town has come out to show support. These days the stadium is wrapped in striking yellow tiles – as befits the club’s Yellow Submarine moniker – and has swapped its original name of El Madrigal for La Cerámica, a nod to the most important local industry. The club’s billionaire owner, Fernando Roig, owns Pamesa, the ceramics company that sponsors Villarreal’s shirts (as well as being a part-owner of Mercadona, Spain’s biggest supermarket chain).

Read the full story
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“The club has put Villarreal on the map. We are like lots of the other towns around us – but because of football, people know who we are”
By

“When I was little there was a multi-purpose sports hall owned by the town council and it was knocked down so that the Estadio de la Cerámica could be extended,” says Torres. Though one thing remains unchanged: “In terms of population, it’s always been around 45,000 to 50,000, even when I was little.” That population includes his entire family, as well as good friends such as Asier, owner of his favourite restaurant El Vasco. “That’s the place I choose after a match, after a win,” he says. As for his favourite dish, the proximity to Valencia – famed as the home of a particular national dish – means there can be only one answer. “Every family has someone who cooks a good paella, so that’s very traditional in our town.”

Football success has been a more recent habit for a club that emerged on the European scene in the early noughties, reaching a Champions League semi-final in 2005/06 and winning a first major trophy with last season’s Europa League. “There’s that spirit of knowing we’re a small town fighting against some of the biggest teams,” explains Torres.

“Having said that, we’re getting more and more financial support. The management team is doing a great job, and also the number of fans is increasing. But that footballing spirit we’ve always had is still here.” It’s having a knock-on effect too. “The town’s mayor has ensured that the town is synonymous with sport because, aside from the club, we have high-performance facilities for athletes other than footballers. The city is evolving in terms of sport and that’s very good.”

As for tourists looking for something other than sport, the Mediterranean is only 20 minutes away – and Torres has a couple of other tips as well. “San Pascual Basilica is a must when you visit Villarreal,” he says, highlighting the complex of church, convent and museum that houses the tomb of St Paschal Baylón. “It sort of looks over and protects our town, and it’s a really big and beautiful building. Then you can also visit the Mare de Déu hermitage; there’s a vast pine forest where you can have a picnic and go for a walk. Part of the grounds is near a river, so it’s a place to spend the day out among nature. It’s near the stadium as well, so you can go from one place to the other on foot.” 

Ah yes, the stadium. That bright yellow beacon that brings so many people to Villarreal in the first place – and keeps loyal homegrown sons coming back for more. 

Interview

My hometown

Villarreal defender Pau Torres takes Santi Retortillo on a tour of the Castellón town he grew up in, which both he and the team he plays for fondly call home

ILLUSTRATION Dan Evans

Pau Torres proffers a phrase that, in his mind, sums up Villarreal – both the football club and the town. “I think the saying ‘Sempre endavant’, which the club also uses as its motto, is very representative of this town: we always look forward, towards the future.”

That motto literally means “Always onwards.” It applies pretty well to Torres’s own career with his home-town side, the fruits of which include the Europa League winners’ medal he collected last May and this season’s Champions League adventure. And, as the centre-back explains, it applies neatly to the place itself as well. This is an unpretentious town, an hour north of Valencia on Spain’s east coast, that is home to just over 50,000 inhabitants but has gained worldwide renown thanks to its football team.

“The club has put Villarreal on the map, nationally and internationally,” says Torres. “In the Valencia region, and the Castellón province, we are like lots of the other towns around us – but because of football, people know who we are.” He should know, having grown up in Vila-real (to spell it as the locals do). Indeed, save for the 2018/19 campaign spent on loan at Málaga, Torres has been with Villarreal his entire career so far. Of course, he may yet head for pastures new but as it stands, he’s in esteemed company: the likes of Paolo Maldini, Paul Scholes and Francesco Totti were all local one-club men.

The 25-year-old goes on to explain how his town has been following a similar path to his career. “It has changed – it’s become a bigger town,” he says. “When I was little there weren’t many of the restaurants that we have now. The town square has also changed completely. We’ve had the same cinemas since I was little but we have those big brands, big fast-food chains. And the biggest change has been the football stadium, of course.”

That tight, cosy ground, flanked by narrow streets, opens at one end onto a square where the locals congregate in bars prior to matches. Indeed, on a big European night, it can feel like the whole town has come out to show support. These days the stadium is wrapped in striking yellow tiles – as befits the club’s Yellow Submarine moniker – and has swapped its original name of El Madrigal for La Cerámica, a nod to the most important local industry. The club’s billionaire owner, Fernando Roig, owns Pamesa, the ceramics company that sponsors Villarreal’s shirts (as well as being a part-owner of Mercadona, Spain’s biggest supermarket chain).

“The club has put Villarreal on the map. We are like lots of the other towns around us – but because of football, people know who we are”
By

“When I was little there was a multi-purpose sports hall owned by the town council and it was knocked down so that the Estadio de la Cerámica could be extended,” says Torres. Though one thing remains unchanged: “In terms of population, it’s always been around 45,000 to 50,000, even when I was little.” That population includes his entire family, as well as good friends such as Asier, owner of his favourite restaurant El Vasco. “That’s the place I choose after a match, after a win,” he says. As for his favourite dish, the proximity to Valencia – famed as the home of a particular national dish – means there can be only one answer. “Every family has someone who cooks a good paella, so that’s very traditional in our town.”

Football success has been a more recent habit for a club that emerged on the European scene in the early noughties, reaching a Champions League semi-final in 2005/06 and winning a first major trophy with last season’s Europa League. “There’s that spirit of knowing we’re a small town fighting against some of the biggest teams,” explains Torres.

“Having said that, we’re getting more and more financial support. The management team is doing a great job, and also the number of fans is increasing. But that footballing spirit we’ve always had is still here.” It’s having a knock-on effect too. “The town’s mayor has ensured that the town is synonymous with sport because, aside from the club, we have high-performance facilities for athletes other than footballers. The city is evolving in terms of sport and that’s very good.”

As for tourists looking for something other than sport, the Mediterranean is only 20 minutes away – and Torres has a couple of other tips as well. “San Pascual Basilica is a must when you visit Villarreal,” he says, highlighting the complex of church, convent and museum that houses the tomb of St Paschal Baylón. “It sort of looks over and protects our town, and it’s a really big and beautiful building. Then you can also visit the Mare de Déu hermitage; there’s a vast pine forest where you can have a picnic and go for a walk. Part of the grounds is near a river, so it’s a place to spend the day out among nature. It’s near the stadium as well, so you can go from one place to the other on foot.” 

Ah yes, the stadium. That bright yellow beacon that brings so many people to Villarreal in the first place – and keeps loyal homegrown sons coming back for more. 

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