(CNN Spanish) — Emiliano “Dibu” Martínez had already achieved his dream before winning the 2022 World Cup in Qatar (and, furthermore, as the best goalkeeper in the entire competition).
What the Aston Villa player from England dreamed of was playing a game with the Argentine senior team. One nothing more and his wish would have been fulfilled.
“The truth is, my dream was to play a game with the national team. That was my dream from day one. I played all the lower ones. ‘I need to play in the Major League, an official match,’” Dibu recalled in the interview he gave to the journalist Sebastián Vignolo for “In the first person” of Star +.
However, as he himself admits, the dream began to get bigger, to the point that, since his debut in the Major League just a year and a half ago, he has already achieved everything with the Albiceleste: the Copa América 2021, the “Finalissima ” in June of this year and, now, the greatest glory of football with the world cup.
“Then you start dreaming big. When it was the Copa América, I dreamed of winning it. Now I am going to play in a World Cup and I dream of winning it, I dream of being the best goalkeeper in the World Cup”, Dibu said in that interview, a few months before the championship, without knowing that in the future reality would surpass imagination.
But how did it get to this point? In large part, everything is due to his family.
Damián Emiliano Martínez Romero was born on September 2, 1992 in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
El Dibu did not really start out as a goalkeeper, because, according to what he told Star+, from the age of 5 to 11 he played as a pivot in his school’s futsal team, a school called “La Sagrada Familia”.
But getting to that school meant a great sacrifice from his parents: his mother worked 10 hours cleaning houses, while his father is a man from the port, going to work at dawn.
“(As a student I was) somewhat lazy, I think, but my mother put us in a school, the Sagrada Família, which was private, between public and private. Good education. That’s why my mom worked ten hours a day (cleaning houses), but education gave it to me. And my old man used to go to the port at dawn, I rarely saw him. My old lady would leave us at the bus stop at 06:30, 7 in the morning, and she would see her at 9, 10 at night when she came home from work, ”Martínez mentioned in the interview.
When he turned 12, Dibu reached the lower ranks of Independiente, an Argentine club where he met his representative and from where he began to grow like foam.
In just two years, he was called up to the Argentine sub 15 and then he also went through the entire sub 17 process with the albiceleste. This is why his dream was to play a game with the majors: he had already gone through the paths of the inferiors; now he was aiming higher. Who would have thought that the dream would come true many years later, until 2021?
Martínez said that the offer to continue growing came to him very quickly. After being runner-up in the 2009 South American Championship with the under 17s, the young goalkeeper received a contract from England’s Arsenal to take him to their lower categories, which took place in July 2010 with a 17-year-old Dibu, according to the specialized site Transfermarkt .
irregularity and stability
Despite the fact that growth was unimaginably fast, Dibu would go through one of the things most feared by any footballer: irregularity in competition.
Since his arrival at Arsenal, Martínez could not find a place in the London club and went through x teams on loan: Oxford United, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham, Wolverhampton, Getafe and Reading. Six clubs in a span of nine years (2010 to 2019).
And we are not talking here about lack of capabilities. Dibu’s mentor at that time was coach Arsene Wenger, who has always been recognized for training and giving young players from the “Gunners” an opportunity.
Martínez was a soccer nomad, but Wenger was one of the few who knew that this was what he needed: a lot of experience until his time came.
Proof of this is what Wenger said a few days ago: “I’m very happy for him (for his arrival in the World Cup final). We were aware of his enormous qualities. He had determination, a desire to learn and a great passion for football ”, said the technical director in an interview for the Daily Mirror.
“Sometimes he went out on loan and didn’t even play. But that didn’t stop him from believing and motivating himself. When I watch him play now, knowing what he’s been through, I admire his achievements even more. Well done Emi, we are proud of you,” Wenger added to the British outlet.
Stability finally came when Arsenal decided to sell Dibu. No more loans. In September 2020, the London club sold Martínez to Aston Villa for just over 17 million euros.
Since then, Dibu have made 91 appearances for the Birmingham city club, allowing 114 goals and collecting 30 clean sheets.
26 matches with the oldest: Dibu at the top because “it’s free to dream”
No one will know for sure what happened. The Dibu thanks God; it may have been the work of chance; or, perhaps, destiny already had the path traced for him. But, as of 2018, most of Martínez’s soccer moments have been a sea of happiness.
It is true: with Aston Villa it has not been the desired path. Since his arrival, the team has remained in the middle of the table, with a 7th place in the 2021/2022 season as his best tournament.
But with Argentina the story has been very different. And perhaps everything began to take shape (not counting his time in the lower ranks) in the World Cup in Russia, when the Albiceleste lost in the quarterfinals against France.
“In Russia, I was with my brother (in the stadium) and I promised him that the next World Cup was going to be whatever, that I was going to be in the World Cup. I promised. There are some who say ‘dream big’. It’s free to dream,” he told Star+.
Also in 2018 was the birth of his first son, Santiago, who is now four years old and is one of the most important pillars of Dibu.
“Since my son was born I began to play more, to concentrate more. More for him than for me. And the truth is, my career was on the rise, ”he added.
As we already know, in 2020 it was his arrival at Aston Villa and, in 2021, he made his long-awaited debut with the Argentine major.
And what a way to do it: in June of that year, the starting goalkeeper for the Albiceleste was Franco Armani, but sick with covid-19which resulted in Dibu starting and debuting with the major.
From there, Emiliano Martínez has not released ownership of the Argentine goal again. He was a starter in the 2021 Copa América championship, and, as if it were a good luck omen, Ava, his second son and first daughter, was born while he was competing.
So far, with the World Cup in Qatar under their belt, Dibu has accumulated 26 matches with the major (all under the direction of Lionel Scaloni), in which they have allowed only 13 goals and have achieved 17 clean sheets.
In Qatar he was the protagonist of the penalty shootout in the quarterfinals in which Argentina beat the Netherlands (two saves), in the semifinal against Croatia when he kept a clean sheet and in the final against France, with a crucial save in extra time and another to the Coman penalty to lead the Albiceleste to the title.
Celebrate with dances, harangue your teammates and provoke your rivals.
“Nobody knew me. Two years ago in Argentina, ‘it’s more English than Argentine’, they might say. And Scaloni, I think after the semifinal (of the Copa América against Colombia, when saved three penalties), I told him ‘thank you for betting on me when nobody knew me,’” Martínez told Star+.
Now, looking back, everything is pure history. At 17 years old, she left everything behind to go to England, grow up and, above all, help his parents because they needed the money; 30 years old, Dibu is world champion.
With information from Uriel Blanco and Sebastián Jiménez