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Villarreal C’s Burriana connection
Villarreal C’s Burriana connection

Joan Ruiz and Pau Cabanes have gone from kickabouts together as kids to triumphing in the C team

The young talents of the province of Castellón continue to triumph in the Yellows Academy and that makes us, from time to time, have beautiful stories like this one. Joan Ruiz and Pau Cabanes are both from the same town, Burriana, and share a dressing room, that of Villarreal C, despite the fact that the latter still belongs to the U19s (Juvenil A) and is between the two teams. Joan and Pau form the Burriana connection in the C team.

“It is an honour to represent, in this case, Burriana. Being two players from the same town in the same team makes it even more special,” confesses Ruiz. Both of them enjoy their passion at José Manuel Llaneza Training Ground after a similar career, moving from their local team to CD Roda and from there to Villarreal CF.

A special connection

A special connection. From the streets to professional pitches. This is how Joan Ruiz defines how he feels with his countryman on the pitch: “I think we have a special connection. I know him very well because we’ve played a lot of games together since we were kids and I know his movements on the pitch and he knows me. We have a special connection. It’s spectacular. Pau has already shown in the first few games that he’s a guy who’s good enough to play for Villarreal C”.

And, as Cabanes explains, “even after the confinement we used to meet many days to have kick-abouts in Burriana and that’s also where you learn. He is more defensive and used to mark me and now he knows me.” So, the understanding forged in the afternoons on the streets is bearing fruit in Tercera RFEF.

No place like home

Being in one of the best youth academies domestically and internationally and being able to continue living at home surrounded by your own people is a luxury available to very few players in training, but Joan and Pau enjoy it on a daily basis. “Playing for Villarreal is a real privilege and even more so if I’m 20 minutes away from home. Most of my teammates live far away from their families and you really appreciate it. To finish training and go home for lunch and wake up there is priceless,” said the midfielder from Burriana.

Ruiz also adds the value he gets from “having that double life that my teammates can’t have, like spending the afternoon with my parents”. “I’ve been away for a year and now I value much more what it’s like to be at home with my people. But what I value most is that Villarreal is my home. It’s like a second family. The trust I have with my teammates, coaches and physios at the Training Ground means being in an atmosphere of happiness and good vibes.” he says with emotion.

For his part, the striker is grateful to be part of the Yellows family: “Since they gave me the opportunity to play here I didn’t think about it. It’s the club I’ve always looked up to and the fact that it’s next to my home is a luxury. They give a lot of opportunities to people from the province and we all have the example of Pau Torres”. The references of the province that they have ahead of them are also a point of motivation. “The fact that players like Carlo, Rodri, Marcos and Jordi are in the B team is a mirror in which we look at ourselves. Other clubs don’t usually have so many home-grown players and here you see that they ‘give you a chance’, even if you’re not from elsewhere,” says Cabanes.

Their time in Tercera RFEF

Joan, born in 2003, is one of the veterans in the squad coached by Jandro Castro, while Pau, from 2005, is looking for his first opportunities in senior football as he takes his final strides at the top of youth football.

“I feel very comfortable. There is an incredible group and a good atmosphere, but when we have to be serious we are. On an individual level, I’ve felt very welcomed by the group. This year I’m second captain and I’m taking on a bit more responsibility. I feel I have an important role in the team”, says Ruiz, while Cabanes has adapted perfectly to the dressing room: “Both the team and the coaches have made it very easy for me. You notice the change in the league, but not in the way we play. It’s as if it were my team.”

Happy in yellow

Undoubtedly, one of the moments that Pau will remember most from his time at Yellows Academy in a few years’ time is his first goal in the Tercera RFEF… in his home town! The striker from Burriana scored the goal at the Planelles against CD Burriana. “My family was obviously very happy because I scored and some of my friends laughed at the fact that I celebrated the goal quietly so they wouldn’t lynch me,” he jokes.

Joan, on the other hand, was fortunate enough to experience the UEFA Youth League from the inside, something that excited him from that 26th May in Gdansk: “I was at the Europa League final in Poland and I remember getting really excited about Villarreal’s title and knowing that my generation was going to play in the Youth League. And that feeling of complete happiness increased with the start of the competition: “It was crazy. It’s an experience that I’m going to keep for the rest of my life as a spectacular memory. Being able to travel on the plane with the first team and visit other countries was spectacular. The games were complicated against big name teams and that makes you better yourself personally and football-wise.”

So, both are living their particular good moment at Villarreal CF while enjoying the company of family and friends when they are not at their second home, the José Manuel Llaneza Training Ground.