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Michael Robinson: the Englishman of Cádiz


Michael Robinson, who died today aged 61, once said to me: "Alfre, these chaps know something the rest of us don't know." He was talking about Cádiz in that famous season he joined Osasuna and ended up in the relegation group, along with the side from the south of Spain, who were bottom of the table all season but saved themselves in the play-off to sent Racing down. He was so fascinated by Cádiz president Irigoyen's trick that he decided he wanted to be 'Gaditano' (someone from Cádiz) and went in hunt for Cádiz blood in his veins, focusing on the theory, difficult to prove, that he was descended from a sailor from the Spanish Armada, shipwrecked on the west coast of Ireland, where his mother's family were from. He went so far as to invest in the club and became its technical director.

But it wasn't just Cádiz that fascinated him, it was the whole of Spain, starting with Pamplona, where he had arrived somewhat preoccupied that he couldn't find the city of Osasuna on the map and was worried it was absolutely tiny. There he was thrilled by the Sanfermin fiestas, where the running of the bulls takes place, and decided to celebrate his goals with swish of the bullfighters cape. Later, in his trips all over Spain with Canal+, he never once found anywhere in the country where he didn't like the landscape, the culture, the food and the drink. His unique gaze captured it all. Once, crossing the vast empty spaces of Castilla, he said: "And with all this empty land you've got here, why would you want Gibraltar?"

He was happy among us Spaniards, and made those of us who enjoyed his company happy too. Witty, intelligent, a natural communicator, with a sense of friendship and the spectacular that made him one of a kind. Here he made his home, with his family, delighted with his new country though he never put up with jokes about England. He didn't let a single one go. The only time I saw him sad was when his fellow citizens voted for Brexit. He felt betrayed. His illness, however, never got him down: "Look, this is going to kill me sooner or later, but it's not going to kill me while I'm alive." He never complained, and right to the end made everyone around him happy. Thank you Robin, thank you for everything.