In Tajonar the bustle does not stop whether it is a holiday or a work day. The small town of barely 400 inhabitants nestled in the Aranguren valley feels the breath of Pamplonadue to its proximity, and is on the world football map thanks to the facilities that Osasuna built there in the early eighties of the last century. A sports complex that is the envy of many and that rubs shoulders with the largest quarries on the planet, to which powerful clubs look to try to launch their recruiting network.. About 200 kids strive to excel in the tough world of football in this factory of red dreams. There, 15 teams train sports daily, plus the two leading teams, the men’s and women’s teams, and the Promesas team.
With the strong crisis unleashed a few years ago, the red club had no choice but to look more closely at its core. And he had the right person, Jagoba Arrasatea man very attached to the base, who arrived in 2018 with the idea of giving the kids many opportunities. “I come from the Real Sociedad youth team, I was in youth football and then I moved to the first team. The greatest asset that Osasuna has is Tajonar; and the Real, Zubieta. I believe in that a lot. What you have to do first is work well, and then be brave with those decisions,” the Berriatua coach tells AS.who had the opportunity to be with all the youth players who currently make up the first team, well, seven of the eight, because David García was with the National Team.
It all started with Juan Pérez at Osasuna’s debut in Mallorca in the 2018-19 season.
First debut of a youth squad with Arrasate
Since the arrival of Jagoba until the emergence of Jorge Herrando last May, 19 youth players have debuted under his command. It all started with Juan Pérez at Osasuna’s debut in Mallorca in the 2018-19 season. Endika Irigoien, Javi Martínez and Aimar Oroz followed that same course. These last two repeated their debut in the First Division with the help of the former Real and Numancia coach.
The one who broke all the molds was Moncayola. “For me, making someone debut is being sure that they can establish themselves or have a career in the first team. The clearest example is him,” Arrasate said on his day. And the charismatic midfielder goes into more detail: “In recent years, a lot of people have joined the ranks, a sign that they are doing very well at Promesas. The responsibility lies with Castillejo. He has been working with the kids for years on that last step. It’s good that people come on board who know how to work and how things work. The more there are, the better. Hopefully in coming years the number will increase.”
A study carried out by the CIES Football Observatory determined that Osasuna is the sixth most important school in the world, taking the five main leagues (England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France) as a reference. and according to the percentage of minutes of homegrown players, whose status is acquired if they have played at least three years between the seasons in which they turn 15 and 21.
Patxi Puñal, Osasuna legend and now technical director of Tajonar, hits the key when he talks about this process: “The boys and girls who are here feel the closeness and normality. We are Family”. Near him is Ángel Alcalde, director of grassroots football. “Osasuna is above all essence, humility, understanding that there is always something to learn from or help with. Respect and commitment prevail here,” he usually lists.
Navarra is the community with the greatest presence of players in the First, Second and First Federation, assessing the impact per 100,000 inhabitants. “We look for talent under the rocks and we give absolutely everything for each boy,” the sports director, Braulio, recently reflected. The rojillo club created the Tajonar Method, a revolutionary way of being and working to relaunch Tajonar. With 150 clubs signed up and 20,000 footballers in the orbit of its quarry throughout the region of Navarra, no one doubts that the best thing is to imitate its concepts to succeed.
150 agreed clubs and 20,000 footballers in the orbit of their quarry throughout the Navarra region
“I love the project that is being built and I want to be part of it. When you see people coming up from below it comforts you even more,” David García, the spearhead of this training work, usually indicates. In Tajonar they affect the sports, academic, health, social, emotional and human aspects. Something like Tajonar DNA to reach such dimensions. “Having been here has to give you something, beyond football, Tajonar has to be a guarantee of success in sports and in the human world,” say those in charge.
This method has already attracted the attention of other quarries. The first team players train by position with the youth players, all of this is given normality. “They breastfeed Osasuna from the moment they are born and all that generates a feeling of belonging,” Puñal summarizes. Arrasate acts as the last father in this entire journey. “Sometimes it is possible to get youth players forward out of necessity. When a club situation is delicate and you cannot sign people from outside, we turn to the youth team, but that should not be like that, it should happen in good times. And Osasuna, in that aspect, is pulling Tajonar because we see that people are prepared, and we also believe in that idea.” He agrees that David García “is the greatest exponent of this work right now,” something like “the icing on the cake.” “The important thing is that in the first team there are many youth players, and in other teams, Tajonar is very alive. That powerful image of David playing with the Spanish team is the culmination.”
“Osasuna, in that aspect, is pulling Tajonar because we see that people are prepared, and we also believe in that idea”
Jesús Areso is, possibly, the best person to talk about the virtues of Tajonar. He left for Lezama as a child, raising a lot of dust, and then he wanted to return home. Since he did not renew with Athletic, he spent the last year in the stands. A very hard stage. He is now happy in Pamplona. “The Tajonar quarry is spectacular, with eight players integrated into the first team. The other day he read that in the Spanish team there were five or six Navarrese in the squad and he attracted a lot of attention. Osasuna brings out players from its quarry and there is not only quantity but quality.” An authority says this, because he was also able to see how work is done in Lezama, another of the large factories in Primera.
“A big fault lies with Arrasate, for the trust he gives us, after passing through the hands of Santi Castillejo and Iván Santafé”
For its part, Oroz is one of the great pearls. She was in the U-21 recently, but, being from 2001, she has already aged out. Her contract ends in 2026 and is in negotiations to renew. “We have players coming out every year. For the kids it is an extra motivation and for us, an opportunity to play for the club of our lives, something very nice.” He does not hide that “a big fault lies with Arrasate, for the trust he gives us, after passing through the hands of Santi (Castillejo) and Iván Santafé (the Promesas coach and his assistant), as well as the category coaches “inferior.”
Kike Barja is only 26 years old, but his journey is long. “I’m still young, but you see that the seasons go by and kids who arrive like Jorge (Herrando), Iker (Muñoz), Aimar (Oroz) are four or five years older than you, which in football is a long time.”. We are a lot of young people and it makes me very happy to see how many youth players are in the first team. We have a promising future with those who come.” The winger extols the merits of this work seeing that current football looks first at what is outside and then at what is at home. “It has merit that last year the club had one of the best seasons in its history and there were a lot of youth players and a lot of Navarrese. We have been in the First Division for five years and players are brought in from abroad to make that leap in quality, while those from home are They continue to be there, even at a high level like David (García), who is in the National Team. “I like to see that in such a complicated world in which the level is increasingly higher, there are still Navarrese who are showing such good football.”
In that sense, Moncayola adds that the kids have good qualities and seem prepared to make the leap to the elite “but then you have to put them on”, because all this is a process and “there are people who have had a harder time and others who have come up and played right away”. For him Arrasate ends up giving opportunities to the people at home and that is the most important
The raw material is very good and the spirit that runs through the facilities is fantastic. Now the goal is to modernize the school. They hope to improve the buildings of the sports city, something for which they will invest the money received from the CVC fund. Pablo Ibáñez is the hero of last year’s Cup semifinal in San Mamés. One of the last to make the leap. “The point is that confidence is given to the quarry and that way players come out. It’s as simple as that. Those from below are giving the level, Promesas rose to First Federation, to a more complex category and that makes them compete better, with more demands. It is a key piece and they are working very well for those who come up.” And it is conclusive: “I am in the ideal team, the one from my land, where I have always dreamed of being. The coach gives us confidence, and if we have more minutes, the desire to continue working increases even more.”
“The Garcías, David and Unai, who paved the way, have welcomed us very well, you are comfortable and it is easy to perform at your best.”
Iker Muñoz is the youngest of this group of players that has emerged from Tajonar to First Division. “If there are so many of us it is because things are being done very well since the kids enter the club. You can see the fruits in the first team. Arrasate puts us and everything flows.” He confesses that the Garcías, David and Unai, those who paved the way, “have welcomed us very well, you are comfortable and that way it is easy to perform at your best.”
“In other places they may have more quality, but here we are hard-working and constant. There is less ego,” summarizes Herrando. “For any kid from Navarra it is a pride to represent this shirt and I am very happy to be one of them. I have been following David (García) since he joined the first team, and then when he went to Leonesa, you see what he has become, and it would be an honor to be able to reach his level, also learn from Catena and Unai (García) ”.
“Other clubs are superior financially, but we compete with them in terms of training. Before they had to leave, now they don’t,” emphasize the rectors of the facilities. “It is hard to see children leaving family, friends and home. We want them not to be compensated for that effort,” says Alcalde.
Unai García positions himself in that same direction. “It’s nice that there are youth players on all the teams. In Osasuna there is more feeling of roots and the people are very identified, that is why it is one of the clubs that focuses the most on its own. It is very important for their survival and there will be streaks, but now the kids are coming very strong and we are very happy.” Seeing his ‘brother’ David with La Roja fills him with emotion. “We are getting used to seeing him enter many call-ups. I remember the first time they called him, I was happy as if it were my own call-up, I have been with him from the bottom, we suffered in the Second Division and now he is in the National Team is amazing.”