The Limited Times

Now you can see non-English news...

Walter Tavares: "The fear of failure has made me who I am"


The Real Madrid center talks about his hard beginnings in basketball, his bad experience in the NBA and his evolution as a player


Behind such a short name hides an endless man.

Everyone knows Walter Tavares (Maio, Cape Verde, 30 years old) as Edy, the name his father wanted to give him, a sailor who spent six months a year away from home.

But his mother, a store owner, registered the newborn as Walter, one of the couple's six children.

And so the story remained.

Today that boy measures 2.21m and is the most dominant basketball player in Europe.

The Real Madrid center is a colossus on the track, one of the great weapons of his team before the Copa del Rey that begins tomorrow in Badalona.

Outside, he hides his shyness as best he can in that huge body.

Inside it, the boy from Cape Verde is still alive.

And his eyes light up when he remembers his origins.


How is Maio, the place where he was born?


It is an island of about 8,000 people, a humble island.

The most important thing we have is the people, the landscape, the beach.

When you arrive in Maio you have a free tour guide because everyone wants to show our resources.

I always like to go, it's like starting from scratch.

In Maio I recharge the battery.

I do basketball camps to give opportunities to children.


Is it true that there were hardly any baskets when you were a child?


There were baskets, but the boys who played soccer broke them to have the field to themselves.

The baskets did not last long.

When I wanted to play, I looked for baskets on the island, but they were all burst on the ground.

I was obsessed with soccer, even though my friends told me to quit because I was too tall.

I tried handball, because my mother played it.

About basketball I only knew the Jordan brand from the sweatshirts and t-shirts.


What did you learn from your parents?



My mother worked in a store that sold everything.

She was never standing around waiting for the money my father sent.

She has always wanted to be independent and earn her own money.

That marked me.

And my father was six months a year on the ship and six months at home.

It was a hard life.

He worked on a large container ship.

He sometimes sent us photos of the bad weather, of the giant waves.

The helicopters had to rescue them.

It was very shocking for me to see my father go to sea and I didn't know if he was going to come back.

They taught me to earn things on my own.


They signed you from Gran Canaria for some photos.

When he arrived in Spain, what did he know about basketball?


It cost me everything.

I didn't even know how to walk well.

A coach saw me coming down the stairs and said that I couldn't play basketball.

I came without any basis, with anemia, very lazy about everything.

My whole body ached, my shoulders when we did exercises under the hoop.

But there was no other way.

It was either that or go back to my country to be told that I had failed with the opportunity they had given me.

That fear of failure has made me who I am.


Is it true that you signed for Madrid because of Cristiano Ronaldo?


Yes. That was one of the reasons.

But he always wanted to play for Madrid, he thought he would spend a year here and then go to the NBA.

The white kit has always enchanted me.


What is it like off the pitch?



I don't like spotlights.

But measuring 2.20 it is difficult not to attract attention when I go to the movies or for a walk in the Retiro park with my family.

People start chasing me.


Is your son tall too?


It goes along the way.

She has big hands and feet.

Now he is one year old and we are looking at daycare for him.

Children his age are half as old.

Tavares, this Tuesday after training in Valdebebas. Álvaro García


Do you already feel like a leader on the track?


When I started I didn't want to be aggressive, I didn't want to hurt anyone because of my size.

But I realized that I had to be aggressive, hungry to win.

For leader we already have Sergi [Llull].

I am a leader in effort and by example.


Now do you do more things in attack, are you more of an offensive reference and not just defensive?


Yes, I don't wear a ceiling.

I like to do everything, block, steal, pass, score, not limit myself to just one thing.

This year it's more noticeable because the coach [Chus Mateo] gives me much more confidence and freedom.

He always tries to keep me in the game.


Due to his size, do you think that many fouls are called against him and few in favor?


It has always been very difficult for me to understand it.

It's not my fault that I'm too tall to get so many fouls.

Because I'm taller and stronger, the refs allow me to get more and don't treat me the same.

Sometimes at 300 beats for now you don't measure well when talking to the referees, the gesture of opening my arms to protest comes automatically for me and they tell me off for that.

Historic stopper!

🥇 Walter Tavares becomes the top blocker in the

— Baezket (@Baezket) December 15, 2022


What pivots do you pay attention to?


In Marc Gasol.

Is very complete.

It doesn't matter how old he is [38 years old], if he plays running or walking.

He continues to have a lot of impact.

From the NBA I like Embiid and Jokic because they have a lot of talent in attack.


How has Madrid's game changed from Pablo Laso to Chus Mateo?


Chus has tried to keep what was good before and add his coaching touch.

He asks us to run free when we can.

In the static game, do not lose balls.

They are both very winning coaches who have shared time together.

The important thing is to win and that's it.


In the NBA he only played 13 games between Atlanta and Cleveland.

I dont enjoy?


No, I didn't enjoy it very much.

If you don't play... But it helped me because if I hadn't lived through that time I wouldn't be as mentally strong as I am now to withstand everything that happens in games.

I know how to handle emotions better, have temperance.

In the NBA I came to hate basketball.

I only trained and did not play.

I wanted to compete, play, win.


Is the NBA already a closed door?


I don't know.

Here I am very happy, I feel important and loved.

We'll see.


Have you experienced any episode of racism in Spain?


No. There are isolated cases.

Here I have never been through a situation like this.

Sometimes you come across someone who says something they shouldn't, but I have never noticed racism in Spain.

It makes me very angry and sad that outside they think it is a racist country.

It is not.

There are many immigrants.

I have been in Spain for more than 10 years and nothing has ever happened to me.

What happens with Vinicius is because he has a very high status.

It is something specific.


At some point, have you been able to become a Spanish national?


I have always wanted to, but since Cape Verde has a small basketball base, I have continued in that team to help.

I would really like to play with Spain, but they have much more talent and resources than Cape Verde.

Playing with my country and doing my bit is very important to me.

If not, he went head to head with Spain every summer without failing any.


You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes on




, or sign up here to receive

our weekly newsletter


Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits

Keep reading

I'm already a subscriber

Source: elparis

All sports articles on 2023-02-15

You may like

Sports 2023-05-20T21:59:21.439Z

Trends 24h


© Communities 2019 - Privacy

The information on this site is from external sources that are not under our control.
The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.