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Updated 08/01/2021 at 06:00
Go back to the place where you grew up. To the "island" where he cultivated, from the age of five, a passion that led him to cross the pond for the first time: the punta basket. On a frosty morning, Israel Asiáin Gil (Cabanillas, 33 years old) acts as a guide in the sports complex of his hometown. There he remembers his beginnings in the frontons, the two with which the municipal facilities have, as if ten years had not passed since his professional debut in the State of the Sun. “Going back to Cabanillas is like going home”, he presumes.

After the end of the 'Fall Challenge' in mid-December, the last competition of the year, his departure from the professional team of 'The Casino Dania Beach' in Florida was confirmed. He was thus consuming, almost by mistake, his particular American dream barely a month after having fought for a totally insufficient visa. An end as abrupt as it is unwanted.

"When you apply for a visa there are three options: they approve it the first time, they deny it or they ask you for more information," he explains. "I and four more pelotaris - among them, Rubén Bailo, also from Navarre - asked us from Tallahassee, the capital of the state of Florida, for more details about us, such as appearances in the press, our achievements and sports awards ...", he says .

The process, which was delayed in time, prevented his reincorporation to the Dania puntista squad on October 1, the date set for the start of the last competition section, and postponed his landing to November 18. A drawback that also deprived him of being able to adhere to the possibility of extending his stay until May 2021. "I was unlucky," he says.


“Ten years ago they approved your visa in three weeks, but since 2015 things have started to drag on in an unusual way. In addition, in the first years of my debut, the company paid us the visa procedures, the plane flight to go to Madrid to stamp the passport ... Today everything is on our account ”, reviews who in 2010 made the leap to professionalism in the footsteps of other cabanilleros such as 'Txelis' Rodríguez, Javier Rodríguez and Luis Javier Alonso.

Amid the uncertainty and the infuriating North American bureaucracy, Asiáin contracted COVID-19 on Navarrese soil . A positive that was confirmed on October 13, showing itself at 38.5 ºC (101.3 F) and wreaking havoc for a dozen days. “I took the complete 'pack',” he says, “It was also curious because they just approved my visa when I was having the worst symptoms. I was so exhausted that I was not excited ”.

The Navarrese does not hide his feeling that after all they have preferred to do without him. “Two days after arriving in Florida, I went up to the office of Benny Bueno, Dania Jai ​​Alai's mayor, to ask what my situation was and what plans he had for me. After taking a detour, he ended up saying that he did not count on me for the season from February to May, that if the visa conditions change with the new president of the United States, he may have the option of returning in September ”, he recalls.


With all this, the survival of the top basket sheltered from Dania's casino "hangs by a thread" at a time when the Pelotaris staff and the company must agree on a new collective agreement for the next four years. "The company has condensed the calendar into three seasons, from 36 baseball players they are going to reduce the workforce to 28, they have lowered salary contracts ... they have cut everywhere," he says, "In my opinion, what they want is to get rid of this sport. as soon as possible and, as soon as the law allows it, to put in place more machines on the fronton ”.

For now, and awaiting news in May and June, Asiáin will try to help out at the Cabanillas ball school, which currently has a quarry of 40 puntistas, including a dozen women. The most faithful love. “The stage of the basket is not over for me, if it is not Dania, it is here”, he remarks, “The first day I returned home I spoke with the president of the club to register my federation file and be able to be of help. It's what I want to do now ”.

Diario de Navarra article on Israel


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