Mano results roundup: Ipar Kutxa Final and Cecilio’s debut by frontonnews
Ipar Kutxa Final

The Ipar Kutxa Tournament is a doubles competition involving some of the best pelotaris not entered, or no longer involved, in the Manomanista Championship. Each empresa entered two pairs as follows:

For Asegarce: Berasaluze VIII – Begino and Olaizola I – Mendizabal II
For Aspe: Gonzalez – Laskurain and Titin III – Pascual

In the first semi final, which took place in Villamediana de Iregua on 16th May, Asier Olaizola, a losing Manomanista quarter finalist, and Oier Mendizabal defeated Titin III and Pascual 22-15. The second was a tight affair which saw the victors escape the clutches of their opponents only in the dying points of the game. Those victors were Sebastian Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain, who triumphed over Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino by 22 points to 18 in Bermeo.

The final was held on Saturday 30th May at Beotibar in Tolosa and in a tough encounter, where the scores were tied at 15-15, the plaudits went to Gonzalez and Laskurain, who eventually ran out 22-16 winners over Olaizola I and Mendizabal II. In a match which lasted 73 gruelling minutes, fatigue set in for the losing pair as the skill of Gonzalez proved telling.

Cecilio delivers dream debut

Today (Sunday 31st May) saw the professional debut of the 21 year old Riojan Cecilio Valgañón in his home town of Ezcaray. The defender recently signed a two year contract with ASPE. Hailing from the Titin III Centre for High Performance, Cecilio is the under 22 World Champion and also won the Diario Vasco Tournament in 2008.

In his first match for his new empresa, he was paired with his fellow Riojan Titin III against Capellan and Goni III and he could not have got his career off to a better start. In a 22-7 victory, the debutant and his veteran partner crushed the life out of their considerable opponents. Titin was on sparking form, particularly ruthless in his aggressive hooks and beautifully delicate in his deft touches to the corner. Cecilio too showed impressive skill, especially from the back of the fronton from where he let rip with his powerful right arm. He displayed a young man’s lack of nerves as he entered into the tough new environment of professional mano, and on this showing he should thrive. He and Titin were aided by the errors of their adversaries; while Fernando Goni was for the most part his usual solid self, Capellan was a clear second best to Titin and appeared at sea. As the winning shot was struck, Cecilio’s sizable fan club erupted with a barrage of drumming and shouting, before the young man was hoisted aloft, the hero of the evening.

Cecilio Valgañón González
Date of birth: 28/09/1987
Place of birth: Ezcaray (La Rioja)
Weight: 92 kg
Height: 1.89m
Position: defender
Past results: Campeonato del Mundo, sub-22, 2008; Campeonato de España de Clubes, 2008; Campeonato Diario Vasco 2008; Campeón GRAVN sub-22 parejas, 2007

New pro Cecilio

New pro Cecilio

Image from: ASPE

Manomaninsta Championship: Agirre crushes Laskurain by frontonnews
April 7, 2009, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , ,

Monday 6th April
Beotibar, Tolosa

The citizens of Tolosa did not seem to have match enthusiasm for this encounter and the 200 afficionados might have been forgiven for wishing they had spent their evening elsewhere, for this was a parade rather than a match. The scoreboard tells the tale of a game which was all about Imanol Agirre.

Agirre was Aritz Laskurain’s superior in every possible department. The Bizkaian raced to a 5-0 lead as the game began, his only lapse coming in letting his rival level the scores. Laskurain showed some promise in winning five straight points and then working his way to 7-7, but it was to end there for the man from Soraluze as Agirre stormed to the victory with 15 unanswered points. Agirre served solidly and defended excellently, turning every position in which he found himself into one of attack. Laskurain had no answer to the unbreachable wall his opponent built with every shot. Relentless pressure told as he committed a total of seven unforced errors to Agirre’s one. Laskurain missed this championship last year through injury and he barely made more impression here.

Agirre will progress to the second round where he will meet Penagarikano at the same venue on Saturday.

Scoring sequence: 5-0, 5-5, 7-5, 7-7 and 22-7.

Source: Diario Vasco

Aritz Laskurain: out for the count

Aritz Laskurain: out for the count

Mano pairs: Saint-Jean-de-Luz treated to the Xala show by frontonnews
February 14, 2009, 12:56 am
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Friday 13th February
Fronton Maurice Ravel, Saint-Jean-de-Luz

On Friday the pairs championship travelled to the northern side of the Pyrenees for a match in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a resort of the Belle Epoque known more for its beaches, architecture and cuisine than for its contribution to the history of pelota. But as far as the four pelotaris were concerned there was little time to soak up the atmosphere as this competition has reached crunch time; every win must now be considered gold dust and every loss a monumental blow. This was a hard match to call given the fact that each side was forced to field a substitute, Leiza for Berasaluze VIII and Zubieta for Laskurain, but in a fronton named after that famous half-Basque composer Maurice Ravel, it was Xala who made sweet music.

In the early tantos, the encounter had the makings of a hard fought nailbiter. Contrary to the later flow of play, it was Zubieta who appeared error sticken, hitting low to cede each of the first two points in almost identical fashion. Xala showed glimpses of his excellent form before hitting wide and succumbing to a Leiza gantxo which put him on his back. Begino joined the party with two errors and the score was all tied at 4-4. However, it was then that the man from Lapurdi, playing in his home province, began to show his class to take the score to 12-4 in the Aspe pair’s favour. Although their opponents managed to eke out six more points in the course of the match, they were soundly beaten from the moment Xala cut loose. He baffled and bamboozled Leiza with his drop shots, which verged on the nonchalant, his gantxos, which travelled like bullets, and a pair of cross court hooks into the side wall which left his forward rival nowhere to be seen. In a masterful display, he has surely tightened his grip on the league which decides the tournament’s best player. Such was the magnetism of Xala that Zubieta was almost anonymous. However, although he hit no winners of his own and made four rather careless errors, he was an invaluable foil for his flashier colleague. Once the initial wobbles had passed him by, he hit fearsomly and solidly, providing a firm platform from which to attack.

Notwithstanding the excellent play of their opponents, the Asegarce pair made far too many errors to be competative. Begino persistently hit either low or high from the back, unable to match the consistency of his opposite number in defence. He even elicited boos from a small sector of the intermittently animated crowd when one such mistake opened up a twelve point deficit. Leiza, for his part, was simply outplayed by Xala. Although he managed a late flourish in the form of a gantxo winner, he was never on terms as the Aspe forward sent him darting right and left in an increasingly futile effort.

This result will have come as a stinging disappointment to a pair who have been very much on the up in recent weeks. Pablo Berasaluze sprouted wings to take them into second place overall last week but on this occasion he was forced to watch from the stands, dejectedly chewing gum, as his substitute lost the plot. Xala and Zubieta on the other hand, have given themselves a genuine chance. The plot of this extraordinary championship thickens….

Scoring sequence (Xala and Zubieta first):
0-1, 0-2, 1-2, 1-3, 2-3, 3-3, 4-3, 4-4, 12-4, 12-5, 17-5, 17-6, 18-6, 18-7, 18-8, 21-8, 21-9, 21-10, 22-10

Xala ruled the roost

Xala ruled the roost

Image from:

Mano pairs: Bengoetxea and Beloki on top in Eibar by frontonnews
February 2, 2009, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday 1st February
Astelena, Eibar

It took Oinatz Bengoetxea and Ruben Beloki 75 minutes to defeat Yves Sallaberry and Aitor Zubieta last night in Eibar, in a match where the ball was struck 687 times. When his partner Aritz Laskurain injured his hand last week, Xala was united with Zubieta for this encounter in which they needed a point as a matter of some urgency. On the evidence of the past few weeks, they were clearly the weakest of the Aspe pairs, standing as they did in seventh place. Bengoetxea and Beloki were just as hungry, needing wins to have any chance of a semi final berth. This urgency on the part of both sides put this hard fought match into some sort of context. In the rather sparsely populated stands, a pensive and slightly grim faced Laskurain looked on as his partner and his replacement failed to do the job.

In the early stages, the match was perfectly balanced with winners from Xala and Bengoetxea combining with errors from Beloki and Zubieta, who both had early trouble finding their range from the back. However, with the score on 4-4, the Asegarce pair, tentatively at first, began to pull ahead, through some clever tactical play and impressive hooks and smashes from the manomanista champion Bengoetxea. The Asegarce forward has appeared to lack a gameplan in his matches thus far but here was dominant, countering the volleys of Xala and demonstrating his speed and agility in both defence and attack. He and Beloki looked ordered and well drilled and clearly knew what they had to do at every given point. For their part, Xala and Zubieta did not play a bad match. Bengoetxea and Beloki tried at various times to put the replacement defender under pressure but he proved himself a tenacious opponent. He made several errors but was not as weak as his opponents had hoped and is clearly a bright prospect for the future. Xala fought doggedly with Bengoetxea but the inspiration lay chiefly with the latter.

Both pairs remain in a perilous position in this competition, lying sixth and seventh respectively in the table of eight, but the Asegarce pair took the point which gives them hope. They will take some confidence into their next match against former leaders Gonzalez and Barriola. For Xala and Zubieta (Laskurain remains on the sidelines for another week), Sunday brings the prospect of defending champions and current leaders Olaizola II and Mendizabal II.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 3-2, 3-4, 6-4, 6-5, 10-5, 10-7, 11-7, 11-9, 15-9, 15-13, 16-13, 16-14, 21-14, 21-15 and 22-15

Oinatz Bengoetxea

Oinatz Bengoetxea

Written with the partial help of Diario Vasco as I only saw half of the match!

Image from:

Mano pairs: Olaizola I and Patxi Ruiz record first win in dismal game at Beotibar by frontonnews
January 27, 2009, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Monday 26th January
Beotibar, Tolosa
Olaizola I/Patxi Ruiz beat Xala/Laskurain 22-21

Asier Olaizola and Patxi Ruiz can afford themselves a sigh of relief at finally opening their account in this year’s championship but there will be little satisfaction in it, for this was one of the worst matches the competition has seen in some time. The crowd at Beotibar witnessed a catalogue of errors, numbering 23 across the four competitors, from start to finish. The worst of the play came from the two defenders, Patxi and Laskurain. Laskurain did however have something of an excuse, having injured his right hand with the score at 13-13, leaving Xala working overtime in a futile attempt to compensate. This was the chance that Asier and Patxi craved; surely all they had to do was to wait for the afflicted and increasingly despondent Laskurain to make errors? But they could not capitalise, failing to exert any meaningful pressure on their labouring opponents. A string of errors from Patxi Ruiz took the score to 18-13 in Aspe’s favour but Laskurain then took his turn to miscue, allowing the gap to close to 21-20 before he gave the victory away. Even his uninjured hand could not save him from a very public purgatory. The Asegarce pair took the winners’ point simply because someone had to be the first to reach 22.

Aritz Laskurain will be out of action for at least a week and possibly two. His place will be taken in the next round of matches by Aitor Zubieta.

Scoring sequence (Olaizola I/Patxi Ruiz first):
0-6, 6-6, 6-7, 7-7, 7-10, 9-10, 9-11, 11-11, 11-12, 12-12, 12-13, 13-13, 13-18, 16-18, 16-20, 20-20, 20-21 and 22-21

Aritz Laskurain, in happier times

Aritz Laskurain, in happier times

Mano pairs: Pablito and Begino victors in Tolosa by frontonnews
January 20, 2009, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday 19th January
Beotibar, Tolosa
Berasaluze VIII/Begino beat Xala/Laskurain 22-17

Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino of Asegarce earned a valuable point last night in Tolosa, defeating Yves Xala and Aritz Laskurain, who were unable to maintain the form which saw them vanquish the defending champions last week. Begino was the player of the match and dispelled any lingering doubts about the state of his right hand after an operation earlier in the winter. Laskurain, his opponent in defence, could not live up to the standards of his rival and committed a total of nine errors, six balls falling short and three landing wide. Pablo Berasaluze played well enough, although was not up to the level he achieved last summer, but he did sufficiently well to keep Xala at bay. Xala did however enjoy a better game than Laskurain, showing at least intermittent sparkle and doing his best to pin Begino to the back of the fronton. It was he who fuelled an Aspe recovery which saw the score move from 19-10 to 21-17 thus keeping the match alive, but he and Laskurain came up short and it is they who now languish in the bottom half of the table.

Sources: Asegarce, Diario de Navarra

Pablo Berasaluze

Photo from