The man behind the memes: Inside story on Spain’s most controversial presenter

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It is not often that a near three-minute video clip in a foreign language goes viral in the UK.

But then, not many clips are quite as melodramatic, expressive and downright barmy as the one which did the rounds on Twitter in the wake of Real Madrid ’s Champions League semi-final second leg defeat to Chelsea in May.

For those of you who have not seen notorious Spanish presenter Josep Pedrerol’s extraordinary outburst towards Eden Hazard on his show El Chiringuito de Jugones – what have you been doing with your life?!

But to put the incident in a bit of context, here is what happened…

Josep Pedrerol went viral in the UK for a dramatic rant about Eden Hazard

Hazard, who has not exactly set the world alight since his big-money move to the Bernabeu in 2019, was pictured laughing and joking with his former Blues teammates just seconds after the final whistle at Stamford Bridge.

An unwise move given the circumstances, perhaps, but one which surely would not be dwelt on too much, right?

Wrong.

An hour after full-time, at midnight in Spain, El Chiringuito starts, and a spotlight shines on Pedrerol sitting in a dark studio, rubbing his hands like a Bond villain and shaking his head in disgust with X-Factor-style sound effects blasting in the background.

After seven seconds staring ominously into the camera, he begins in his distinctive gravelly voice.

“Madrid eliminated, and Hazard laughs…”

Cue another booming sound effect and a picture of the Belgian flashing up on a big screen behind him.

A deep, mournful sigh. “Two years taking the p*** out of Real Madrid. Two years.

“Overweight, without speaking… Madrid spent years chasing him, negotiating hundreds of millions of euros for him… and now they are out, it’s possible that he can find something funny?”

This diatribe continues, the tone alternating between despair and fury, until it reaches its epic conclusion.

“Hazard… Hazard… Hazard cannot continue for ONE MORE SECOND at Real Madrid.”

The video quickly exploded on social media, and English viewers were left shocked by the overblown nature of it all, in a manner which would make even Jeff Stelling blush.

Pedrerol and his guests have a reputation for going over the top

For Pedrerol, however, it was just another day at the office.

Speaking to The Mirror via Zoom from the balcony of his home in Madrid, he laughs as he is asked about the speech.

“Which one?” he asks. “I talk about Hazard a lot.

“Look, you can’t always expect a player to be a success. But you should be able to demand they are professional, and that means leaving your heart and soul on the pitch in a game, looking after yourself, having a good diet and so on.

“After that particular situation (vs Chelsea), you can at least show humility, and I could not understand how he of all people was laughing after that. He doesn’t understand what Madrid signifies.

“It was never my intention to go viral. My image appeared in a cartoon in The Guardian , which was a big shock. I was simply angry with what Hazard did, and let my emotions take over.”

Those familiar with El Chiringuito will know that this was far from the first time the show has been accused of going over the top – and it certainly won’t be the last.

Yet it is undoubtedly the biggest and most popular football programme in the whole of Spain, and attracts hundreds of thousands of viewers every night despite its unusual late-night start time.

El Chiringuito divides opinion in a similar way to that of Love Island on these shores.

Some see it as nothing more than a light-hearted, frothy entertainment show, which does not take itself too seriously and is just a bit of fun.

Others accuse it of being trash TV which actively spreads false rumours and cannot be considered real journalism.

Pedrerol clearly does not give much thought to the critics.

“If you don’t like it, don’t watch it,” he shrugs. “There are plenty of shows far more boring than ours that people can watch.

“In Spain a chiringuito is a restaurant next to the beach, and that is the atmosphere we try to re-create – friends sitting around, chatting informally about a topic we are all emotionally invested in: football.

“We simply have passion. Some say that we shout too much and that we don’t do journalism like it should be done. But don’t forget we also provide big information.

Florentino Perez appeared on the show for a huge exclusive interview in the wake of the European Super League news
(Image: El Chiringuito TV)

“It was us who broke the news that Cristiano Ronaldo would leave Madrid, that Sergio Ramos had an offer from China, that Zinedine Zidane would re-sign for Madrid and that the Copa Libertadores final would be played in Spain.”

Indeed, the show is certainly not short on exclusives, and they got their biggest ever scoop as recently as April when the mastermind of the failed European Super League, Florentino Perez, appeared in the studio to give his first interview on the project just 24 hours after the news first broke.

It was the night in which Perez first made his infamous claims that young people were bored of football and that his plans would help save the sport from destruction. The quotes made headline news all around the world the next day.

“That was huge for El Chiringuito ,” Pedrerol admits. “When the Super League news broke I immediately contacted Perez to say ‘Come and speak to us, explain everything here.’ He said ‘Ok.’ And that was that.

“It was not like a press conference with questions prepared. We simply sat and chatted about everything from the Super League to Ramos, Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe…

“It made El Chiringuito go worldwide, and the engagement from social media was phenomenal.”

And how does Pedrerol himself feel about the claims Perez made that night?

He suddenly looks pensive, as if trying to weigh up what his largely-young audience would feel compared to himself.

Pedrerol has also interviewed stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo

“The pandemic has changed everything,” he says. “I think the youth got used to doing other things while there was no football. They are not used to spending two hours watching a game without doing anything else. And while you and I may prefer watching on a big screen, they prefer on a mobile.

“Football does have to adapt, and the idea of big matches every week is appealing. Yet I don’t agree with teams being there without merit. If Sevilla finish in the top four, for example, why shouldn’t they be there?

“The idea is still alive, trust me, and the clubs involved are still talking amongst themselves. But it needs clarification on meriting a place. They have to find a mix.”

Pedrerol is a hugely engaging figure, and it is difficult not to be drawn in by his natural charisma and joie de vivre.

But he and his co-presenters have sometimes been accused of overstepping the mark and going too far in their hounding of certain footballers, such as Gareth Bale.

Pedrerol pauses for some time to consider whether he has done anything he has ever regretted in his seven years on the show.

“I always say to guests who come on El Chiringuito something very important: ‘The mother of a footballer must never go to bed crying.’

El Chiringuito penned a special song for Eden Hazard

“We discuss footballers’ performances, of course, but never their personal lives, such as if they like going to casinos or to parties. That is prohibited in El Chiringuito .

“With Bale, for example, I don’t think we were too harsh. This is a guy who never integrated, who barely speaks a word of Spanish.

“There are certain things you cannot do – like be more interested in watching golf than Real Madrid.

“Ok, with Hazard we may have written a song about hamburgers, but it was related to his sporting performance.”

Yes, you read that right.

El Chiringuito really did include a feature in one show in which one of their guests sang a popular Spanish pop song with the lyrics altered – ‘Hazard likes being treated like a star, but he forgets it when he’s eating hamburgers’ being one, and ‘Hazard likes being praised at night when he’s eating chips’ another.

You certainly wouldn’t get that on the BBC.

Of late even more clips have gone viral as the show has gained more notoriety in the UK.

There was a remarkable silence timed at two minutes and 37 seconds live on air as Pedrerol and his guests reacted to the ‘bombshell’ news that Ramos could re-join Sevilla.

And even more recently Pedrerol was joined by a gigantic red electronic clock – used to count down the final seconds of Lionel Messi’s contract at Barcelona rather than the imminent destruction of the world.

Amid all this attention Pedrerol’s stock seems to have never been higher, with the 55-year-old even recently appearing on Spain’s version of The Masked Singer dressed as a frog.

And after nearly 40 years of an eventful career in journalism, he appears more enthusiastic and driven than ever.

Pedrerol appeared on Spain's version of The Masked Singer

El Chiringuito has now grown to two million followers on Twitter, three million on Facebook, and we have a strong presence on Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitch,” he continues.

“The main thing for me is to wake up every morning with the desire to work and do different things. It’s a fantastic job and we are very lucky to be able to do it.

“Sometimes I meet people on the street who say ‘I don’t like football, but I watch El Chiringuito because it keeps me company’. That’s the most beautiful thing you could possibly hear.

Like them or loathe them, Pedrerol and El Chiringuito do not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

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