Emiliano Martinez hoping hard work pays off with FA Cup final victory
The Argentinian joined Arsenal in 2010 after moving from Argentina.
Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez is hoping to enjoy the culmination of a decade-long journey from home-town poverty to FA Cup-winner this Saturday.
The 27-year-old has had to show patience in abundance to get his opportunity as number one at the Emirates Stadium.
But, after impressing since replacing Bernd Leno after the Germany international was injured in a defeat at Brighton last month, Gunners head coach Mikel Arteta has assured Martinez of a place in his FA Cup final team to face Chelsea.
A loan ranger, the Argentinian had six spells away from Arsenal to hone his craft as his chances in north London were at a premium.
Martinez opted to stay put and fight for his place, but the tough choices started much earlier in his career when he first decided to sign for Arsenal in August 2010.
“In my mind, there was no way I was going to leave my family,” he said when a successful trial in England led to a surprise contract offer from the Gunners.
“My family struggled a lot in financial terms. I arrived back in Argentina and a week after I had the offer from Arsenal.
“They called my agent and my family and I thought it was all about signing a new contract for my club in Argentina because they wanted to offer me one at the time. But it was actually to sign for Arsenal.
“I saw my brother and mum cry, saying: ‘Please don’t go’. But I had also seen my dad crying late at night because he could not pay the bills. So I had to be brave at the time, because I said ‘yes’ for them.
“Now I don’t regret anything. I have got a wife and a kid here and I have a future in London.”
Martinez’s father has kept a close eye on his son’s career in England but, due to the coronavirus pandemic, he will not be able to take a seat at Wembley on Saturday.
“It has been 10 years since I joined the club and at the final whistle (in the semi-final win over Manchester City) everything goes through your head,” added Martinez.
“I wish the fans and my family would be here for the final, obviously with 90,000 or 80,000 people in Wembley, something you don’t play every day.
“As soon as I win, I want to celebrate with my boy and my wife – that’s the circle of life.
“But yes, I wish my whole family was there. Like I said, we came from a poor, poor family and for them to see me there winning a trophy in front of 90,000 people and getting a medal would be something.
“I am so far away from home, it is something to get together. Because of lockdown, I have not seen my mum and dad for a year. It will be tough, but I will be thinking about them when I play.
“I remember the day that me and my brother ate and not my mum and dad. So I know exactly what they’ve been through.
“I was living in Buenos Aires and I would only see them twice a month, when I travelled, because they couldn’t afford the petrol to go and see me. So I know what they did for me to reach the top where I am now.”
I saw my brother and mum cry, saying: 'Please don't go'. But I had also seen my dad crying late at night because he could not pay the bills
- Emiliano Martinez
Martinez will now walk out at Wembley looking to win his first major silverware – and he insists he will be ready after pushing himself during lockdown.
He said: “My wife was saying to me in lockdown: ‘why do you train so much?’ Because I thought I might have my chance, I might do it. And look, I have it.
“After two games I was already fitter than when I left. So when Bernd got injured at Brighton, if you see straight after that I had to make a low save and I made it look easy because I was confident I had done the right thing to prepare for each game.
“Obviously you have to deal with frustration and lack of game-time, but I always believed that I could do it, and I have done it.
“I still think that it’s not enough. Obviously you need to beat Chelsea to complete what you have been fighting for. I have been fighting 10 years to win trophies, not just to reach a final.”