FIU soccer goalie Daniel Gagliardi said he “feels bad” for any announcer who has to try to pronounce the 22-letter, unhyphenated last name of Panthers freshman midfielder/winger Andoni Garrogerrikaextebarria.
“We have plaques in our locker-room with our names on it,” Gagliardi said. “I didn’t think it was going to fit for Andoni, but they made the letters very small.”
It took Andoni until he was five years old before he could both say and spell his last name, a Herculean effort for anyone at any age.
“I would sound it out at the dinner table,” Andoni said, “and my parents would correct me when I would say it wrong.”
Andoni’s name is not only long … it’s also lengthy in its history, dating back 300 years to the Basque region in northern Spain.
The easiest way to figure out Andoni’s name is to break it into three parts:
▪ Garro is the family surname.
▪ Gerrika was the name of the town.
▪ Etxebarria was the name of the house.
That house, in the Basque Country town of Munitibar, has been in the family’s possession for three centuries. Made of sturdy stone, the six-bedroom, three-bathroom structure has stood the test of time, with help from several renovations along the way.
Andoni’s maternal grandmother still lives in that grand house, along with his uncle, aunt and nephew. Andoni’s father, Aitor, may have remained there if not for his professional jai-alai career.
Aitor was a crafty backcourt player who spent the prime five years of his career in Mexico. Playing under the name “Garro”, he continued his career in Tampa in 1995 and started competing in Miami in ’98.
He retired two years ago at age 47 but not before Andoni was able to watch him compete.
“It’s nice to see your father play a professional sport,” Andoni said, “especially when you see how he takes care of his body, drinks plenty of water, stretches, manages his sleep and ices away whatever pain he had. He set a good example for me.”
Andoni said he tried playing jai-alai — the “world’s fastest game” — but just for fun. Instead, he has chosen to try to make a career out of soccer, known as the world’s most popular game.
A 5-10, 150-pounder from Doral Academy, Andoni has yet to score a goal or dish an assist as a reserve for the Panthers, who are off to an impressive 7-0-2 start.
FIU coach Kevin Nylen said Andoni was an “under the radar” recruit.
“He’s an attacking player and a stronger runner,” Nylen said. “He’s got a great athletic pedigree and a bright future.”
Andrew Booth, one of FIU’s team leaders, said he’s impressed by Andoni.
“He hasn’t gotten as many minutes as I thought he would,” Booth said. “But he’s one to watch. After we [seniors graduate], FIU is in good hands with him.”
Andoni, who plans to major in international business, said he can’t wait to make his name at FIU.
And, no, he would never dream of changing his surname.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “People remember me because of my name.”
A kicker to this story is that Andoni’s sister — a high school student at Doral Academy — said if/when she marries, she will just add a hypen and the new name to what she has now.
Now that would be a really long name.