Tuesday, September 22, 2020 - 02:00

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Alejandro Villanueva's

favorite beach

(Meridian, Mississippi, United States, 1988) is Bolonia, in


, where the Baelo Claudia ruins are.

There, one of the two Spaniards who currently play in the


returned every summer to visit his family.

Every year without exception, until this strange 2020 starring the coronavirus.

At the end of last June, the

Pittsburgh Steelers

'offensive tackle'

had his suitcases ready to return to Spain when the European Union put travelers flying from the

United States

on its 'black list'


A summer on the other side of the pond where a house was bought in


for when he retires and where he rested for the football league that started this weekend.

From there he talks to EL MUNDO about his life, his career and current political and sports affairs in the United States.

The one that he, the son of a Spanish military man and a

veteran of the US Army

, starred in 2017 when he was the only player on his team who took to the field during the anthem while his teammates stayed in the locker room to protest abuses by the police. .

He won't have had a vacation this summer. Zero.

I've run out of them.

I always go to Cádiz because I have my whole family there, but my flight was canceled.

How have you experienced the Covid-19 situation? I live 45 minutes from the city and in our area there have not been many infections.

Here people like the space, the typical American house with a garden in the forest.

In Spain the whole world is closer.

I was in Miami and there was more there.

My father passed it and had no symptoms, so I can say it has not affected me.

Why Miami? When I'm done playing I'll go there.

I miss Spanish and when I was in the city the streets were Almería, Granada ... And everyone spoke Spanish.

I started to think about the idea of ​​going to live there.

I am from Cádiz and the beach is what makes me most happy. I have read that he has studied an MBA.

Are you preparing for what will come after the NFL? I left the Army to join the NFL with the idea of ​​paying for the MBA.

I never aimed to be an athlete, but in America education is expensive.

You can go into debt, bet on the MBA and think that you are going to be in a job that gives you enough to pay the debt ... But I did not want that.

And in the NFL even if you spend a year on the bench they can pay you half a million dollars.

I tried and have finished the MBA a couple of years ago.

I played for that, until they paid me so much (in 2017 she signed a four-year, 24 million contract) that ... Many have said that this year they do not play for Covid.

Does it seem exaggerated, and what is not exaggerated with this pandemic?

There are people who believe that due to the structure of their contract it is not worth it, they believe that there are some gaps in the agreement with which they were not comfortable.

If you hurt yourself in the preseason and they don't pay you for the year ... The decision is cheaper than for health reasons, I think. Have you had any close cases?

Some partner who does not want to play or who is afraid. I think it is linked to your political feelings about what you think of the pandemic.

Everyone in my group wants to play.

If they test us, we will not be safer off the field than on.

You can't rationalize "I'm going to stay home" and then go to a restaurant. Political issue.

The Black Lives Matter and the protests in the NBA.

Historically, let's say the NBA is more progressive and the NFL more conservative.

How is that movement lived within the NFL?

Is it different from the NBA?

Are there more opposing positions? It's complicated because all the players have their opinions.

Sometimes it gives me a bit of trouble to talk about this because I can't speak for my colleagues or for people who are having a hard time emotionally.

What I usually do is use my experiences in Spain for American life.

Try to have the best of both worlds.

And I can say that a Spaniard would not feel out of place with everything that is happening in the United States.

That politics is being polarized, that they are forming sides and forming groups that are competing among themselves ... That has happened in Spain and I have never liked it.

I like more to believe in individualism, in trying to find out my ignorance, reading ... When you come from Cádiz, that on your favorite beach are the ruins of Baelo Claudia and you are exposed to so much history, Phoenicians, Greeks ... You realize that all this has been going on for a long time, which are the things that democracy has and you try not to overturn yourself emotionally.

And that's how I live it.

I have lived all my life with the subject of Catalonia and the Basque subject, that my father is from there, and that consumes people, it takes away your desire to get into that subject.

And I think that's one of the problems here, that the American people are getting tired of not being able to disconnect from politics and have it in their face 24/7.

Because without wanting to, I believe that the Black Lives Matter movement has become a political movement.

So there it is more difficult for all people to agree.

And I, since the theme of the national anthem affected me a lot, I have had access to information from the people who carry out these gestures and come politically loaded with ideas that I do not like.

But in the end I am not a political person, I stay next to everything, I try to inform myself as much as possible and not get into this game because in the end we always end up like in Spain, shouting and fighting. Does the fact that the elections are so close influence in which there are more protests in sport? I have already lived this.

In Spain with the national anthem people do not get up much, they see it as something from Franco.

I see all these issues with great fear because I do not want the United States, which is a young country that does not have the history or the years that Spain has, to fall into the same dynamic of forming sides, looking for things in which we differentiate ourselves and using the sports as a means of teaching it.

I personally do not like it, I think that these issues are a little accompanied by the personal role of the athletes who want to carry it out.

He was mentioning the anthem from three years ago.

How did that affect you on a personal level? It has taught me a lot.

It was an accident that became a symbol.

I told my colleagues that I was not going to make any protest against the anthem because it didn't seem right to me and they agreed.

What happens is that at the last moment I was left alone because they could not leave, and an image remained ... The media used that image to try to expose their ideas, even distorting the truth of the facts a bit.

On the other hand, I felt humbled.

I couldn't come and say that I had some ideas, that I was trying to be the leader of a political ideology.

I always try to learn and I don't like being the protagonist of any story or carrying out the ideas of a political or ideological group.

And in the United States there is a lot of pressure from people who want that person to speak out against those who are protesting against the anthem.

But for me freedom of expression and individual freedom is greater than the force that a collective can exert, even if it is the Government or the Army.

Because as a veteran and a member of the Army, I would never want to put myself in a situation where the Army has something to say in a democracy.

And logically that comes from the fact that I am from Spain, and that was what Franco's dictatorship was, a case in which the Army became so big that it took over the country for 40 years.

I like the distribution of powers in the United States, the freedom of speech, and staying humble in my knowledge.

And I think I grew a lot from that event. Did they offer you anything at the political level after that? A lot of things ... Giving speeches about weapons, offers from political organizations, rallies ... And that's when I got involved. under the ground like an ostrich until everything calmed down. Do you think Colin Kaepernick (the first player to drop to the knee during the anthem and has been without a team since late 2016) has a place in the NFL? Well, I don't know.

I don't know how he plays and I don't know about


, of what it takes to play there.

And look, we have the same agent. Have you been able to speak with JJ Arcega, the other Spaniard in the NFL? Yes, I have been in the Eagles and I know several of his teammates, and I have spoken with him a couple of times.

He seems like a nice boy to me and I'm always anxiously watching him do it.

But I don't know about receivers either (laughs).

Every position is different, every team ... I came to the NFL under pressure because otherwise I stayed on the street and I think that when you come from the draft, like him, it is somewhat easier, because the team is investing in your future.

That didn't happen to me.

They have totally different stories - I had a job before I got into the NFL and I was trying to get there for years.

Watching the evolution of the players with whom I have had the opportunity to play, you realize how short the NFL career is, the distractions, the mind, your philosophy and how to face the different potholes in your career is what defines you.

It is not your ability to catch the ball or block, but to be at 100%.

And one of the athletes that has inspired me the most is Rafa Nadal.

You have to be that psychopath every day.

Always having Rafa as a leader helps me a lot and I always try to play like him, what happens with the helmet people don't see the pissed off face I have (laughs) The Steelers get Ben Roethlisberger back, the



, After a regular season in which he has been injured. Yes.

He has a positive mentality and leadership, which happens that all this has to be reflected in the games.

I equate it to being the CEO of a company and being able to tell everyone a story, let them believe it and fight for you.

Right now we are going to put this story to the test and try to go all out, because you don't always have the opportunity to have a good team, for the players to be formed for years and everything to be coordinated to win.

We know that we do not have much time left together and there is a desire. The NFL is always surprised how open the fight for the title is and that most of the predictions do not come true. That is one of the lessons that has been most difficult for me to learn.

Here there is a curiosity for individuality and for rankings that did not exist as a child.

You played and depended on your team.

Here we like to make predictions and analysis and sometimes that influences athletes.

What is interesting as a player is Las Vegas, betting, seeing how many points below an opponent they give you for a match.

That is exciting, because when we get back on the bus we think of the person who said we were going to lose.

In this league, the last player can beat the first one, all the players from all the teams are very good and anything can happen. At the amateur level, what has caught your attention the most? It is that I have not been a fan for many years .

I was the guru of Fantasy, the know-it-all, but not anymore.

I look at the Steelers and I just think about that.

I want to beat everyone.

I've always liked Tom Brady because the first time I came to live here I lived near Foxboro, the Patriots stadium, and that's when I started to like football.

Now, if he's going to hit it in Tampa, if he's gone mad at the Patriots, if he wins ... I don't care.

The one who matters to me if he wins is Roethlisberger (laughs). Brady is 43 years old, 11 years older than you.

He would have a while to match him ... No kidding (laughs).

It gives me stress to think that I would have to play so many more years. Are the players' careers now shorter? I think the other way around.

The races can be lengthened if you want.

There is a mentality that was not had before and the sport is changing a lot so that the races are longer.

Right now I just got out of preseason and I'm like a 15-year-old kid.

When I hear the stories of people playing in the 80s or 90s ... They trained twice a day, beat each other, had steroid problems, drank beers at the end of training ... That's why the races were short.

Now there are very few who drink alcohol during the season, people go to bed very early, everyone trains more outside the season ... The player's life has changed.

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