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Hinchas y Jugadores - An exclusive interview with Damià Abella (8th May, 2017)

When did you make the decision to pursue football and what motivated you to do so?

I never thought I would have been good enough to become a professional player. In fact, from 19 to 20 years old, I played for a team called “Caprabo” (neigbourhood supermarket) 7 divisons below La Liga. Two years later, when I was 22 I played for Barça, I played two "El Clasico” games against Real Madrid in front of 100.000 people in the stadium and 400.000.000 live in TV. We also won La Liga,…. as much as I remember it I still feel it wasn’t real.

I mean, I was focused on my Physical trainer Degree, when some Tercera teams (similar to League two) paid attention on me. From there everything went so fast, intense and quite crazy.

How did it feel like making your debut with Figueres?

That was so nice. I’m from Figueres, I always lived there and it's where I live now. That was a kind of little dream made true, In addition I had a very good season which allowed me to sign for FC Barcelona's 2nd team (2B Division). Some games after the season started, I had a chance to play for the First team. From there, I stayed in the first team for a year and a half until I left FC Barcelona towards Racing de Santander.

What were the initial thoughts you had when Barcelona approached you? 

My first thought was, “I’m not the kind of player for FC Barcelona but if I do it right, I may reach LaLiga or La Segunda and became a true professional”. I didn’t realize how big FC Barcelona is until I put my feet in there. It wasn’t a dream come true, because it was miles above a dream!

Did you expect to play for the first team at some point, given the relative lack of competition in your position?

In fact, no. I had been playing as a winger for FC Barcelona B when a couple of injuries hit the first team's right backs. Then Frank Rijkaard, the manager looked onto us, and he picked me despite having never played as a fullback. It was a big surprise and a huge challenge for me. I feel proud for how I faced that challenge, and I will always thank Frank Rijkaard for believing in me.

You played an important role in helping Racing Santander avoid relegation - how would you compare playing regular football at a smaller club and being an important backup at a championship winning club?

In Santander I realized I was better than I thought. Playing for FC Barcelona is amazing, it’s hard as well, but it may be easier than at other clubs if everything goes well, as it happened in those days. I have to admit I had some doubts about my level which disappeared once I started playing for Racing Santander every week. I became important for the team, and to me, that was bigger than play for FC Barcelona.

You were out for more than a year due to a hip injury - how damaging was the injury physically and psychologically, and how were you able to recover from such a lengthy layoff?

I remember those days as a hard days. Injuries are part of the job and we know that, but when things don’t go as they should, too many questions unanswered make your journey pretty difficult. Something similar happened during my days in Middlesbrough FC, unfortunately I had to quit football because of a knee injury and several operations. What it “kills” you is the thought that is all is finished. In this case, all finished with that knee injury. It’s never easy to accept you have to finish your career when it is not your decision. The psychological tax is bigger than the physical, especially the thought that I cannot do whatever I want in terms of physical activity and sport.

How would you describe your experience at Real Betis and Osasuna, where you played regularly?

I guess those places are where I got knowledge about my sport, my job. They are so different, both crowds are so passionate, but in different ways. Playing regularly makes you mature, “wise” and confident. I would say at Osasuna is where I found “myself”, where I felt great links with the club, the city and the area. I go visit Osasuna as a club, and Pamplona as a city from time to time to say hello since I left three years ago.

What were your thoughts when Middlesbrough became interested in you, and was it a difficult decision to leave Spain?

It was an easy decision to make, I’ve been waiting for a chance in a different country, and to be honest I always wanted to play in England. I had a couple of options to go to the Premier League years ago, but for some reasons I didn’t take them; mostly because the clubs I played for didn’t let me go. In addition, Aitor Karanka, Middlesbrough's manager, was the one who called me and wanted me playing for them.

How would you describe your stint there, and if you were given the decision to do so would you leave for England again?

I would do the same, exactly. Life is about getting experiences, knowing people, make friendships, and explore. I was so lucky that my job brought me to many places, some for few days, some for years. It fills you with thousands of experiences with hundreds of new relationships (some became deep and for ever). So yes, I would leave for England again. It’s a shame I wasn’t able to make my career longer for many reasons, but the main one is the life experiences football gives you.

What are your plans for the future?

I am focus on my coaching UEFA-PRO license, which I’ll get by February 2018. Those ups and downs of adrenaline that football gives you weekly is a kind of addiction, and I want to be on the pitch again, every day, outside, been passionate for my job and get involve in competition again, from the bench. Also, I was in the University when I became professional, I had one year left to graduate in Physical trainer, and I am finishing this Degree right now. This is going to add some extra skills in terms of coaching and managing a football team.

What do you do in your free time?

Well, this is a good one. I’m pretty restless, and I always find new things to learn about, which take my attention. But what it always takes part of my free time is sport. Running, MTB, open water swimming, Scuba diving, fishing, longboarding, snowboarding,… whatever the season lets me do. I also love music, and I can spend hours and hours discovering songs and artists, especially when I go deeper into myself. Lately, and because I wasn’t able when I was a player, I spend some time ridding a motorbike. I like vintage cars & bikes, so I like to modify a British motorbike and a classic American car I’ve got. Obviously, football is a big part of my life, and I'm on the TV everyday. I go to the Camp Nou to watch FC Barcelona playing in La Liga and Champions League games few times a month as well.



This interview was also published on BarcaBlaugranes.com. You can read it here.

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