It’s just the second day of Valour FC training camp, a time of tightening hamstrings and groins, muscle pulls and the moans and groans that come from cranked up intensity levels.
To top it off, Tuesday morning’s session finished with a series of wind-sprints that would leave most doubled over, wincing in pain and cursing.
And through it all there was veteran midfielder José Galán sporting a wide grin bright enough to light every corner of Subway Soccer South. All this joy, it should be pointed out, coming as Galán is days into his 17th professional training camp.
“This is my passion, this is my life,” Galán explained in a chat with valourfootball.club Tuesday. “I was so looking forward to training with the team again.”
That, in a nutshell, might just perfectly describe the likeable Spaniard and why so many are drawn to him both on and off the pitch. It’s also part of why Valour FC were eager to have him return in 2020, following his 13 appearances with the club in its inaugural season.
He’s a pro’s pro – a tireless trainer who is meticulous with his nutrition and the kind of positive influence every GM and coach wants in his clubhouse.
“He’s an exceptional person, No. 1,” began Valour Assistant GM and coach Damian Rocke on Tuesday. “In every interaction with him you get the sense of what kind of person he is and that is important. It’s interesting, because that same personality plays out on the field as well.
“He’s an excitable person in a way, he’s energetic and has an infectious energy. It’s a good energy and it’s clear in his play and every Valour fan who has come to see him play can see that in his enthusiasm and it feeds and spreads throughout the team.”
Galán’s experience and football resumé is extensive. He joined the club late last July after a stretch with Saudi Arabian club Al-Jabalian FC, but has also played in his home country of Spain as well as Thailand, Indonesia, Austria, Jordan, Cyprus, Romania, Finland, Andorra and Hong Kong.
That’s what will make the next sentence so intriguing, especially to those of us who love this town, warts and all – Galán and his wife Paloma, who are expecting their first child in May, have chosen to make Winnipeg their home.
The two stayed here during the offseason, with Paloma now working with Wawanesa Life.
So… first winter in Winnipeg?
“To be honest,” Galán began with a chuckle, “I was so afraid because everybody had scared me so much before it. It was, ‘C’mon, it’s going to be too cold for you.’ It didn’t seem that bad. There were some bad days, yes. But the only thing I missed is normally I like to be outside to run and to keep fit, so now I had to do that indoors every day. I missed being outside all the time.”
“But when I came here last year they told me it was called ‘Friendly Manitoba’ and I have to say, it’s totally right. Everybody welcomed us very, very well. We have many friends who are like our family here. I have to say the teammates who live here were very, very nice to me as well as the coaches and the staff.
“Plus, I have to say a word as well about the supporters: I don’t say this because they are my team, but they are absolutely the best supporters in the league by far. They supported us in the good moments, but especially in the bad when everyone seemed to have given up. They stayed in the worse moments for us and we’re grateful.
“They make me feel like family. They love me and I love them, too.”
Galán paused for a moment and it was here that it was jokingly suggested he could have a future working for Tourism Manitoba or Tourism Winnipeg, what with all the praise he was heaping on his new home.
“It’s funny… sometimes I say to people, ‘Hey, did you see this weekend we can see the Northern Lights?’ Many people from Winnipeg say, ‘I’ve never seen them,’” said Galán. “Come on… it’s wonderful. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen in all of my life. It was cold, but I went to Gimli to see the Northern Lights and take a photo of them.
“There are so many good things here. And in regards to football, this city, this country is going to grow and develop a lot. In my opinion, it’s the right time to be here with a new league that is expanding already with Atletico – my former team (he made his debut with the C team in 2005)– now getting involved in Ottawa. The World Cup is also coming really soon.
“Our daughter is going to be a Winnipegger and I’m proud of that. I’m excited she is going to be half Canadian, half a Spaniard… and especially a Winnipegger.”