BarcelonaOn Saturday 18 March, Pablo Beguer came off the bench in the goalless draw between Ascó and CP Sarrià in the Primera Catalana. A week later, he was lifting the Kings League title won by El Barrio in front of more than 90,000 people at Camp Nou. “The emotions I experienced this weekend are mind-blowing”, this striker explains to ARA. “Me and other teammates asked the coach if we could take part, and he gave us the go-ahead to do so as long as we could continue training and playing with Sarrià”, remembers Beguer. Apart from former Primera players and content creators, the bulk of the Kings League has been nurtured by footballers of modest categories with little to lose and much to gain.
“For me it was the possibility of participating in an entertaining and different sport, an interesting opportunity, a complement to the football we know”, says Beguer. He doesn’t get paid to play for Sarrià (in the Kings League, non-professional players were paid around 70 euros per game in the regular phase). The forward – who works as a programmer linked to the e-sports– he only had to miss one Primera Catalana game and scored one of El Barrio’s four goals in the semi-finals. Two were signed by Cristian Ubon, who was playing the final four while his team, UE Sants, played an important match in Vilafranca for their aspirations to remain in Tercera. But what reasons have pushed these and other players to temporarily leave their teams to participate in this ephemeral competition?
The ARA spoke to five footballers who live together and came face-to-face with some of the names who have lived their particular footballing dream in the Kings League. These are five cases that explain the reality that is experienced in modest categories in which footballers do not go to training in high-end cars and do not have advisers to help them invest their fortunes, nor do they have marketing agencies to manage them his image In fact, 99.2% of footballers with a federated license in Spain do not reach the professional world, which forces them to have an alternative job.
Semi-professional football in Catalonia
Josu Rodríguez is a coordinator in a school; Sergi Arranz is a dentist; Àlex Fernández, primary school teacher; José Ortega, restaurateur; Àlex Cano, accountant in a hospital. All of them, stars of UE Sant Andreu, Terrassa FC and CE Europa, are some of the most recognized names in semi-professional Catalan football. Three of them will see each other this weekend in the Barcelona derby at Narcís Sala. Despite the outstanding careers they have accumulated, they have always been clear that they could not leave their studies aside. In the fifth state division, only some very exceptional cases, such as renowned strikers or players who are relegated, have a different status and can reach salaries close to 2,000 euros per month, but on average they are paid much less.
“In our category we cannot live off football. When I finished my degree I preferred to start working to gain experience, although other colleagues prefer to devote themselves to football and do nothing else in their lives. 95% of Tercera teams train in the evening and the players have to fill the time in some way that gives us present and future results”, comments the captain of Europe, Àlex Cano. “It should be compulsory to train, especially when we have all the time in the world. Even the players of the most professional teams train in the morning. My brother Jordi, who plays for Terrassa, is withdrawing from his teaching career”, he emphasizes. He is one of the veterans of the category and does not hesitate to advise the younger ones: “I try to advise them, because without studies they will not go anywhere. It’s key that they train, they can’t play everything in football. It seems absurd to me to stop studying for football. Those who don’t do it are because they don’t want to.”
It seems absurd to me to stop studying for football. Those who don’t do it are because they don’t want to”
Alex Cano Capità del EC Europe
The schedule, a conditioning factor with weight
“We have a salary that is good, but it does not give you to live beyond the stage of being a footballer. As I get older, I recommend to younger people not to stagnate, to study or do something related to the sector they like. Because if they retire at 33 without education, the world will fall on them”, explains Josu Rodríguez. He is one of the captains of the UE Sant Andreu, where he trains at 4 p.m. In the morning, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., he works part-time at the Montserrat School in Barcelona. “If I wasn’t a footballer I would work more hours there, it’s a schedule adapted to training with the club”, says the midfielder, who admits to having rejected offers from other economically superior clubs in order to maintain the job stability provided by the school.
“Almost all my team changes have been for work reasons. In 2021 I left Terrassa FC because I couldn’t combine it with my other profession, dentist, because with the promotion we started training in the mornings and I worked in a clinic in Barcelona”, says Sergi Arranz, who voluntarily dropped a category because Sant Andreu offered him schedules that allowed him to increase the volume of hours worked as a dentist. Arranz conditioned his career as a footballer to obtain the necessary resources to open his own clinic specializing in dental aesthetics. “Football gives me many things, but on a day-to-day basis, what gives me food is the profession of dentist.”
Following promotion to the Second Federation, Terrassa FC went from training at 8:00 p.m. to 10:30 a.m.: a change that forced two of its captains to change their working hours. “I had to decide if I would continue 100% at school and go somewhere else to play or try to combine it with less hours. Since I’m doing well at the club but I didn’t want to lose the place I had here or lose positions in the public labor market, I asked to work half-time”, says Àlex Fernández, who apart from being the captain of Terrassa FC teaches classes of physical education at Escola Bellaterra. “It is important to think that, no matter how much our devotion, the life of a footballer is short and you need to get away from the football bubble and think about the future”, he adds.
The life of a footballer is short and you have to get away from the football bubble and think about the future”
Alex Fernandez Captain of Terrassa FC
Physical exhaustion, mental oxygen
His teammate, José Ortega, had to change jobs with the change of category. He now manages the restaurant he manages together with his partner in Castellbisbal. “I work Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, plus a few hours on Saturday as long as we don’t have an away game, which forces me to bring in someone as reinforcement. I also talk to suppliers and go to the market to buy”, recounts who for years has been voted Tercera’s best goalkeeper. “I would like to play in a higher category, but having a business that grows and in which you have a track enriches you as a person”, he admits. “Two years ago I hurt my knee a lot, it was inflamed and I couldn’t move it, and even so, I had to go to work. This makes the recovery much slower”, he says.
Despite the physical wear and tear, they all agree that, mentally, it is positive and necessary to have a work alternative to football: “Having an escape route allows you to disconnect”. “If you have a lot of free time you can become obsessed. Having a business allows me not to go over the bad moments of football so much”, confirms Ortega. Combining two professions, for the most part, allows them to create synergies. “Football teaches you to work in a team and to know roles that are replicated in other jobs and that must be assumed and respected, from the coach to the president, through the captain or the newcomer”, Cano continues. This is the reality of modest Catalan football from which the Kings League thrives.