What does a famous stranger represent?

My interview with David Villa on Feb. 4 at City Hall. Soccer in NYC photo

I have for a long time associated David Villa with a specific period of my life, the end of a transition into adulthood as I figured out what I wanted to pursue and who I wanted to become.

Villa was the top scorer and one of the faces of the Spain National Team that won the World Cup in July 2010, two months before I moved to Madrid and immersed myself in Spanish soccer.

I turned 23 during that World Cup, and the tournament still provides the framework for my memories of that summer, a few months I spent crashing with friends Boston while working across the river in Cambridge. The Spanish National Team was particularly important to me ahead of my pending move.

Eventually, I watched them play in person, after buying a ticket from a Spanish scalper who was inexplicably wearing a “Boston University Security” jacket outside the Bernabéu in Madrid. The ticket had no practical use after entering the stadium — it was standing-room-only in the terraces and no one cared where you stood.

Spain played Colombia that February night, almost exactly nine years ago. It was their first match in the capital since winning the World Cup, and walking into the stands from the hallway a few minutes after kickoff felt like entering a buzzing bowl of sound. It was just a friendly, but the constant noise from both sets of fans was unlike any sporting event, including club soccer matches, I had ever been to.

A few months later, April 2011, I saw Villa score a goal when my friend Aaron and I visited Camp Nou in Barcelona, a memory and trip I’ll cherish forever. Barcelona beat Osasuna 2-0 that day, and Villa opened the scoring. Messi came on as a sub for Villa and scored the second goal.

Taking a photo of Villa with Councilmember Francisco Moya. Soccer in NYC photo

Now Villa is part-owner of a new Queens professional soccer club (a team I broke the news about in October 2018). He is a Queens business owner and I am editor of Queens’ only daily newspaper.

This evening, I interviewed him in an empty City Hall. We talked about the new club, Queensboro FC, and his career in Spain, including his time at my favorite club Atlético. (His favorite goal? A strike against Manchester United in the 2011 Champions League final).

Villa was polished and hit his PR talking points, but it was a cool opportunity. And it has made me really nostalgic as I consider how a famous stranger, especially a sports star, can represent different things at different times in one’s life.

You can read my article on the conversation with Villa and Queensboro FC at QueensEagle.com

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