Football and fatherhood as players of the Badalona Dracs celebrate Spanish Father’s Day

The country of Spain celebrates Father’s Day every year on March 19th. For a handful of Badalona Dracs players, the holiday will take on greater meaning this Sunday.

Balancing life, work and raising children — while also playing professional American football — is tough, but that’s the life of Jeremiah Gutierrez, Victor Llargués, Ian Palmón and Jahir García.

Being an ocean away from family, holding multiple jobs and sacrificing parts of their social life just to play sports are compromises the four believe are more than worth it, especially when they go home and can see their children.

From late-night FaceTime calls to their kids’ faces on the sidelines during the occasional game, these are the stories of four of the dads currently playing for the Dracs, the sacrifices they’ve made, and a side of their lives aside of the soccer field brings them joy.

An ocean of its own

The hardest thing Gutierrez had to do before leaving for Spain in January was saying goodbye to his five-year-old son Josiah.

In the days before heading to the airport to start his journey, Gutierrez sat down with his son and explained that he was going to Barcelona to pursue a professional football career. Though he didn’t go into too much detail, Gutierrez made an effort to read his son after he broke the news. It was beyond bittersweet.

“He didn’t seem down but he didn’t seem happy,” Gutierrez said. “He didn’t really understand what was going on, but he knew he would see me soon.”

Unlike many of his teammates, who have families in Spain or, worst of all, somewhere in Europe, Gutierrez hails from Compton, California, an ocean and a whole country far from Catalonia. The American import FaceTimes Josiah several times a week, but a nine-hour time difference between Spain and California presents an undeniable obstacle. Many of those calls come after Dracs exercises, which end around 11:00 p.m. in Spain. From the team’s training ground at Camp Municipal de Montigalà, Gutierrez will walk to his apartment, prepare dinner and then call family at home before going to bed.

“I think about my family at home every day,” Gutierrez said. “It gives me that extra little boost to keep going and stay determined and focused on what I came here to do.”

Pictures of Josiah adorn the walls of his room in Badalona, ​​bringing to life the otherwise relatively empty walls of a temporary residence. One of Gutierrez’s favorite pictures frames him playing video games at home with Josiah resting beneath him.

Jeremiah Gutierrez with son Josiah at home in California

Gutierrez says he’s grateful he has such a large support system at home between his mother, siblings and other family members who are constantly providing updates and sending pictures. While they are small acts, they allow him to feel connected over 6,000 miles from home. Still, nothing replaces the feeling of having Josiah by your side.

“The team and the imports are doing a good job to make me feel at home here and have a family here,” said Gutierrez. “But there are those early mornings or late nights when it’s just me and my thoughts and I’m preoccupied with my son and family.”

When he lies awake with these thoughts, Gutierrez likes to replay his favorite memories with Josiah in his head, such as the times he was being chased around his house by his young son. Gutierrez can still vividly hear his son’s laughter and playful calls, something that puts a warm smile on his face on a chilly spring night in Badalona.

Despite not coming to Spain, Josiah still watches his father play. Back in California, Gutierrez’s mom will be broadcasting the Dracs’ game stream on the TV, either delayed or live, depending on when the game begins. There she will point Gutierrez to her grandson, which has a lot to do with him finding the end zone several times over the past two weekends.

While it hurts not to see Josiah in person, Gutierrez loves knowing his son gets to watch him play. Those moments remind him of what made him leave his homeland to play football in Spain in the first place. It was a great sacrifice, but the thought of seeing Josiah again, hearing his laugh and holding him in his loving embrace when he returns to the United States after the season gives him something to look forward to.

“This opportunity comes only once in a lifetime, especially for someone who’s coming up where I’m from,” Gutierrez said. “I just want to use it and hope it pays off.”

Soak for now

For Victor Llargués, the past calendar year has been a whirlwind one. He and his partner bought a house on a mortgage and moved. During this time, they also became parents for the first time when Llargué’s partner gave birth to their daughter Lúa in March.

“We fought a lot because when you don’t get enough sleep, that’s the hardest part,” Llargués said. “I still played with the Draco too.”

Despite the busyness, Llargués made it a priority to be a father, to take life slowly, and to soak up every moment and new experience at home. The fact that parents in Spain get four months’ holiday after the birth of a child made things a little easier.

Victor Llargués and daughter Lúa

Having those four months to intentionally slow down was crucial, especially given what Llargués’ daily routine looks like now. His day begins by taking Lúa to a kindergarten near his home at around 9:00am, then he drives to nearby Barberà del Vallès where he works for a construction company before picking up his daughter around 4:30pm picks up. After a few hours at home with his partner and daughter, Llargués heads to Badalona for training.

The tight end of the Dracs will never forget when Lúa was born. The team were playing in Zaragoza, over a three-hour drive away, when their partner was about to rupture her waters. Instead of taking the team bus, he drove to the game in his own car in case he had to drop everything and rush back to Badalona. Thankfully he didn’t have to do that, but it’s still a story he enjoys telling.

Lúa is less than a year old and has already seen her father in action: a Spanish Cup semi-final match against the Alcobendas Cavaliers. While Llargués knew his daughter didn’t understand, her presence on the sidelines meant the world to him.

“(Lúa) couldn’t see me because of the helmet, but I went up to her and she was surprised,” Llargués said. “It was really beautiful, it’s like your heart melts.”

While Llargués loves to play American football, he now lives for the moments he can spend with his daughter and family. He oozes pride as he talks about standing alone for the first time just last week. He has also traveled the world with her, from Hungary to Turkey, and has a photo of Lúa strapped to his chest as he navigates the ancient city of Petra, Jordan. The presence of Lúa in his life has undoubtedly given Llargués a new perspective on both life and American football.

“Every day is great,” said Llargués. “It’s a great joy every time I see her, it brightens my day when I pick her up from kindergarten.”

find a balance

When Ian Palmon’s daughter Ona was born four months ago, the offensive lineman seriously considered pausing the season. Between an irregular sleep schedule and the constant chores that come with caring for a newborn, the first few weeks after Ona’s birth were exhausting.

Ian Palmon with daughter Ona

During this time, Palmón’s partner advised him not to give up American football, even if only for a whole season. She considered it a non-starter and told him he “had to play” because it was his hobby and made him happy.

“It was so difficult,” said Palmón. “I love my girlfriend very much because she helped me a lot and wanted me to stay with (the Dracs) to practice and play the game I love.”

Between getting up at 7:00 a.m. to wake Ona up, his 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. job as a janitor in a dorm, and Drac’s practices, Palmón’s schedule often leaves him exhausted. Still, he wouldn’t trade it for the world and loves the time when he can watch TV with his partner while Ona is lying on his stomach or back playing right next to them.

Palmón’s teammate Jahir García is also a relatively new parent, father of a three-month-old son named Ryan. García admits it was a bit complicated to adjust his working hours between training, games and his job. How did he go about finding a balance?

“I try to make myself comfortable at home,” says García. “I need my own space, so I have an apartment that I pay for myself. Sometimes I have friends or family who come over to help Ryan when I go to training too.”

Jahir García with son Ryan

Of course, being a father comes with sacrifices, even if it doesn’t go as far as living an ocean away. Neither García nor Palmón gets to hang out with their friends or teammates that often when they go to parties and drink. But like Llargués, the time they spend at home with their children makes these small sacrifices well worth it.

When García is with Ryan, he likes to tune in to a college football game, whether it’s Michigan or BYU. He wants Ryan to listen to the games even though he doesn’t understand what’s happening yet. The goal is for him to grow up watching American football in a place where fútbol is often the way of life.

“It makes me a little proud because I want him to get used to the sound of American football,” García said. “The sounds of a duel, the clashing of helmets and shouts. So when he’s grown up, it’s nothing new.”

Like Lúa, Ona and Ryan have already seen their dads in action.

“It’s crazy because it’s something new,” Palmón said. “I was so happy when the game ended and I could go upstairs and see my daughter and hold her in my hands.”

Which brings us to this weekend and Father’s Day in Spain. It will be a first time as a father for Llargués, Palmón and Garcia, and as it is the Dracs’ farewell week, they will be able to celebrate it at home with their families.

Each of the dads are quick to admit they sacrificed a lot, but they wouldn’t change it for the world and look forward to celebrating the holidays with their families back home.

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