Yeray “My Idea Is To End My Career At Athletic”

Yeray Valencia

Yeray plans to spend his entire career at Athletic Club (AC)

The historic Copa del Rey final between Athletic and Real Sociedad should have take place yesterday, but that wasn’t the case. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic football has been stopped for over a month as everyone remains quarantined at home. The final will be played at some point in the future, but for now everyone must do their part and have patience.

“I don’t like to listen to the news much because sometimes they contradict each other,” Athletic defender Yeray admitted during an interview with Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo. “They talk as if it’s about to be the peak and others say it’s already happened. Sometimes it’s confusing and the truth is that nobody knows when all this will end. The coronavirus has taken us all by surprise and we don’t yet know what is going to happen. Right now it’s about doing what they tell us which is staying at home.”

Being stuck at home is difficult for many people, but not really for Yeray. The defender has always enjoyed his solitude and focused on following his training plan during this time.

“Well, I’m a person who likes to be a lone so it’s gone well. I get up around 10, although the time may vary depending on when I went to bed. At home I have a bike, treadmill, some weights, and a few other things and I usually do a  workout in the morning and another in the afternoon. Then I also have to cook and I watch TV.”

Having beaten cancer twice, Yeray has a different perspective on the health crisis. “This is one more life lesson,” he says. “When I grow up I can say that I went through the coronavirus pandemic when we couldn’t leave the house and things like that. Something like this has never happened until now.”

Yeray Training

“I miss going to Lezama every day and seeing my teammates.” (AC)

Speaking of his battles with cancer the defender explained that it’s not something thinks about often. “It’s almost forgotten, although journalists always remind me of it.” he continued. “I had what I had, but I don’t feel like a reference or anything like that because many more people have gone through the same thing and have also overcome it.”

Yeray doesn’t want to be put on a pedestal for beating cancer. However, if his experience can help someone else then he’s happy to be able to do that for others.

“A person who overcomes any challenge can be a reference for others. Many people will see me as an example of overcoming that, but I don’t understand it that way. Another thing is that my testimony can be useful to people. If they consider it that way then for me there’s no problem.”

Yeray may be fine with staying at home but he still misses his family and teammates. Once life starts to get back to normal he will be happy to see everyone in person once again.

“More than anything I want to see my family who I haven’t been with in other a month, even though we talk daily. I also miss going to Lezama every day and seeing my teammates. I wish I could go back to doing normal, everyday things like outside or having a drink on a terrace. Sometimes we don’t value the small, everyday things.”

In light of the football stoppage the first team players at Athletic recently reached an agreement with the club to reduce their wages. When asked about the decision Yeray highlighted that the team did so in order to protect other employees at the club.

Yeray Alaves

“When you come to Lezama you only think about reaching the first team.” (AC)

“Nobody wanted to go to ERTE. An agreement between both parties was much better and in the end there was a link between the club and the players. It was an issue the club was handling with the captains. They were keeping us informed because we had already make it clear from the beginning that we were ready to lend a hand.”

Just like when players donated money to the health care system in the Basque Country, nobody wanted the wage reduction to become public knowledge. In the end it had to be, but the players were proud to be in a position to help others.

“This type of gesture is usually better done anonymously, but if it comes to light we can’t do anything about it like the Osakidetza thing. What we wanted was to keep the rest of the club’s employees from ERTE and we have received calls from them. We have always said that Athletic is a family and it has to be proven.”

One day after 18 April, the original date for the Cup final, Yeray shared that he had often dreamed about Athletic lifting the trophy. At the moment there is no reschedule date for the historic match, though the 25-year-old maintains that football shouldn’t be a priority right now.

“I saw the team as champions and going down the water on La Gabarra. Now, in any case, there is little point in talking about these things. There are many people having a hard time, suffering, and we still don’t know when we will be able to play again. There is much talk, much speculation with dates, but nobody knows anything definitive yet.”

Yeray Rafa Alkorta Aitor Elizegi

Yeray recently signed a new contract through 2026 (AC)

Reaching the Cup final required Athletic to overcome a number of challenges and some fans have criticized the team’s style of football. “They also say the same for Getafe who are 5th in the league just eliminated Ajax in Europe,” said Yeray. “The important thing is that we know how we play. Everyone has their weapons and their system. Gaizka took the team in a situation that wasn’t easy, but we immediately improved. He took the team forward and the coach knows what he’s doing and has very clear ideas.”

Yeray was 12 years old when he joined Lezama and has achieved his goal of reaching the first team. He’s become one of the key players in the team and hopes to spend the rest of his career with his boyhood club.

“My idea is to start and end my career at Athletic. When you come to Lezama as a child you only think about reaching the first team and when you do, what you want is to be able to continue here until the end. I renewed my contract last year and I have many years ahead of me here. Athletic has taught me everything as a footballer and even as a person and has given me values. What is better than being able to finish your career where you started it!”

When considering the values of Athletic one of the first things that comes to mind is when the entire squad shaved their heads during Yeray’s second bout with cancer. “I will never forget that gesture from my teammates,” he said proudly. It’s been over a month since the team last took the field, but the hope is that the Lions will be back together soon when this virus is defeated.

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