He can get frustrated sometimes, sure. And the fiery competitor in José Galán wants to win every rep in every training session every single day. Still, it’s important to measure that spirit and drive against the 35-year-old’s pure love for, well, just about everything – from his family, to his sport, to anyone that comes into his circle. And that’s why so many in the Valour FC organization are thrilled the likeable Spaniard is back for a third season with the CPL club after signing a new contract Monday. "What I like about José is just how much he loves it here," Valour FC coach Rob Gale said. "It’s so refreshing in a modern-day sport where some of the players are seen as mercenaries and having no loyalty to a club. Here’s a lad that’s travelled the world… when he came in (in July of 2019) there were probably a few sneers about his age then and what he could bring. But he’s been nothing but absolutely fantastic for our football club and is now entering his third season with us. "He’s a great person, a great character in our dressing room and as energetic and fresh as any player on our training field every day. You can see the drive and determination he has on the field."
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Galán has appeared in 18 matches during his days with Valour – 15 in the inaugural season and five more during last year’s Island Games tournament. After last year’s CPL bubble season he headed back to Spain and played in 13 matches with Villarrobledo – an opportunity that allowed him and his wife Paloma to introduce their daughter Celia to his family. Celia, it’s worth pointing out, was born in Winnipeg and that’s something Galán is proud to point out in almost every conversation. "When I re-signed the first thing that came to mind was I have to play in front of my daughter in the city she was born," Galán told CanPL.ca. "She’s a Winnipegger. Hopefully, I can have that happen soon – to play at IG Field with my wife and daughter in the stands. That would be like a dream for me. Being away from them last year (during the Island Games) was the toughest time ever. Of course it’s my profession to play soccer, but it was tough and that’s why I was looking forward to coming back to Winnipeg." Chat with Galán for any length of time and his enthusiasm can be infectious. And where so many of us complain about our frigid climate and so easily find flaws in where we live, he is the opposite. We’ve mentioned it before, but the man is a walking, talking billboard for Travel Manitoba. "The people in this city are so friendly," he said. "I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, ‘Hey, you play for Valour! You’re Galan!’ People are so kind here. "The cold… of course, I’m not used to that. But there are so many beautiful things here, like the northern lights. The first thing I did after my quarantine was take a photo of them. They’re special. There are so many to discover in Manitoba that even Manitobans don’t know about. My wife and me have adapted to this city and are both so happy to have signed with Valour and be home again. Right now this is our home. "A lot of this is also because of the team we had last year," he added. "The chemistry is excellent and I’m grateful the coach wanted me back. A lot of my (Valour) teammates were calling me in Spain and wondering about my situation. We’ve built a really strong relationship and it’s good the coaches have worked to keep the core of players. I really wanted to come back. I missed my teammates. I enjoyed Spain, but I wanted to come back and be with this group of players." Galán’s football resumé is extensive, beginning in Atlético Madrid’s system and subsequently now featuring 21 stops in 12 countries dating back to 2005-06. That includes playing in Spain, Thailand, Austria, Jordan, Greece, Romania, Finland, Hong Kong, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Canada. Yet, it’s something about Winnipeg and Valour FC that has drawn him back for a third tour of duty. "I have friends here, I’m coaching kids here and am so happy to be in the community and teach what I’ve learned over the years," said Galán. "I’m grateful to be in this city and can see there is a hunger for football through these kids. "Playing in front of fans again, that’s something I am so looking forward to, especially after all the support I’ve had since my first year. It’s something personal. I said to myself, ‘I must play again in front of this crowd and give back for all the encouragement they’ve given me.’ I pray that can happen this season." Galán’s role with Valour – and in the game, in general – has changed since his early days in the Atlético system. He’s one of the club’s veteran leaders and a sounding board for younger players. He can also still very much be a force on the pitch. "Make no mistake, I have the same hunger, same motivation as when I was younger," he said. "When I was playing in Spain my teammates would be joking, ‘C’mon, you look like you’re 26 the way you run, the way you train every day and the motivation you have.’ That’s the most important thing: to show my teammates that I’m still hungry, still competitive, still getting mad in any training session when he doesn’t win. I think the team respects that. "I’m glad I can be an example for others and feel so thankful when some of the boys come to me for advice. "Age is only a number." Still, what comes with that – ‘experience’, we’ll call it – is an important perspective. And it speaks of Galán’s overall outlook on life. "Let me tell you something," said Galán, pausing for a moment, "I was driving to the stadium the other day and from about two kilometres away I could see IG Field. I said to myself, ‘Wow, I’m so lucky that I’m going to be able to play professionally again.’ This will be my 17th year in a row where I am going to play professional. "I look at this stadium… it’s absolutely beautiful. We’re lucky. We’re so lucky. I’m grateful to be able to play for a third year with Valour and for a team where it seems like my teammates love me, and the supporters as well. "I say this sometimes to the boys, and maybe it’s because I’m 35: every day I’m training is like a reward for me. This is something we all need to appreciate. We’re lucky every day we go to the field with the players, with the environment we have. That’s important to remember, especially when we’re in a pandemic like this. "How can we not be grateful for this?"