Interview with Albert Serran
Background photo: Hamza Syed
The Indian Super League is just about closing its doors with the league title to be decided over just three more games. Bangalore are the favourites, having topped the table and a whole host of former European players now in their ranks.
Bengaluru FC is in the midst of the semi-final tie with NorthEast United. They lost the first game away from home.
I managed to sit down with one of them, Albert Serran, who’s previously played with Swansea City and his native Espanyol. The defender has a lot of experience from his 17-year career and now is closing on a league title in India. We discuss all things about his brilliant career.
Growing up in Barcelona, a city famed for sport how prevalent was football in your childhood?
I lived, breathed and slept football from a very young age. My older brother used to play with high school friends – but I’d always be there too. I was about five years younger than them, but I was there every day trying to play even if they were a lot bigger than me. Every boy at that age wants to be a pro footballer, so you can imagine how competitive it was!
So was it there and then with your brother you knew you wanted to be a professional player?
You know, I was playing a lot of sport when I was young. Cycling and basketball were initially my favourites but as I got to older, about 17 I think… I started to concentrate on football and football only. I started getting better and better at it and those around me knew I could make it professionally if I kept my head down and practiced hard.
Your youth and professional career started with Espanyol, how was that experience?
Well, before that I trained with FC Barcelona too. I was around seven years old when I got to play and train around the famous Camp Nou facilities. However, as you said… I changed to Espanyol. At the age of 10, both FC Barcelona and Espanyol wanted me – but I chose Espanyol with my head because they have a fantastic record for producing top young players as well as, my heart as I felt I’d fit in better there.
You’ve realised the dream of many footballers, to play in the English leagues, which you did with Swansea City. How did you compete with the faster-paced game?
You know very well! England is faster in terms of play and scheduling. In addition, players tend to be pretty tough. It took me a few weeks to adapt, but I was determined to improve and rise to the challenge. Swansea had believed in me, all I had to do was do it and soon enough I was ready to play at my best in the surroundings at the Liberty Stadium.
How do you recall your tenure with Swansea City, as well as adjusting to life in Wales?
Something I never adjusted to was the weather! Both England and Wales are very cold and not what I was used to in Spain. British rain is something else! In spite of that, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Liberty. Swansea City has great people surrounding it, supporters, management and the players – it made for a real community club which I was very happy to part of.
The standout moment, of course, was the day we went to Wembley and won promotion in the play-off final. This was especially great because it allowed Swansea City to make history, the first Welsh club to participate in the Premier League.
Off the pitch, I will always remember the beautiful landscapes me and my wife would visit in our free time. She is a photographer and took some amazing pictures from the Welsh landscapes. I enjoyed seeing these stunning places even if we got lost in the car doing it!
After your tenure with the Swans, you spent a lot of time in Cyprus. What’s it like and how is it different from England’s football?
Cyprus is a without a doubt a great place to live. For starters, the weather is better than Wales and England! It was another big change, after three years at Swansea City I had nearly got used to the cold!
Football differs a little because I don’t think anywhere is as fast as the English leagues. The Cypriot league has some amazing players right now who are doing their teams proud. The fans are amazing there; they make a lot of noise which makes for some amazing atmospheres to play in.
Did you face any challenges when moving to India?
Having moved a few times already, I’m happy to embrace change. My family is the same and we have settled really well here in India. We are all incredibly happy here – Bangalore is quickly becoming one of my favourite cities with plenty of things to do here. I’m looking forward to exploring more in the offseason!
What are your ambitions for the rest of the season?
Well, there’s not much left! We have one more semi-final leg to play and if successful, we are going to the final. As we finished top in the table standings, we want to win the trophy. We’ve come this far and I think I speak for the team when there is no excuse, the ISL title is the minimum expectation.
From a personal standpoint, I want see more and learn more about India!
Lastly, which team do you support?
RCD Espanyol. When you are with a club for 12 years of your life, such embryonic and important years in your football career to – they do not simply go away. The club badge has made its impression on me for sure. They gave me so much, taught me lessons in football and life.
Of course, I still like to follow teams like Swansea City, AEK Larnaka, Alcorcon. I have special memories there too and many friends are still playing at those clubs. To be honest, I love watching football and see every game (playing or watching) as a chance to develop.