When the idea surged to entrevistar Teo Polanco for my blog, I took the assignment on as something casual and informal for me to write about as a post. Then I began to research Teo Polanco on the internet, and santa fuma, I discovered he is a big man in the world of American football in Spain. Let me explain why I didn't know this about Teo Polanco, a person I have known for over five years. He is a modest man who is easy-going and consequently low key about his accomplishments. He is easy to talk to and makes you laugh no matter how bad a day you are having. So unless you dig around to find out who is Teo Polanco, you would never suspect that he has won two "triple crowns" for the LNFA (Liga National de Fútbol Americano) or that the team he coaches, L’Hospitalet Pioners, play in the Élite division.
Teo is a former cornerback football player from Iona College where he played and later became defensive assistant. This New Yorker came to Barcelona with the intention of playing for the Barcelona Dracs. Motivated his wife by Susana, a Barcelonese gal he met while teaching in New York, they decided to move to Barcelona and try his luck playing for a local football team. When the plan to play for the Dracs fell through, his wife encouraged him to seek out L'Hospitalet Pioners. In 2005 Teo made his debut as coach for the Pioners and won his first Triple Crown: The Spanish Championship, the Spanish Cup and the Catalan Cup. He repeated that success by winning all three titles again in 2008. In 2010 the Pioners moved up to number 10 in European rankings and Teo was named Coach of the Year in all of Spain. Teo's motivating philosophy and winning streaks caught the attention of Fali Asibar, president of AEFA (Agrupación Española de Fútbol Americano), who has been a source of encouragement. Fali Asibar recently named Teo head coach for the Spanish National American Football team and will play in Italy next year in the European League Championships. Impressionant!
Unfortunately, like many other people, I find myself knowing so little about American football being played in this country. It receives no exposure from the major Catalan news media (em refereixo a tu TV3). The news coverage the Pioners once received has disappeared due to budget cuts by the City Council and their decision to shut down TV L’Hospitalet, which stopped broadcasting on December 25, 2011. Gone also is the radio coverage and sponsorship they once had, hurting the publicity of the sport. It's a shame because it is a sport "anybody can play" as Teo explains:
"There is a position for any type of body type like the kicker; the guy [who] is a runner, the guy who catches. The kid who can’t play soccer can come and try football and they may like it. They may go, "Oh man I can block, I can play a lineman, and I can run with the ball."
When I ask him the difference between American football and soccer he responds, “In soccer you must be good with your feet. In American football, different body types and skills can be highlighted. If [they] can run fast, they can play football. Anybody can play American football here in Spain."
Els Pioners have players who come from all parts of the world. They come from South America, Africa, Spain, Europe, and of course the United States. I met one player from California, my home state, who quickly ran off to the field in preparation for a game against Paris Flash de La Corneuve. Teo’s philosophy for earning titles is simple, “[have] a winning tradition, [and] win in everything you can.” The team has made it to the semi-finals of the LNFA and play on May 20 at Serrahima Stadium in Montjuïc against the Valencia Firebats. I wish a l’equip molta sort. If you can’t make it to the field, you can watch it on live streaming TV on the team’s homepage. Sort Pioners!
|Pere Fortuño and Victor Martin|
|Coach Teo Polanco|
|Last week's rivals Paris Flash|
|Willy Grande, Joan Barcelona and Juan Pa heading out to the field.|
|Pep talk before the game.|
|On bench #8 Luke Laolagi from California.|