When it comes to being a fan of a sports team, it’s always amazing and heartwarming to see that the players who don our preferred clubs’ colors care about it just as much as we do, if not more so. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but nothing grinds my gears more than a player who tweets something to the effect of “oh well” after a devastating loss or posting a picture of them partying on Instagram shortly after being eliminated from the playoffs.
Yeah, I’m that guy.
With that being said, you could imagine my reaction when I scrolled through Twitter and saw this video posted by The Fernando Garza.
The video — taken from the #VillaForever event last night — shows Villa getting emotional as he describes being the first player NYCFC ever signed. El Guaje’s subsequent tears, mixed in with the crowd’s thundering applause, definitely brought the all the feels upon my soul.
I want you all to think about what this man has accomplished. In 18 years as a professional footballer, Villa has won three Copa del Rey’s, three La Liga titles, three Supercopa’s, a FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, a Champions League title, and a World Cup. Having had ridiculous runs with clubs like Valencia, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid, Villa’s time with New York City FC could be viewed as insignificant by much of the footballing world.
But to the man himself, it wasn’t insignificant. His time in the five boroughs was of much sentimental value and a passion project.
We NYCFC fans are no stranger to Villa showing emotion. After upsetting the Chicago Fire 2-1 at home after going down a man early, the image of Villa — head in his hands — became the defining moment by which we remember it. We’ve seen him argue with referees, blow kisses to the supporters, marvel with joy after winning an MLS MVP award. But we’ve never seen him quite like this — emotional to the point where he is at a loss for words. At least, not since his “retirement” from the Spanish national team after the 2014 World Cup. This is a man who has accomplished almost everything an aspiring football player would strive for. Yet, for our little corner of the world, he wept. And so did we.
Prior to Villa announcing his departure from NYCFC, I wrote this article in which I asked the ridiculous question of whether or not keeping the aging star was worth it. And I’ll admit: I take it all back. Every last word of it. As smug and all-knowing as I made myself out to be in the moment, I wasn’t actually prepared for NYCFC to announce that our captain would no longer be with us come 2019. I wasn’t prepared for Villa — a legend of the sport — to show us mere mortals that he cared as much as we do. I wasn’t ready for the finality of it all. And in this moment, I am having a hard time — both logically and emotionally — to wrap my head around the legendary No. 7 not taking to the tiny Etihad Pitch at Yankee Stadium. This is actually harder for me than Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium back in 2014.
Villa, you were as true a captain as we could’ve hoped for. Thank you for everything you gave us. I wish you the best of luck as you set upon Japan to grace the Land of the Rising Sun with your presence.
O Captain! My captain! You will be missed. See you soon.