It has been a long and arduous journey for Igor Angulo, who was spotted by Athletic Bilbao while playing for a neighbourhood team as a 10-year-old lad and offered a spot at the club where he played for 13 years.
The bio bubble is agonising. For the ISL footballers, it’s a mirage of hotel rooms, team buses, training, gym, and stadiums in Goa during the pandemic. Even more apt that FC Goa striker Igor Angulo finds himself in the thick of the action with already 12 goals to his name, and his team awaiting two matches against Bangalore and Hyderabad which will seal the Gaurs fortunes for a shot at the silverware. Unable to get a respite from training while closeted in a hotel is what Igor Angulo, footballers, coaching staff at the ISL and other sports peers worldwide have had to contend with.
Igor is ever thankful that his baby daughter Chloe and wife are in Goa. The idea of the sun and sands of Goa lying unexplored due to Covid protocols sees Angulo pragmatic, “We just want to finish the season on a good note, and then explore Goa. The bubble hasn’t given me the chance to explore, hence it (Goa) is still an incomplete experience. Yet, we have a feeling that we’re going to love Goa. The bubble can be tasking at times. The most important thing I have is my family – they support me in the good and bad. Fortunately, they are here. If they weren’t, I think it would have been tough. Spending time with family in this enclosed environment has helped me a lot. Being a new dad is a challenge, but for me, it is a blessing. I look forward to spending time with my daughter Chloe every day,” says the proud father who posts occasional pictures with Chloe on social media, and is totally enamoured by her gurgles and baby talk, adding, “She’s growing up very fast and I’m lucky that I haven’t missed a single day of her life.”
Angulo is among the few footballers at the ISl that have been putting on their daddy foot forward. Being with loved ones, for Igor, enjoying the joys of fatherhood has helped focus, and dispel the effects of isolation that the world is reeling from.
The Goa move decoded
When Angulo came to Goa, he had to fill the august shoes of FC Goa’s striker last season Ferrán Corominas or Coro as he is fondly called. Angulo worked hard with an inherent instinct in the box, finding the back of the net 12 times. In between the bustle of matches, training, practice games, it’s business as usual with the FC Goa team which he calls family owing to the camaraderie head coach Juan Ferrando has breathed in.
For the Spaniard from Bilbao, the shift to Goa came at a time when his mind was open to new possibilities, and Goa fit right in, and he is optimistic.
“After four super successful years in Poland, I needed a new challenge. When FC Goa sent me the offer, I knew that it was the club I needed. I also realised that I have an ability to score goals in different circumstances,” says the striker who believes that FC Goa is “well-organised and always fighting to achieve the biggest feats possible – a real winner club.” Looking forward to playing in the prestigious AFC Champions League where FC Goa is the first Indian club to directly qualify for the group stage being top of the points table, Igor feels it is an honour to play against the best teams in Asia.
Watching his intensity at training can give one a hint about the dedication that these footballers have in their DNA. “I’m very strict (and disciplined) and having a daily routine. To be organised and work hard every day is the key to success,” says the footballer.
The early years
It’s been a long and undoubtedly difficult journey from an excitable young lad of 10 who Athletic Bilbao spotted playing for a neighbourhood team, and offered him a spot at the club where he played for 13 years. “Since then, I combined studies with football. Yet, year by year, it became more difficult as the Athletic Academy is very professional and strict. Fortunately, my efforts were worth it. I made my debut in the first team at 19. It was amazing as I was born in Bilbao and have supported Athletic since I can remember. To be able to share the dressing room with my idols was incredible. My idols were the players of Athletic Bilbao, and I was very fortunate I could play with some – Etxeberria and Julen Guerrero had a great impact on me. They were examples to learn from,” says the footballer whose birthday on Indian Republic Day was spent in a bubble with family – “I got some presents. It was nice,” he adds.
His career saw him play across Europe. At the Polish Ekstraklasa, he surpassed the 80-goal mark for Górnik Zabrze. “I used to play as a winger till 29-30 years old. During this time, I realised I could help my team better as a striker as my skills inside the box are good. From that moment on, I started to score many more goals. In Gornik Zabrze, I became one of the best scorers in the history of the club,” he smiles.
France, Cyprus, Greece – each stint gave Angulo the context and depth to explore the beautiful game. As exhilarating as it is tough, those difficult days to find the right foot forward, Angulo believes moulded him into a mature player. And he is thankful.
Yet, it was Spain that solidified his foundation. Playing in all divisions – La Liga, Segunda, Segunda B was about adapting, and innovating. “Every division demanded something different – some demanded high technicality while others warranted more physicality. These experiences are my biggest teachers,” says Igor who brought this wealth of experience, and has slowly turned fans into his corner – no mean feat.
Those early days learning the basics were a fantastic experience. “I was able to play with players like Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, Jesus Navas, etc – players who became world-famous,” says the footballer who is quick, decisive with an ability to smell a goal, which has certainly kept FC Goa in the running.
The 37-year-old Bilbao born misses food from Espana, and is slowly experimenting with a few Indian dishes. His insta account has pictures of dreamy, beachy and mountainous locales. Of course, his home in Spain is perfect for quick serendipitous getaways. “I have a good life in Spain, especially because I have my family and friends. I like to explore my country, or travel – America and Asia – it’s difficult to choose,” says the outdoorsy fellow who prefers not to play football on holidays, would much rather take up and learn new sports.
Playing sports sees ultimate highs and abject lows, and through it all Angulo has found a core that is solid. For Angulo, “The key to success in football and life is hard work, sacrifice and being self-critical. The chances we (FC Goa) get are reflected in our attitude. We go into every game with three points on our minds. I think we can win this title. The most important games of the season are ahead of us.” That they are, two games to get within striking distance of the Hero ISL Trophy.