“Not everything in football should be about business”

“Not everything in football should be about business”

David Aganzo, president of the Association of Spanish Footballers, highlights the need to work on developing the more modest football categories, and on promoting women’s football and the academic education of football players so they are ready to enter the labor market

David Aganzo has chaired the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) since November 2017, a position he took on 30 months after his retirement as a professional footballer. He knows Spanish football inside out, having grown up in the youth academy of Real Madrid and played for ten different La Liga teams (Real Madrid, RCD Espanyol, Extremadura, Valladolid, Levante, Racing, Alaves, Rayo, Hercules and Lugo). He also spent a brief period playing for teams in Israel (Beitar Jerusalem) and Greece (Aris).

Aganzo was elected to the presidency of the AFE with 98.5% of the votes at an extraordinary assembly and since then he has defended the interests of his collective knowledgeably. His time as a player in different categories has allowed him to acquire a wide knowledge of the needs of football players and he is a great defender of professional training for players, during or after their playing days, to help ensure them a future career. That’s why the president of the AFE signed a collaboration agreement with the Johan Cruyff Institute with the aim of promoting and facilitating academic education among its members.

Football is full of clichés. One of them is that it is a great business. That depends on who for, right?

I always say that above all we’re talking about a sport, an activity in which values must prevail over everything. Obviously, money is necessary for football to grow, but in all categories. The AFE focuses a good part of its efforts on the most modest football categories, the Segunda B and Tercera divisions, and also on the women’s league. These groups are the ones that need the most help. The economic impact generated by football must have an effect on these categories that are most in need. Not everything should be about business, and for that reason we denounced the arrival of Saudi football players to our country, players who were paying to play. It was an initiative that harms Spanish footballers, especially the young players coming up through the youth academies.

Most people seem to also agree that the Spanish League is the best in the world. Do you also think that is true or are you one of those who disagree?

We are lucky to have extraordinary clubs and footballers that make Spanish football shine, but there are many aspects that the AFE believes should change. We safeguard the health of the players and for that reason we consider that changes have to be made in the calendar. Players have to have their moments of rest and family time, because they aren’t machines. Also, we consider that the schedules are not the best, with games that are often played in too much heat, which is harmful for the health of the players, the fans, the referees and all those involved. Footballers’ well-being is the raison d’être of our Association. We must continue working to avoid any misfortune. And we mustn’t forget about economic control, with rules that are damaging many players and that we want to modify.

“Not everything in football should be about business”

David Aganzo, with Sergio Ramos and Koke

Where is there more pressure, on the pitch or in the office?

There is pressure in both places, although possibly more in the office, as the person ultimately responsible for a union that represents almost 9,000 members. I believe that the experience I acquired over so many years and at different clubs has helped me to assume the challenge of presiding the AFE. I experienced the bitter side of football, I had teammates who even had problems to support their families because they weren’t getting paid, and that’s why I embarked on this adventure, to help prevent situations like that from being repeated.

Does being elected president of the AFE with 98.7% of the votes mean that you face the mandate with great confidence or with a great responsibility?

Responsibility, because the AFE represents some 9,000 football players, men and women who have placed their trust in the board of directors that I preside.

Of all the things that you set yourself to do when you took over the reins of the Association, how many would you say that you have already dealt with?

There are many open fronts, many issues we are working on to improve the conditions of the players, but I am proud that the salary guarantee fund for the Tercera division is already a reality. It was something necessary for our fellow members. And, of course, I mustn’t forget the agreement for women’s football, which we have been working on for a long time and that, I hope, will be a reality very soon.

What are your other objectives as president of the AFE?

To start with, to promote women’s football and fight so that our female players have an agreement, with a minimum salary, and are covered for maternity leave, vacations, etc. And to continue working for the most modest football divisions, Segunda B and Tercera, so that all our members can enjoy the best conditions to carry out their profession. And, obviously, we are not forgetting the Primera and Segunda division players, with an agreement that should be reviewed after 2020 and that we are already working on.

As an ex-football player and now as a defender of their interests, you are an authoritative voice to answer the eternal question: Should a player’s wages be consistent with the income he/she generates?

Many players generate large amounts of money and this must be taken into account. However, we must not forget that many others who do not generate so much are fundamental in a football team. For me, sport is a fundamental tool to transmit values, to educate the young. It’s important, but football is not just about making money.

There is more and more talk about the boom in women’s football, but if you dig deeper it seems that there is a long way to go. What can be done by the AFE?

To begin with, the Women’s Football Committee has been set up, an advisory body whose fundamental mission is to develop, foster and promote women’s football, as well as keep the AFE’s board of directors or the body it designates up to date on all issues related to women’s football. It is a very important step that others will follow, like the agreement that, sooner rather than later, will allow women players to exercise their profession fully protected and with rights that they do not have now.

You have always identified yourself as a great defender of professional training, what kind of professionals do you want at your side?

The AFE is working hard to close all kinds of agreements with companies, universities and entities from different fields, with the professional training of football players in mind. Football is a profession with an expiration date and, for me, ‘the day after’ has always been very important. For this reason, our Association offers all its members access to scholarships, so they are qualified and ready to enter the labor market when they hang up their boots.

Johan Cruyff argued that, with adequate training, athletes are the best people to lead sports organizations. That’s why he created the Johan Cruyff Institute. Do you agree with him?

Of course. Those of us who have had the good fortune to fully live the reality of sport, in this case football, we know very well all the problems and concerns that athletes can have. I believe that our experience is extremely valuable to support and promote initiatives that help improve sport and the working conditions of its protagonists.

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