Conquistadors at the Kanteerava

Conquistadors at the Kanteerava

Bengaluru FC's Albert Serran and Ferran Corominas of FC Goa will be in action against each other at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Friday.

Albert Serran takes a pause and looks around. His eyes staring into the swimming pool of his plush apartment complex as he mulls overs the question: his biggest takeaway from football.

"Friends," the RCD Espanyol academy product says, finally.

In a career which transverses continents, Serran has plied his trade in Spain, Wales, Cyprus, Albania, Morocco and ultimately India. He has risen through the ranks to play for his local team Espanyol in La Liga, helped promote Swansea City to the Premier League and, last year, won the Indian Super League with Bengaluru FC. 

But his takeaway from the beautiful game remains the human connections he's made. 

On Friday, when Bengaluru FC and FC Goa clash in the ISL, Serran will walk onto the field to face off against his long-time friend - Ferran Corominas. It's a moment the Spaniard has been looking forward to.

After missing out on this fixture last season due to suspension, the kids who grew up in Barcelona, played together for Espanyol and Doxa, a Cyprus club, the two will line-up against each other at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium for the first time.

"I speak with him sometimes but when the game approaches, I don't want to speak with him," Serran says with a laugh. "Always in football, there are no friends on the pitch. You play for your team-mates and club. It's a competition. Coro is also very competitive. It's the best part."

"I'm happy he is playing well in Bengaluru," says Coro of the clash. "He is centreback and I'm a striker so we are in the same place on the pitch as well. I like it, I can play and speak with him also... it's good," he laughs.

Yes, there is an Asian Champions League spot and three points on the line, but after a lifetime of friendship and shared experiences, this is a contest that goes beyond a striker and a defender. It's one which encompasses memories between two friends who have travelled, experienced and grown up in this global melting pot that is football. 

Their friendship goes back to their days in Espanyol. Coro, a year older, made his debut for the first team four years before Serran would pull on the famous white and blue stripes.

"He's a legend in Barcelona," says Serran with a smile. "Sometimes I go out with him and supporters call out to him on the streets. He scored the goal that kept Espanyol in the Premiera Division."

The legend of Coro hearkens back to 2005-06 season when the striker scored a last-minute goal against Real Sociedad in the final game of the league to save his side from falling to the Segunda Division. The goal that staved away relegation.

"The project of the club was to make a new stadium and if they had gone to second division it would have been difficult. It's the most important goal I scored," admits Coro.

On that day, Serran watched and celebrated as a fan and for a friend. He would make his top-flight debut the following season, partnering Dani Jarque in central defence.

Jarque was the academy product who rose through the ranks to take up the mantle of captain. For the fans, he the everyman who became king. He was Coro's closest friend but for Serran, he was the example.

"He was a reference for me," says Serran. "He came in the same year as me but in the older group. We were doing the same steps in different level and I made my debut with him against Racing Santander."

As fate would have it, Jarque would tragically pass away in 2009, aged 26, due to a sudden cardiac issue. He was famously mourned by Andres Iniesta, with a message on his shirt after scoring the winner in the World Cup final in 2010. A moment entrenched in Spain's football folklore.

"It was very difficult to lose him, for everyone, for the club. This summer I was in one game where we played friends of Dani Jarque and another team... his parents were there. It was nice. Football brings people together," Serran says. On that day, Coro lined up with him.

"We played together in the game," Coro says. "Every summer, I go with Jarque's family and play one game. There are some training and tournaments for the kids...," he trails off.

"When you see these things... we know to be a footballer is not forever," says Serran. "The thing that you love and used to play since you were a kid... you cannot do it anymore. That period is arriving, so you enjoy more and realise how lucky we are to be still playing."

"In 10 years, I will remember these moments as the best of my life playing football. At 35-36, you think every year is like a gift. You see your friends and some of them are not playing anymore for whatever reason so you feel lucky. It's a gift."

Like how it started, Coro arrived first in India. Serran, before packing his bags for his great Indian adventure, reached out to him for advice. But here, Serran would win the title in his first year in the country, defeating Coro's FC Goa in the final.

Now, here they are again. Friends and foes, from Catalonia to Bengaluru!

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