At the age of 14, Agus was already preparing for his big move to the United States without even realizing it.
Agustin Garcia Íñiguez, also known as “Agus,” has been living in the United States for only 3 months. However, his career as a professional soccer player began 17 years ago.
The Spanish defender was born in Albacete, a small town in Spain near Valencia. At a young age, Agus began playing soccer with his friends just for fun.
“At first it was more of a hobby," Agus told HoustonDynamo.com. "I really enjoyed soccer but I never thought I would play as a professional and I absolutely never imagined I was going to devote to it. When I played with my friends, I did it as a passion of mine and never looked at it as work.”
Agus was called to play with the academy team under Albacete, and at age 13 he was officially playing for them. When he turned 14, Agus decided to move away from his small town and into the city with his sister. All of his days, weeks, and years were dedicated to soccer and mastering it. Agus caught the attention of the head coach who gave him the chance to play on their first team. At this moment, he realized that he could actually play and devoted himself to becoming a professional player.
At the age of 19, Real Madrid gave him a contract. “At 19 I was playing with the first team. This is when I realized that I could devote my entire life to the game. As I started getting older I couldn’t help but think about my future," he said. "I had to decide whether to get a job or continue playing soccer. In life you always have to take a big step towards something, and at that time I was fortunate that things went well for me and that I was given a chance to play.”
It's already been 11 years for Agus as a professional soccer player and he’s had the opportunity to play in many parts of the world - Albacete, Madrid, Mallorca, Turkey, and more. “Last year in Turkey was a great experience,” Agus said. “Experiences like these open your eyes and you value many things when you're away from home - when you're away from all of your friends and family.”
Agus told HoustonDynamo.com that he grew a lot during his year in Turkey, not only as a player but also as a person. Now he has the opportunity to live and play in the United States.
“To tell you the truth, when I started playing soccer I never imagined I would play in the United States,” he said. “It is true that MLS is younger. When I started playing, since I am a veteran and I’m 31 years old, people weren’t really familiar with MLS, so I wasn’t too familiar with it. But a few years ago, MLS began to gain force, be attractive, and also the language is appealing. I think to understand and speak English is what will help me a lot in life, for work in the future and to live the experience.”
For a few years, Agus wanted to play in MLS. Now, his dream of playing in the United States has come true. He says that this is a league that has great potential and will grow tremendously.
When he arrived in Houston, he knew some English that he learned in school and from his time in Turkey.
“When I was living in Turkey, I needed a little English to communicate with my teammates because Turkish was almost impossible!” he said. “We got by with the little English words we knew,” said Agus. “I know how to defend myself a bit but it's basic words, so now I'm focusing on learning it.”
Agus is taking English classes with all of his Spanish speaking teammates, courtesy of the Dynamo. Everyone goes to class two days a week for two hours. In addition to those two classes, they take extra English classes three days a week for three hours.
“I have to seize the opportunity," Agus said. "I'm here in Houston and I have to learn. The language will help me understand my coaches, my peers, to engage with our fans, and for a normal life. I have to work extra hard to learn it.”
Agus explained that if they do not understand something, they ask DaMarcus Beasley since he speaks both English and Spanish. “I think that overall we are all learning. We’re learning English and there are a lot of our teammates who want to learn Spanish. It’s a mutual learning and we have fun teaching each other.”
Aside from taking English classes five times a week, watching TV is also helping him learn. “Both me and my wife are trying to learn the language. We watch TV only in English and with English subtitles,” he said. “Right now we are watching Lost and try to listen to English radio as well. But sometimes we do want to hear a little of our language and music, but it’s good to learn. If I go to classes 2 hours a day and the rest of the day I speak only Spanish, it will be very difficult to learn.”
The culture, food, and everything that Houston has to offer is something that Agus enjoys. “I really like Italian food, but I’ll mention an American meal that I loved. That would be the first burger I had in the United States. I don’t know if it was because it was the first burger I ate in Houston and that’s why I loved it, but it was from Jax and it was amazing.”
When grocery shopping, Agus likes to try new things. When traveling to new places, he encourages everyone to try something new. “For example, beverages. There are so many more flavors in the U.S. than in Spain. I also try to buy different food. You have to discover the culture and the food of where you’re living. But I will not lie, our food in Spain is a little better,” Agus said with a laugh. “In Spain the food is a little healthier but to be honest we are not having any problems with the food, it’s all great. Plus, at home we cook almost as if we were living in Spain.”
Agus also shared that in respects to Spain, it is true that soccer is different. He says that everyone definitely needs time to adapt when they come play here; to the team, league, and games. “Games here have a different rhythm, it is much more physical,” he said. “There’s a lot of traveling and there are a lot more goals. Soccer is more tactical in Spain. I think that’s the biggest change, the tactical aspect. But in regards to everything else, I think there are a lot of quality players. MLS is very strong – there’s a lot of equality. This equality makes it competitive and attractive. There’s little difference between teams, and this is a very strong league that has a good image around the world.”
When it comes to gaining familiarity with Houston, Agus is very positive and says that his experiences have prepared him for this journey.
“It's been almost 20 years as a professional for me. From the age of 14, I was living away from home and I can almost adapt anywhere - I am constantly changing places,” he said. “Life in Houston is the same as in Spain, Turkey, and in any other country. The only thing is that you have to step up with the illusion of adapting and doing your best and to not depend on anyone else. You have to jump in and learn, you can’t sit there waiting for someone to help you. It’s very difficult to be miles away from your home if you do not have a good attitude. And after many years of experience I have learned this, and everything has become easier.”