DUNTON, England - Spanish footballer Gaizka Mendieta finished his career at Middlesbrough in England in 2006, but he still has no problem getting the crowd on their feet. Except this time, it’s in a club playing music, rather than displaying his skills with a ball.
Since retiring from a career that saw the cultured midfielder wow fans at Valencia, Barcelona and Middlesbrough, as well as win 40 caps for his country, Mendieta has been developing an alternative career as a club DJ.
“I’ve always been a fan of music,” he says. “When I first moved to Valencia at 18 to play for the club, the first thing I did was try to find the best record shops in the city. Since then I’ve always done a bit of DJ-ing, but obviously as a footballer my weekends tended to be a bit busy. When I finished playing, that’s when I could dedicate more time to music.”
Like all proper fans, Gaizka likes to immerse himself in the whole music culture, finding out all about the bands, learning the lyrics – and given his love of US and UK artists, that sometimes means learning the language too – and travelling to gigs in different cities and countries to see live performances. “Music has been this whole universe for me,” he says.
Gaizka’s tastes are eclectic and include anything from 1950s rock and soul music to some of today’s indie bands. “Anything that is danceable and people might enjoy, from Aretha Franklin to Franz Ferdinand,” he says.
Proof comes in the shape of the weighty suitcases of vinyl he’s brought with him to play a gig at London’s famous Kensington Roof Gardens.
“Some DJs have set lists,” he says. “If they’re playing for three hours they bring enough records to play for those three hours. But I couldn’t use a set list because you never know how a crowd is going to react to the music. If the crowd reacts well to a song, I like to have plenty of other records they’d probably like as well. So this means we’ve bought enough records to play for ten hours even though we’re playing for three.”
Playing a London gig is a big deal for Mendieta. “I would compare this to one of the big games I would play in my career, because London is an important place for us as fans of music, it has a big culture of music.”
What other similarities does he see between being a footballer and a DJ?
“You have to make decisions in a few seconds. When you’re on a pitch you have to make the decision where to run and where to pass the ball, when you’re in the club you have to decide in seconds what song you’re going to play next by looking at the behaviour of the crowd. When you pick a song that everyone in the club loves, and you see them going mad, you get a feeling that’s similar to when you score a goal.”
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