At the age of 24, the Aranzazu center-back has completed a Master’s degree in the US before returning to Biscayan football. “14 universities called me in one week,” he reveals after passing through South Carolina and Georgia.
Oier Bernaola (Aranzazu, 1997) has returned home for Christmas after his enriching experience in the United States. On Biscayan soil he passed through the ranks of Arratia, the youth of Amorebieta, Zalla, Loiu, Galdakao and Iurretako. Now he has landed in the Zamudio of the Territorial Honor Division with the aim of promotion to the Third RFEF. For the past year and a half, he has served at universities in South Carolina and Georgia at the same time that he was pursuing a master’s degree in special education that has not ended due to “disagreements” with a professor. Now he wants to combine football and classes and teach Geography and History in ESO and Baccalaureate.
The Zamudio coach, Ibon Etxebarrieta, was looking for a central defender and a friend of Bernaola’s appeared there to mediate the signing. Álvaro Iglesias, forward of the team, commented to the coach about the possibility of signing him. Despite the interest of teams such as Balmaseda or ‘Somo’, both of the same category, Bernaola ended up at Zamudio, where he has participated in three games during December. He is a tough center-back, who has fitted in perfectly with the team’s dynamics. “Álvaro spoke to me very well about Zamudio, that there were good people, the field, the project and I opted for them,” Bernaola slides.
His idea of crossing the pond came to him through another friend of Zalla, Kevin Portugués, who ventured to enroll in an American university but ended up leaving football. “He told me that it was very good, that it was another way of seeing sport in a different way,” explains Bernaola to EL CORREO. An experience similar to that launched by another of his teammates at the Loiu, Gorka Delgado. Top scorer in a modest university, he is still in the US already enlisted in a higher league. «I contacted the agency that Kevin told me, I uploaded a home video with images of my game to a platform so that the coaches could see me. 14 universities called me in one week “, reveals Bernaola proudly.
A respected football in Europe
He chose a program “that looked good” and traveled to the University of South Carolina, before ending up at Georgia just a year and a half ago. He spent four months in the summer at the Georgia Revolution, in an already semi-professional League, the National Premier Soccer League. He has taken advantage of his short stay in North America “to the full” in two different divisions, without stopping to learn. “There was quite a level, with teams with international players,” he says of a football that is increasingly known and respected in Europe. Bernaola also lifted a champion trophy with the Georgia Revolution. «Since everything is so big, first you dispute small conferences. We won ours, we went to the Nationals, and we reached the round of 16 across the country, “he recalls his successful journey.
During his adventure in America he did not forget his parent team, the Amorebieta. There he did not get a hole but he shared a dressing room with the Arregi, Iker Bilbao, Seguín and Orozko, all of them in the current squad of the zornotzarras in their first season in the Second Division. Bernaola lived intensely the ascent of the Biscayan thousands of kilometers. “I followed it online, it was crazy, I remember I was hooked on a trip with the team on the bus watching it on my mobile just before a game of mine. It is tremendous for a town like Amorebieta to be in Second Division now, ”he celebrates.
Goal, take the leap
Bernaola does not despair at 24 years old. He has room for maneuver to stand out: “I don’t lose hope of making the leap,” he stresses. Aware that he must improve his starting speed, “especially in the first five meters”, he has no doubt that his experience in the US has made him “mature much more and regain confidence with the ball at his feet.” Thanks to his 1.84 he has a good aerial game, but “there I was trained by a Colombian coach who wanted to play everything on the ground,” says Bernaola, the ‘Yankee’ of Zamudio, who sets promotion as a goal with the technological team a Third RFEF. “It is complicated, but we will have to try.”