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Interview

Trend setter

Whether he is sharing his take on climate change or turning heads as a style icon, Real Betis defender Héctor Bellerín is a big believer in self-expression

INTERVIEW Juan Díaz | PORTRAITS Jacobo Medrano

Héctor Bellerín is loving life these days. The Spanish right-back sealed a return to Real Betis in the summer, reuniting him with the club he supported as a boy and where he lifted the Copa del Rey while on loan in April 2022. In between came brief spells with Barcelona and Sporting CP, but the 28-year-old former Arsenal ace finally feels settled as a footballer – giving him the peace of mind to pursue his various passions outside the game. Renowned for his eye-catching fashion sense, Bellerín is also an outspoken voice on a number of issues, including climate change, politics, veganism and mental health. That openness sets him apart from the majority of his peers but, as he explains to Champions Journal, “When a player says something, different conversations happen.”

Héctor, let’s start with your return to Real Betis. How does it feel to be back at the club you’ve followed since you were a child? 

Well, the most important thing is happiness. I’m very grateful to the club and everyone involved who made it possible because coming back was the only thing I wanted. It was perhaps the most important moment of my career, to be able to settle down at this club and to be able to play here, hopefully, until I retire. When I arrived at Betis for the first time, I felt that it was my home very quickly; I had that feeling of belonging here. In football, it’s very tough to be able to play somewhere where you really feel that everything is perfect, and I have found that place here.

You tend to do things differently to most footballers. How did you come to develop your interests outside football?

I consider myself a curious person. When people say that what I do is different or extraordinary, I don’t see it that way at all. I think it’s something everybody does. It’s true that, in football, we’re not given the opportunity to express ourselves and that we’re encouraged to be just footballers. So, to feel that I’m a human being, apart from being a footballer, that gives me the freedom to try new things and have different interests. I do my job, I’m a professional in what I do – I do everything I need to and a little more – but I have many hours each day when I enjoy learning, creating, being with my family and with my friends, and that’s something which nourishes you as a footballer as well: to have that duality, so to speak.

Tell us a bit about your love of fashion. Where does it come from and do you think football and fashion can be intertwined?

They are already very intertwined: you see more and more collaborations, you see more clubs and many more players feeling freer when it comes to expressing themselves in the way they dress. That individuality within the football community is something which needs to be promoted. We are all different, we come from different places and we express ourselves in different ways. Everything about me comes from my family. I grew up around sewing machines – both my grandmother and my mother are seamstresses and pattern makers – and it’s something I’ve seen in my house since I was little. Over the years, I’ve become more curious about the process of how clothes are made, who transports them, which ones are good for the environment, which ones are not, which are more humane, which are less humane, and to understand how this chain works, not only in fashion, but with consumerism in general. Fashion has opened doors for me to investigate worlds I didn’t know about.

How would you describe your style?

My style is something that’s evolved a lot over time. I would describe it as comfortable and useful. Clothes have to be useful; they have to serve a function. I try to have clothes that can be used for different things, and to have a smaller and smaller wardrobe with more and more functional garments. I think I have quite a diverse style – it’s difficult to describe. There are days when I can wear very technical clothes, but then I can wear very old clothes which have nothing to do with anything. They are all things I like, and it’s simply my own style that I’ve been creating over the years.

What does fashion mean to you?

I think it’s an art. In the beginning, fashion started as a necessity to cover your body to protect it from the cold. Later, it started to represent the different social classes. Now, it has become very frivolous sometimes due to the way it’s commercialised. However, it’s still a necessity and art can be created out of necessity and daily life. I think that if you open your eyes and see the options a garment can offer – even if it’s mainly practical – you’ll see many different possibilities, and that’s something which fascinates me. 

You said before that in your free time you like to be creative. How important is creativity for you?

Creativity is important for everyone. We are creating things all the time, not necessarily with our hands but also with our minds. The manual process has many possibilities: writing, drawing, sculpting… These processes help you to connect with yourself and your environment and daily life. They bring me a lot of peace.

You mentioned sustainability before. What do you think about the measures being taken in football to make it more sustainable?

There is still a lot to do. Take the drought that Seville experienced this year. It’s true that summers in Seville are always hot; however, the temperatures this year were extreme. People think this is a problem we will have to face in 20 years, but the truth is that we are facing it right now. It’s very important to make people aware and understand that every effort counts. There are many people who think, ‘Why should I recycle if I’m the only person doing it?’ Our mindset should be the opposite. It’s also important to face this problem from a political point of view. In Spain, there are political parties that deny climate change exists and I think that is very damaging. The wheel starts to roll from the top and it’s important that those in charge know there are important actions that must be done as citizens and as a society.

“When I’ve felt that something needed to be said I’ve said it”

Regarding football, what else can be done? What other measures could be taken?

One of the problems in football is transport. You fly by plane all the time. When I started playing, we used to travel more by train or bus. We all know how comfortable a plane is, but that’s a selfish thought. We can also think about the equipment we use, the amount of plastic bottles we use. It’s not just us – the players – it’s also the media, all the people who take part and work on matchdays. I think both transport and the amount spent on equipment is excessive. We have to question everything. Betis are achieving great things through the Forever Green platform: they’re promoting public transport, making our supporters aware of it. These initiatives are very positive, but only one club is doing it. It should be something global. 

You are one of the main shareholders of Forest Green Rovers in the English fourth tier. What aspect of the club caught your attention?

Their awareness. It’s a club where all the players follow a plant-based diet, the club uses renewable energies for all their day-to-day work, they use an electric bus to travel and they create great awareness among their supporters and players. They make them aware of the correct lifestyle. Since they’re a small club, they don’t take such long trips and don’t need to host so many people in the stadium, but it’s important to value these efforts. Bigger clubs with more supporters and more fans in the stadium on matchdays should learn from their example. 

Was it your desire to think carefully before taking any decision which also motivated you to become vegan?

I have been vegan for a long time. When I became vegan, I wasn’t as aware as I am now. I just wanted to see how my body would react because I’m aware that I work thanks to my body, so my body must be in the perfect condition. I always look for alternatives to the things I do on a daily basis that can make me feel better. It doesn’t matter if these changes are related to my diet, my recovery time, or any other activities that can help prolong my career. So, I wanted to try veganism, and it’s been really helpful and opened many new doors. I’ve met new people and I’ve started to talk about the benefits it has on physical well-being and also on the environment. It’s not cruel to animals. I started feeling really good, but there are many other benefits. Veganism was a kind of door that led me to open other new doors which have helped me become more aware about what’s going on in my environment.

We live in a world where every comment by footballers is analysed in detail, and yet you’re happy to talk about your concerns, interests and activities very differently to most players.

I’ve always been surrounded by people who have supported me during the moments when I’ve doubted myself. There have been moments when I’ve felt alone as a player, but I realised that avoiding talking about certain subjects was actually worse for me because I felt as if I didn’t respect myself. I have a voice, I have feelings, and when I’ve felt that something needed to be said – even if I knew it would upset others – I’ve said it because I felt that not doing so would hurt me. I try to always say what I feel. I do it respectfully, but I give my opinion because opinions are not facts: they are there to be discussed, to raise awareness. When a player says something, different conversations happen because of it in bars or among friends, and that’s always positive. 

Héctor Bellerín is loving life these days. The Spanish right-back sealed a return to Real Betis in the summer, reuniting him with the club he supported as a boy and where he lifted the Copa del Rey while on loan in April 2022. In between came brief spells with Barcelona and Sporting CP, but the 28-year-old former Arsenal ace finally feels settled as a footballer – giving him the peace of mind to pursue his various passions outside the game. Renowned for his eye-catching fashion sense, Bellerín is also an outspoken voice on a number of issues, including climate change, politics, veganism and mental health. That openness sets him apart from the majority of his peers but, as he explains to Champions Journal, “When a player says something, different conversations happen.”

Héctor, let’s start with your return to Real Betis. How does it feel to be back at the club you’ve followed since you were a child? 

Well, the most important thing is happiness. I’m very grateful to the club and everyone involved who made it possible because coming back was the only thing I wanted. It was perhaps the most important moment of my career, to be able to settle down at this club and to be able to play here, hopefully, until I retire. When I arrived at Betis for the first time, I felt that it was my home very quickly; I had that feeling of belonging here. In football, it’s very tough to be able to play somewhere where you really feel that everything is perfect, and I have found that place here.

You tend to do things differently to most footballers. How did you come to develop your interests outside football?

I consider myself a curious person. When people say that what I do is different or extraordinary, I don’t see it that way at all. I think it’s something everybody does. It’s true that, in football, we’re not given the opportunity to express ourselves and that we’re encouraged to be just footballers. So, to feel that I’m a human being, apart from being a footballer, that gives me the freedom to try new things and have different interests. I do my job, I’m a professional in what I do – I do everything I need to and a little more – but I have many hours each day when I enjoy learning, creating, being with my family and with my friends, and that’s something which nourishes you as a footballer as well: to have that duality, so to speak.

Tell us a bit about your love of fashion. Where does it come from and do you think football and fashion can be intertwined?

They are already very intertwined: you see more and more collaborations, you see more clubs and many more players feeling freer when it comes to expressing themselves in the way they dress. That individuality within the football community is something which needs to be promoted. We are all different, we come from different places and we express ourselves in different ways. Everything about me comes from my family. I grew up around sewing machines – both my grandmother and my mother are seamstresses and pattern makers – and it’s something I’ve seen in my house since I was little. Over the years, I’ve become more curious about the process of how clothes are made, who transports them, which ones are good for the environment, which ones are not, which are more humane, which are less humane, and to understand how this chain works, not only in fashion, but with consumerism in general. Fashion has opened doors for me to investigate worlds I didn’t know about.

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How would you describe your style?

My style is something that’s evolved a lot over time. I would describe it as comfortable and useful. Clothes have to be useful; they have to serve a function. I try to have clothes that can be used for different things, and to have a smaller and smaller wardrobe with more and more functional garments. I think I have quite a diverse style – it’s difficult to describe. There are days when I can wear very technical clothes, but then I can wear very old clothes which have nothing to do with anything. They are all things I like, and it’s simply my own style that I’ve been creating over the years.

What does fashion mean to you?

I think it’s an art. In the beginning, fashion started as a necessity to cover your body to protect it from the cold. Later, it started to represent the different social classes. Now, it has become very frivolous sometimes due to the way it’s commercialised. However, it’s still a necessity and art can be created out of necessity and daily life. I think that if you open your eyes and see the options a garment can offer – even if it’s mainly practical – you’ll see many different possibilities, and that’s something which fascinates me. 

You said before that in your free time you like to be creative. How important is creativity for you?

Creativity is important for everyone. We are creating things all the time, not necessarily with our hands but also with our minds. The manual process has many possibilities: writing, drawing, sculpting… These processes help you to connect with yourself and your environment and daily life. They bring me a lot of peace.

You mentioned sustainability before. What do you think about the measures being taken in football to make it more sustainable?

There is still a lot to do. Take the drought that Seville experienced this year. It’s true that summers in Seville are always hot; however, the temperatures this year were extreme. People think this is a problem we will have to face in 20 years, but the truth is that we are facing it right now. It’s very important to make people aware and understand that every effort counts. There are many people who think, ‘Why should I recycle if I’m the only person doing it?’ Our mindset should be the opposite. It’s also important to face this problem from a political point of view. In Spain, there are political parties that deny climate change exists and I think that is very damaging. The wheel starts to roll from the top and it’s important that those in charge know there are important actions that must be done as citizens and as a society.

“When I’ve felt that something needed to be said I’ve said it”

Regarding football, what else can be done? What other measures could be taken?

One of the problems in football is transport. You fly by plane all the time. When I started playing, we used to travel more by train or bus. We all know how comfortable a plane is, but that’s a selfish thought. We can also think about the equipment we use, the amount of plastic bottles we use. It’s not just us – the players – it’s also the media, all the people who take part and work on matchdays. I think both transport and the amount spent on equipment is excessive. We have to question everything. Betis are achieving great things through the Forever Green platform: they’re promoting public transport, making our supporters aware of it. These initiatives are very positive, but only one club is doing it. It should be something global. 

You are one of the main shareholders of Forest Green Rovers in the English fourth tier. What aspect of the club caught your attention?

Their awareness. It’s a club where all the players follow a plant-based diet, the club uses renewable energies for all their day-to-day work, they use an electric bus to travel and they create great awareness among their supporters and players. They make them aware of the correct lifestyle. Since they’re a small club, they don’t take such long trips and don’t need to host so many people in the stadium, but it’s important to value these efforts. Bigger clubs with more supporters and more fans in the stadium on matchdays should learn from their example. 

Was it your desire to think carefully before taking any decision which also motivated you to become vegan?

I have been vegan for a long time. When I became vegan, I wasn’t as aware as I am now. I just wanted to see how my body would react because I’m aware that I work thanks to my body, so my body must be in the perfect condition. I always look for alternatives to the things I do on a daily basis that can make me feel better. It doesn’t matter if these changes are related to my diet, my recovery time, or any other activities that can help prolong my career. So, I wanted to try veganism, and it’s been really helpful and opened many new doors. I’ve met new people and I’ve started to talk about the benefits it has on physical well-being and also on the environment. It’s not cruel to animals. I started feeling really good, but there are many other benefits. Veganism was a kind of door that led me to open other new doors which have helped me become more aware about what’s going on in my environment.

We live in a world where every comment by footballers is analysed in detail, and yet you’re happy to talk about your concerns, interests and activities very differently to most players.

I’ve always been surrounded by people who have supported me during the moments when I’ve doubted myself. There have been moments when I’ve felt alone as a player, but I realised that avoiding talking about certain subjects was actually worse for me because I felt as if I didn’t respect myself. I have a voice, I have feelings, and when I’ve felt that something needed to be said – even if I knew it would upset others – I’ve said it because I felt that not doing so would hurt me. I try to always say what I feel. I do it respectfully, but I give my opinion because opinions are not facts: they are there to be discussed, to raise awareness. When a player says something, different conversations happen because of it in bars or among friends, and that’s always positive. 

Héctor Bellerín is loving life these days. The Spanish right-back sealed a return to Real Betis in the summer, reuniting him with the club he supported as a boy and where he lifted the Copa del Rey while on loan in April 2022. In between came brief spells with Barcelona and Sporting CP, but the 28-year-old former Arsenal ace finally feels settled as a footballer – giving him the peace of mind to pursue his various passions outside the game. Renowned for his eye-catching fashion sense, Bellerín is also an outspoken voice on a number of issues, including climate change, politics, veganism and mental health. That openness sets him apart from the majority of his peers but, as he explains to Champions Journal, “When a player says something, different conversations happen.”

Héctor, let’s start with your return to Real Betis. How does it feel to be back at the club you’ve followed since you were a child? 

Well, the most important thing is happiness. I’m very grateful to the club and everyone involved who made it possible because coming back was the only thing I wanted. It was perhaps the most important moment of my career, to be able to settle down at this club and to be able to play here, hopefully, until I retire. When I arrived at Betis for the first time, I felt that it was my home very quickly; I had that feeling of belonging here. In football, it’s very tough to be able to play somewhere where you really feel that everything is perfect, and I have found that place here.

You tend to do things differently to most footballers. How did you come to develop your interests outside football?

I consider myself a curious person. When people say that what I do is different or extraordinary, I don’t see it that way at all. I think it’s something everybody does. It’s true that, in football, we’re not given the opportunity to express ourselves and that we’re encouraged to be just footballers. So, to feel that I’m a human being, apart from being a footballer, that gives me the freedom to try new things and have different interests. I do my job, I’m a professional in what I do – I do everything I need to and a little more – but I have many hours each day when I enjoy learning, creating, being with my family and with my friends, and that’s something which nourishes you as a footballer as well: to have that duality, so to speak.

Tell us a bit about your love of fashion. Where does it come from and do you think football and fashion can be intertwined?

They are already very intertwined: you see more and more collaborations, you see more clubs and many more players feeling freer when it comes to expressing themselves in the way they dress. That individuality within the football community is something which needs to be promoted. We are all different, we come from different places and we express ourselves in different ways. Everything about me comes from my family. I grew up around sewing machines – both my grandmother and my mother are seamstresses and pattern makers – and it’s something I’ve seen in my house since I was little. Over the years, I’ve become more curious about the process of how clothes are made, who transports them, which ones are good for the environment, which ones are not, which are more humane, which are less humane, and to understand how this chain works, not only in fashion, but with consumerism in general. Fashion has opened doors for me to investigate worlds I didn’t know about.

How would you describe your style?

My style is something that’s evolved a lot over time. I would describe it as comfortable and useful. Clothes have to be useful; they have to serve a function. I try to have clothes that can be used for different things, and to have a smaller and smaller wardrobe with more and more functional garments. I think I have quite a diverse style – it’s difficult to describe. There are days when I can wear very technical clothes, but then I can wear very old clothes which have nothing to do with anything. They are all things I like, and it’s simply my own style that I’ve been creating over the years.

What does fashion mean to you?

I think it’s an art. In the beginning, fashion started as a necessity to cover your body to protect it from the cold. Later, it started to represent the different social classes. Now, it has become very frivolous sometimes due to the way it’s commercialised. However, it’s still a necessity and art can be created out of necessity and daily life. I think that if you open your eyes and see the options a garment can offer – even if it’s mainly practical – you’ll see many different possibilities, and that’s something which fascinates me. 

You said before that in your free time you like to be creative. How important is creativity for you?

Creativity is important for everyone. We are creating things all the time, not necessarily with our hands but also with our minds. The manual process has many possibilities: writing, drawing, sculpting… These processes help you to connect with yourself and your environment and daily life. They bring me a lot of peace.

You mentioned sustainability before. What do you think about the measures being taken in football to make it more sustainable?

There is still a lot to do. Take the drought that Seville experienced this year. It’s true that summers in Seville are always hot; however, the temperatures this year were extreme. People think this is a problem we will have to face in 20 years, but the truth is that we are facing it right now. It’s very important to make people aware and understand that every effort counts. There are many people who think, ‘Why should I recycle if I’m the only person doing it?’ Our mindset should be the opposite. It’s also important to face this problem from a political point of view. In Spain, there are political parties that deny climate change exists and I think that is very damaging. The wheel starts to roll from the top and it’s important that those in charge know there are important actions that must be done as citizens and as a society.

“When I’ve felt that something needed to be said I’ve said it”

Regarding football, what else can be done? What other measures could be taken?

One of the problems in football is transport. You fly by plane all the time. When I started playing, we used to travel more by train or bus. We all know how comfortable a plane is, but that’s a selfish thought. We can also think about the equipment we use, the amount of plastic bottles we use. It’s not just us – the players – it’s also the media, all the people who take part and work on matchdays. I think both transport and the amount spent on equipment is excessive. We have to question everything. Betis are achieving great things through the Forever Green platform: they’re promoting public transport, making our supporters aware of it. These initiatives are very positive, but only one club is doing it. It should be something global. 

You are one of the main shareholders of Forest Green Rovers in the English fourth tier. What aspect of the club caught your attention?

Their awareness. It’s a club where all the players follow a plant-based diet, the club uses renewable energies for all their day-to-day work, they use an electric bus to travel and they create great awareness among their supporters and players. They make them aware of the correct lifestyle. Since they’re a small club, they don’t take such long trips and don’t need to host so many people in the stadium, but it’s important to value these efforts. Bigger clubs with more supporters and more fans in the stadium on matchdays should learn from their example. 

Was it your desire to think carefully before taking any decision which also motivated you to become vegan?

I have been vegan for a long time. When I became vegan, I wasn’t as aware as I am now. I just wanted to see how my body would react because I’m aware that I work thanks to my body, so my body must be in the perfect condition. I always look for alternatives to the things I do on a daily basis that can make me feel better. It doesn’t matter if these changes are related to my diet, my recovery time, or any other activities that can help prolong my career. So, I wanted to try veganism, and it’s been really helpful and opened many new doors. I’ve met new people and I’ve started to talk about the benefits it has on physical well-being and also on the environment. It’s not cruel to animals. I started feeling really good, but there are many other benefits. Veganism was a kind of door that led me to open other new doors which have helped me become more aware about what’s going on in my environment.

We live in a world where every comment by footballers is analysed in detail, and yet you’re happy to talk about your concerns, interests and activities very differently to most players.

I’ve always been surrounded by people who have supported me during the moments when I’ve doubted myself. There have been moments when I’ve felt alone as a player, but I realised that avoiding talking about certain subjects was actually worse for me because I felt as if I didn’t respect myself. I have a voice, I have feelings, and when I’ve felt that something needed to be said – even if I knew it would upset others – I’ve said it because I felt that not doing so would hurt me. I try to always say what I feel. I do it respectfully, but I give my opinion because opinions are not facts: they are there to be discussed, to raise awareness. When a player says something, different conversations happen because of it in bars or among friends, and that’s always positive. 

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