Years ago, Álex Chan (Pontevedra, 29 years old) sent a letter to the American handball federation to let them know that they could count on him, that he had dual nationality (his mother was born on the other side of the Atlantic) and was selectable. No one answered him and it is probable that no one read him. At the end of 2020, he found out that the USA had been invited to the 2021 World Cup in Egypt and the central defender quickly returned to the charge, this time with help: through various contacts, he managed to speak with the coach, He introduced himself, sent him videos of himself, confirmed that no one knew anything about him and, this time, they did listen to him. His goalscoring ability was not excessive in such a discreet team and they included him in the list.
However, when they landed in North Africa to play the championship after a concentration in Denmark, the covid had infected the entire dressing room and they had to retire before making their debut. This Friday, at last, two years later, nothing got in the way and Alex Chan made his debut in a World Cup with the star stripes jersey. And he did it in a big way, making real history. His five goals, four of them in the second half, against Morocco were key for the USA to achieve their first victory in a World Cup (27-28) after 25 losses. “We had the game very studied on video, very crushed,” he pointed out this Saturday night with the happy hangover of a historic victory.
Two weeks before, in the kitchen of the trip to the event in Poland and Sweden, he claimed in a telephone conversation that he felt “at the best moment” of his career. His numbers did not deny him: until the World Cup break he was the top scorer for Asobal (100 goals) with the modest Cisne (Pontevedra), his lifelong club and penultimate ranked this season. After so much waiting, the preparation for the World Cup experience had completely conditioned his season and in the summer he put his job as an industrial engineer on hold to focus on the tracks. He “wanted to be more focused on handball. In addition, I was going to be out of Spain all of January ”, added this first line of 1.88 in height who now awaits Croatia (20:30) and Egypt (Tuesday, 18:00), two bones, hoping that the victory of this Friday will help them move on to the second round. Another milestone. “We want to achieve something more if we are able. Our goal is to be increasingly competitive ”, he pointed out this Saturday.
With Spain, Chan never had a place and he sincerely admits that in his generation (92-93), one of the most successful, there were better players than him. “Aitor Ariño was there [baja por lesión] and Alex Dujshebaev [también Ferrán Solé, otro fijo]. I was once with the inferiors, but that team was very defined and I was also one of the small [nacido en el 93]. Getting in was very complicated, ”he explains without problem. Luckily for him, his dual nationality has given him an extra ball (he had already been playing with the US since after the failed attempt in 2021).
His maternal grandfather, José, left in the middle of the last century for North Carolina at the age of 17 to work as a stonemason, just as his father had done before. He passed through different places until he settled in Alexandria, a medium-sized city in the State of Virginia, on the east coast. By then, José had married an American, with whom he had three children; one of them, the mother of the handball player. These children spent their early childhood in the United States until the family settled in Galicia, where Álex Chan would later be born.
Only 1,300 licenses
That distant experience of his grandfather has been the gateway to this sporting adventure of his grandson with a country with little tradition in handball that seeks to put together a project for the Los Angeles 2028 Games. For now, in the 2021-22 campaign He only had 1,300 chips and the domestic competition was reduced to regional leagues, especially in the northeast, and qualifying weekend events for the national championship held in May, according to sources from his federation.
“The team is made up, above all, of players who have lived almost always in Europe. We have many second nationalities: Germans, French, Danish, Swedes, Hungarians, Argentines… I think there are only three with a single US passport, ”says the Cisne center-back. This time, yes, they qualified for sporting merits (not invited) after 22 years of absence and the historic victory against Morocco was broadcast by ESPN, one of the big networks, proof of the commitment to do something worthy in the Games that They organize in 2028 in one of the few disciplines in which the North American giant has been missing.
On the bench is Robert Heding, a 56-year-old Swede whom Chan had to locate two and a half years ago for someone in the US to pay attention to him. His coach at the time, Javier Fernández Young wild boar, he got in touch with his colleague from Ademar León Manolo Cadenas, whose agenda covers everything. He knew Heding, a former player at Helados Alacant in the early nineties, and told him about Chan’s case. A couple of brief conversations with the player and some reports were enough for him to file to this power planter who had spent his entire life summering in Virginia and Maryland with his uncles and cousins.
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