Pelayo Novo and the difficulty of living | Sports

On Sunday, December 18, 2010, Real Oviedo and the Real Sociedad affiliate met at the new Carlos Tartiere. It was matchday 18 of group 2 of the Second Division B and the match —like the result, a zero draw— was bland. The only moment in which the stands warmed up on that cold afternoon was in the 60th minute. When the change sign indicated that the number 6 of the home team had to leave the field of play, the fans began to whistle the decision of the coach. The blue club flirted at that time with the relegation places to Third and the parish was up for few jokes. When the decibels began to rise, number 6 raised his hands to indicate to the audience that he had requested the change because he was injured. The whistles turned into applause.

That number 6 was Pelayo Novo and, at the age of 20, with that gesture he became the moral captain of the team and a benchmark for the blue fans. He also projected the personality of the young man from Oviedo: a calm boy, with always exquisite forms, empathetic, aware of his position, the environment and the importance of details. The athlete died on Tuesday, at the age of 32, after being hit by a train on the outskirts of the Asturian capital.

Second son of a high school teacher and a medical visitor, Pelayo joined Oviedo in the children’s category. He came from Juventud Estadio. He was part of a generation that had to decide whether to stay in a ruined club, which was struggling between the third and fourth categories of Spanish football, or accept any of the proposals that came from outside. Pelayo, a midfielder with an important physique – he measured 1.84 – and remarkable conditions for football, rejected them all. A good student, he finished the Oviedo nuns’ school and studied Industrial Engineering at the Asturian University. He was missing one subject to complete the degree.

His calm and shy character —and a certain tendency to be distracted— made the older teammates embrace him like a little brother. When he started training with the first team, there were days when he didn’t leave the locker room until someone came to pick him up. Already consolidated in Oviedo as a midfielder, he normally accepted being assigned to reinforce the Second Regional subsidiary on time. In 2008, when he was called up to train with the Spanish U-20 team, he asked Fini, his mother: “Mom, now what do I have to be, a footballer?”

In the 2012-2013 season he signed for Elche. “It’s that he called me Elche…”, he said as if wanting to explain a decision he made encouraged by his family and friends, who invited him to take the step. He got promotion to Primera with the Elche team. He went on loan to Córdoba. He achieved promotion with the Andalusian team in that historic match at the Las Palmas stadium in which the local fans invaded the field of play before the referee whistled the end. When the match resumed, Córdoba scored the goal that gave them promotion. Pelayo put the center into the area —with his less good leg, his left foot— which Raúl Bravo headed. A season in Lugo. He returned to Elche to compete for two more years. A brief stay in the Romanian Cluj and return to Spain, to Albacete. In total, 116 games and 12 goals in the Second Division. 77 and 13 in Second B.

Pelayo’s other match began on Saturday, March 31, 2018. That day Albacete visited Huesca. Shortly before 11:30 a.m., Pelayo rushed from the third floor of the concentration hotel. He was admitted to the Zaragoza University Clinical Hospital for 51 days. From there he left for the National Hospital for Paraplegics in Toledo, where he underwent a rehabilitation process that allowed him to walk again supported by crutches. Pelayo spoke of those moments in an interview granted in October of the same year to the Efe news agency. “I believe that the human body is intelligent and memory selective. I don’t remember anything from that morning. The blow was so strong and the fall from such a height and so great that I was unconscious at the moment and I only remember when I woke up in the hospital in Zaragoza ”, he explained. In that same interview, he spoke of the future: “Now I consider that I have another game, which is to live what I have left, that I am going to play it and that I hope to win. I know that there are also options of losing or being able to draw, but what I am not going to give up is fighting and fighting, which in the end is the way to live. If you enjoy the path, the goal will come by itself”.

Back in Asturias, Pelayo gradually incorporated activities and independence into his daily life. He started playing wheelchair tennis and was advancing positions in the ranking national: he was ranked 12th. Last week he participated in a championship in Barcelona. He worked until the end of 2022 in the Asturian Tennis Federation. Real Oviedo named him captain and ambassador of its foundation. If he traveled outside of Spain for a tennis tournament, he took the opportunity to meet with foreign shareholders of the entity. He bought a white California van for another of his passions: going camping.

Last summer he married Iciar, his longtime girlfriend. At the ceremony, he read a letter thanking his parents, his sister, and her partner for their love and support. It was a handwritten letter. Simple. He cited concepts such as “well-being”, “feeling”, “fighting” or “wanting”. And he repeated, more than any other, the word “thank you”. He also read a heartbreaking sentence: “It is no secret to you that for a moment I did not know how to live.”

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