When Miguel Ángel Moyá retired as a football player a few years ago, he’d succeeded in becoming one of the leading goalkeepers over the past decade in Spain’s top league, la Primera Liga. But despite having seemingly achieved almost all he could in his chosen discipline, Moyá was still keen to get to serious grips with another – padel – and, albeit with clear limits, see where a completely new kind of sporting adventure would take him.
“Once you’ve been a professional player, sport of all kinds always remains part of you, no matter what you then do,” Moya, now 39 and who played for Primera Liga football sides Real Sociedad, Atlético Madrid and Getafe, explains. “But I always knew that when I stopped being a football player, I would mainly focus on doing other sports, not soccer. “In racquet-based sports, for example, my top three preferences are padel, followed by tennis and beach volleyball.”
After decades of playing football, Moyá is now revelling in his new interest and challenge of being a padel ambassador for Babolat. And in his still relatively new terrain, he has found some key similarities and contrasts between the two sports.
“Just like in goalkeeping, the action in padel takes place within a relatively small space where the walls are very important, and where you have to have very quick reflexes and make lightning-fast decisions,” he points out. On the other hand, “as a goalkeeper, up to five minutes can go by between each of your interventions in the game. In padel, you have to learn how to manage much shorter time frames, and if you make a mistake – playing a defensive smash and hitting the wall glass, say – you need to know how to move on immediately and get back into playing.”
Moyá has never been scared of setting himself ambitious objectives on or off the playing field. When goalkeeping for the Basque side San Sebastián, for example, he managed to learn the Basque language, one of the hardest in the world to master.
But Moyá is also far-sighted enough to realise that in padel, certain areas like becoming a TV commentator on the sport, as he regularly still does for football, may well remain beyond him. “Listening to TV commentators during padel games, there are things I’ll only appreciate thanks to them pointing them out. Let’s say, one player freezes out an opponent or their lob is falling short – I can see that. But I certainly wouldn’t be able to notice the finer, more technical points of the game with the same speed as a practised padel commentator.”
Yet his footballing past remains part of his padel experience in other ways, such as when his opponents get wind that he was once a professional soccer player. “When some of them find they have the chance to give an ex-pro like me a hammering out there on the padel court, even if it’s in a discipline that is very different to the one I played, they don’t want to miss out on the opportunity,” he laughs.
But no matter who wins or loses, Moya also values padel for the socializing opportunities it offers once he and his opponents have walked off court. That’s something which, as a soccer professional needing to train daily and play to the highest level possible, neither he nor his former teammates could ever dream of enjoying.
“But in padel as I now play it,” he says, “there’s always time for a couple of beers or an aperitivo afterwards, and that ‘third half’ of the game, the social side, is almost the best part of all.”
Team babolat pro players may play with a customized or different model than the equipment depicted.