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Aitana Bonmatí is back home after a few whirlwind days full of acknowledgments, when she was named the world's best player in Paris. Clutching the Ballon d'Or and arriving straight from the airport after travelling back from Switzerland, the Catalan midfielder made the shorter trip to her hometown of Sant Pere de Ribes. Waiting there was the mural that FC Barcelona had created as a tribute to her, along with local people who wanted to congratulate her in person.
During the visit, Aitana took time out to speak to the Club's official media channels to convey how she was feeling after a such a special night. She explains that she is "still hasn't fully taken it all in" and that she "cannot comprehend everything I have experienced". She also discussed Barça, their commitment for women's football and her appreciation for "giving us the chance to be professional footballers", along with the challenges to come.
First of all, Aitana, we have to ask you about the mural given we are standing in front of it. Do you like it?
Very much so. This is my first time seeing it in person and it's a gorgeous mural. I had seen it via social networks and it looked wonderful, but now I can see it up close, I think it looks even better, bigger and nicer. FERT.ONE is a great artist.
The mural shows you with the Ballon d'Or and a young Aitana. If you could go back, what would you say to her?
Definitely a lot of things. The mural's image is very nice and symbolic, because it represents what I was before and what I have become now. Time has passed, it's still me, but I have achieved a lot. I have always considered myself as an ambitious person and I didn't have much patience when I was little to be honest. So, I would maybe say to her that it's great to have that ambition, that desire to improve or be the best, but that maybe she should have a bit more patience. The thing is that everything comes to those who work and know how to wait for their time. And that's it in particular, being consistent and demanding has been worth it, and that all those tough times I have been through have made me into a better person, because they have made me see that there is still some way to go and everything can change in the end.
We can also see the symbolism of La Masia. What did it mean to you?
Winning this award while with Barça makes me proud. Ultimately, these 12 years have whizzed by. I am not really aware that have spent so long at my home. I remember I was 13 years old when I started in the youth sides, and I am 25 years old now. We have won so many things - two Champions Leagues, a lot of Liga titles, Copas, Super Cups - and I have really matured as an individual too. So, I am very proud to be a part of La Masía and that I am recognised as a player who has come through the Barça youth system and has grown with the Club.
"Everything comes to those who work and know how to wait for their time. Being consistent and demanding has been worth it"“ AITANA BONMATÍ
When it comes to the development of women's football in the Club, it wasn't easy for Barça to commit at the time, but the need has been proven.
Yes, definitely. Barça were a pioneering club and have become a benchmark around the world. 100% appreciation from me. When we say it's 'More than a Club', it's for things like these. Barça wants to include everyone, with the Genuine team yet another example, and they have given us the chance to be professional footballers. And I think we have responded with our professionalism. We have all fought for this badge and we will keep fighting until the very end. Wearing this badge everywhere makes me proud.
Is playing at the Spotify Camp Nou, or soon at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, an example of this commitment?
Yes, exactly. The times I was able to play at the Spotify Camp Nou were probably some of the most significant days in my life. They were unique moments, because the stadium was full for us and it was a dream come true. Now we have the chance to play at Montjuïc too, because the Spotify Camp Nou is being redeveloped, but I am sure it will be a great day. The fans and the players have always had a special bond and I believe they have helped us to win. However, we can't look past the Johan Cruyff (stadium), which is our fortress. We are yet to lose at home and we always really appreciate the fans that come to watch and support us.
You just mentioned the Johan Cruyff (stadium) where you will present this Ballon d'Or at the weekend. Are you looking forward to meeting up with the culers again?
Yes, I am really excited about bringing it home. I won this award while I was with the national side and I really wanted to go back and share it with my people, both here at home in Sant Pere de Ribes and at Barça where I developed.
Have you seen the photos from the gala?
Everything went by in a flash to be honest. I also had the national team game to play and I haven't had much sleep. I have been congratulated a lot and haven't been able to see anything.
Have you managed to take it in?
No, not yet. And I don't know if I will take it all in. I don't know how long it will take me because this is all so much. I can't really comprehend it.
Were you congratulated by anyone special?
Many to be honest. I wouldn't like to leave anyone out. But I have to say that it is special to be congratulated by your childhood idols like Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol.
And now you are the reference. I imagine it must be really nice to think that you are the idol for girls starting to play football now, and even boys.
Yes, that's something that makes me really proud. And I am referring to beyond what we do on the pitch, because I think what we do off the pitch is very important. I get a lot of pleasure from seeing people following and admiring what I do, whether they are girls, boys or adults. It's really nice.
It may seem like it's just a gala or a photo with Leo Messi, but how important is equality in this type of award?
Very. The women's Ballon d'Or hasn't been around for that many years and it is a new award, particularly if your compare it to the men's award. But it's good that this type of award is starting to be included to create equality and to give the same importance to both men's and women's football.
A Barça player has won this award for the last 3 years. What is the secret behind this success?
Well, the great work we all do together. We have reached the Champions League final for the last three years, which is really tough, and we won two of them. Ultimately, if the team wins, the individual awards come. However, all this comes after a lot of effort, a lot of desire, a lot of teamwork. Years ago we had the talent, but now we have a team that supports us to win. This is a very strong mindset and and we always know our goals and why we work and train every day when we start the season. That is very important. The physical improvements we have achieved in recent years too, of course. The thing is, you can't single out just one thing when it come to success. You have to work hard all the time and be at your best every day. And when you are with such quality players, you develop and become better too.
After all this... What's next Aitana?
Good question. I am very lucky. I have managed to achieve a lot both collectively and individually. However, the day I stop being ambitious is maybe when I should stop playing football. I still have the desire to improve and win, and luckily, we all have the same mindset at Barça. That makes us into a winning and competitive team.
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