ussoccer.com: Your parents are Colombian and you were raised in a Colombian household with your own traditions. What kind of influence did that have on you growing up?
Alejandro Bedoya: "Both of my parents and my whole family is Colombian. I was born in New Jersey, but ever since I was a little kid I was raised speaking Spanish. In school I had to take ESOL classes (English for Speakers of Other Languages) because I was a little bit slow with my English. But yes, I was raised in a Colombian household pretty much. All of my relatives would come over and when we had parties it was always Colombian food being served, Colombian traditions being followed. Still to this day, we have traditions that we follow with Christmas and certain holidays. My parents made it a thing for my siblings and me when we were growing up to go to Colombia at least once or twice every year and get familiar with our heritage and where we come from. My family still owns a finca (ranch) in Colombia that is a big part of my parents’ life so they still go there often. Because of my schedule I haven’t been there recently. We used to go all of the time, and I still have family there, mostly in Medellin and Bogota. Growing up I had Colombia in my blood, I’m pretty fluent in Spanish and I’m pretty proud to come from there."
ussoccer.com: Your father and grandfather played professional soccer in Colombia. With so many connections, what does it mean for you to be playing in this game?
AB: "It means a lot. I once had the chance to play Colombia a few years ago when we played them in Philadelphia. I didn’t get to play but I was on the bench so that was pretty meaningful for my parents. My grandfather at that time was living in the states so he made the trip there and he was actually wearing a Colombian jersey for that game. Growing up, I would watch Colombian football. My grandfather would have it on the radio and I know when the World Cup was the states in 1994, he and my family went to all of the Colombia games. I grew up wearing Carlos Valderrama wigs all over the house and playing like him. At that time (the 1990s) it was a big period for Colombian soccer and they were one of the best in the world; they played with a lot of fire and a lot of great players. So I grew up watching that team play and trying to emulate them, they were my big role models. My grandfather played goalie for Deportes Quindío and my father played for Millionarios FC, both in Colombia. I never really followed the Colombian league closely, but I did follow a lot of the players closely. I knew about (Radamel) Falcao being at River Plate before coming to Europe. Colombian soccer runs in my household, and I followed it closely growing up."
ussoccer.com: What jersey do you think your grandfather will be wearing for this game? What about your dad?
AB: "That’s a good question. He is a big fan of Mario Yepes, so after that game in Philadelphia I got him Yepes’ jersey, so he has that one. But he’s also got a couple of mine, so I don’t know which one he’ll be wearing this time. He’s living in Colombia now so I guess it’s a game-time decision. My dad is my biggest fan, and although he’s got a lot of Colombian roots, he’s been a big USA supporter and he’s always been backing me for the National Team so he’ll be wearing a USA jersey."
ussoccer.com: What’s your favorite Colombian tradition that you still follow?
AB: "For Christmas, my family gets together on the 24th - Christmas Eve at the house and we put some music on, have a little party and a big dinner. We wait until midnight and then at midnight Santa Claus comes and brings home all of the gifts and we open them up between midnight and one in the morning. We do this especially for my little cousins and the babies. Then we keep the party going after."
ussoccer.com: What would you say is your favorite Colombian dish?
AB: "The best dish, well that’s tough, but when I was just home in Ft. Lauderdale I made sure that my mom would make us arepas (flatbread made of ground maize dough or cooked flour) for breakfast, and then for lunch I had empanadas (stuffed fried bread made by folding dough or bread with a crunchy cornmeal exterior and filling varying between beef or ground beef, shredded chicken, etc.) as well as buñuelos (fried dough balls made with a small curd white cheese) and pan de queso (bread or roll made with tapioca flour and grated cheese), which are all typical Colombian foods that I like to eat. Also growing up I used to eat a lot of sancocho (a typical Colombian stew with meat and vegetables). My favorite and what I could eat all day would be empanadas and arepas. Going to school I would always want an arepa for breakfast."
ussoccer.com: Will any of your family members be in London for this game? Is there any special moment you’re looking forward to?
AB: "I actually have my brother in England right now, he’s getting an MBA at the University of Liverpool, so he’ll be at the game and it will be cool to have him over there. Hearing both national anthems before the game will be a special moment. I grew up hearing both. My parents would sing the Colombian national anthem and I actually really like it. It will be a very special feeling."
ussoccer.com: After your participation in your first FIFA World Cup in Brazil and all of the success the U.S. Men’s National Team has had this year, what has 2014 meant for you?
AB: "2014 is a year I will never forget. It’s been crazy to think that I‘ve been able to solidified myself in Nantes and then be with the National Team and play in the World Cup, which was my dream as a kid. Three years ago I wasn’t even part of the National Team. Knowing that now all of my hard work and dedication has paid off and my commitment paid off to get to a World Cup, and then playing in it, it’s been very special. Few people get the opportunity, so now it’s a lot of memories that just motivate me to work even harder in order to get to another one. I’m not the youngest anymore but I’m not the oldest either, I still have a lot to give and I’m looking forward to the future. I have two more games, this game against Colombia and then the game against Ireland to prove myself and continue to get better. I also have to continue to get a better understanding of some of the new players coming through and be one of the veterans so that I can take on a leadership role with the team."