By James Dowden, Co-Editor-in-Chief
‘The way it came about was kind of very basic. I got in touch, and I said, hey I would like to work for you.’
It’s early 2021 and Politics and Spanish student Nischal Schwager-Patel is hunting for a placement for his upcoming year abroad. Many languages students often study or teach English whilst abroad but Nischal had his sights set on fulfilling a dream - working in the world of Spanish football.
Having accumulate experience in sports journalism here in England, he wrote emails to every professional football club in Spanish football asking if he could work for them.
Most clubs never got back to him.
Some had the courtesy to send polite rejection emails.
Eventually, however, his persistence paid off and RCD Espanyol, a top-flight La Liga team from Barcelona, offered him a position as their newly created head of English content for the 2022/23 season.
A hastily organised year abroad contract between himself, Espanyol and the School of Modern Languages later and Nischal was soon swapping Bristol for Barcelona, where he was quickly thrust into action, tasked with launching the club’s new official Twitter account in English @RCDEspanyol_EN.
‘It was daunting. There was no English content being produced so it was doing something completely new. I joined in August, and it was straight into it. The season was already under way. It was a very busy time for the club.’
Nischal’s official title as head of English content means that he is responsible for all English content that the club produces across their website and social media platforms. He attends matches in person and also works at the training ground to create match reports, features, interviews, live broadcasts and video content as well as helping with marketing campaigns.
At first glance it might seem strange that a Spanish football club would employ someone to run English language social media accounts but as Nischal explains, it is a key strategy to help grow the club’s support across the world.
‘Internationalization for football is huge. We have players from across the world with a mix of languages. While Espanyol are really known within Spain, outside of Spain we don’t necessarily have that. The Internationalization of the club is really important because football is a sport that unites the world.’
Having helped to launch the Twitter account, Nischal’s first match at Espanyol’s 40,000 capacity RCDE Stadium was a Friday night clash underneath the lights against Rayo Vallecano – a world away from the language classrooms on Woodland Road.
It was an unforgettable experience for the former sports editor of Epigram.
‘I think the first feeling was definitely one of being surreal. Putting on my club kit for the first time. Making the journey to the stadium. Having my accreditation. It was very much a pinch myself moment. I thought I’ve made it to where I want to be!
‘It was only 6 months ago. It's not that long ago, but since then, because I've been to so many games it's really flown by. But I remember that night very vividly.’
As with any job in social media there is a constantly changing work pattern to meet the demands of a long footballing season.
‘There's no normal day when you're working in football. Every day is completely different. It's so unique, and it changes every single day.”
The year abroad student works with the squad every day, rubbing shoulders with La Liga players and full internationals such as Martin Braithwaite, who played for Denmark at the recent Qatar World Cup.
However, it is not just the first team stars that get the attention but also the reserve team RCD Espanyol B and the women’s team RCD Espanyol Femení.
The challenge of running one social media account to cover three different teams in three different divisions of football is no easy task, and often means that Nischal is reporting live from up to three games a weekend.
Yet, it is one that he relishes noting how this focus across all three team allows a whole club perspective and was something that was very important to him from the start.
‘I think it's so important. If we're giving this visibility and this coverage of a men's first team, the woman's first team deserve exactly the same.’
Among the highlights so far for Nischal was the derby match against their city rivals FC Barcelona at one of the most iconic stadiums in world football, the Camp Nou.
‘In 2016 I went as a fan [to Barcelona v Espanyol at the Camp Nou] and I never could have imagined six and a half years later I would be at the same stadium working for the club and working as a journalist. There were moments when I was standing pitch side at the Camp Nou in my Espanyol shirt representing the team.’
It prove to be a successful away day for Los Pericos or the Parakeets as Espanyol are nicknamed, coming away with a very credible 1-1 draw, the first time that the club result away from home at the Camp Nou since 2009.
As we round off our chat, Nischal adds that there was one moment where it really hit home the importance of football in Catalonia and specifically the link between Espanyol fans and their club.
‘I was leaving the office at the stadium one day with my Espanyol hoodie when a kid came up to me and asked if I worked for Espanyol. When I said yes, he looked up at me and shook my hand. That it's a unique feeling that you don't get in many other clubs.’
And it this unique feeling that Nischal best summarises his connection to the club. An ardent Chelsea fan he will always remain, yet ‘within two weeks I was calling myself an Espanyol fan’ he finishes by saying. The club, the players and the fans all having helped play their part.