When Alejandro Bedoya isn’t playing soccer, you’re likely to find him in places that have nothing to do with the sport.
The Union’s captain is a family man, having planted roots in Fishtown after coming to Philadelphia three years ago. He and his Norway-born wife, who met when he played in Sweden a few years ago — she was a physiotherapist for Sweden’s national team — dote on their children often on social media.
Both halves of the couple are art connoisseurs. They regularly visit galleries in Philadelphia, New York, and elsewhere, and their home is full of works purchased from artists across the United States and beyond.
You’ll also find Bedoya on Twitter, and rather often. His travels around the world have informed his views on society, and his success as a soccer player — including playing for the U.S. national team at the 2014 World Cup — gave him a bullhorn that he knows how to use.
Which is to say that Bedoya doesn’t stick to sports. He hasn’t for years. So it was no surprise that after scoring a goal in the Union’s 5-1 win at D.C. United on Sunday, he made a nationally-televised demand that Congress pass legislation to stop gun violence in America.
“I’m not going to sit idly and watch this stuff and not say something,” he said after the game. “Before I’m an athlete, before I’m a soccer player, I’m a human being first."
Bedoya’s outspokenness first rose to the surface in December 2015, when U.S. women’s team legend Abby Wambach criticized then-men’s coach Jurgen Klinsmann for having “a bunch of these foreign guys” on the national team. Bedoya, a son of Colombian immigrants with a history of supporting the women’s team, took offense.
When Wambach was arrested on a DUI charge four months later, Bedoya and other men’s players of diverse backgrounds turned the tables.
He incurred the wrath of many women’s soccer fans for those remarks, and the grudge stuck for years.
Bedoya remained outspoken, and remained a vocal champion of diversity in the national team program. Ahead of a 2016 World Cup qualifying showdown with perennial rival Mexico, he said the U.S. squad — which included sons of Mexican immigrants and German-born sons of American servicemen — was “a true representation of what America is all about. The diversity on this team is a truly awesome thing."
In January 2017, Bedoya took direct aim at President Donald Trump, telling reporters at a national team game: “This guy talks about banning [refugees] — a ‘temporary’ ban, whatever you want to call it — [and] you’re splitting up families. … It’s very dangerous when you label a whole group as terrorists or as harmful people.”
Two months later he told Sports Illustrated: “It’s a shame, the rhetoric that’s out there — a lot of stereotypes that are being thrown around that kind of creates this irrational fear. … People who tell me to stick to sports are just hypocrites, because they’ll be the first ones to toss the First Amendment right in your face."
And that July, he called out Fox News host Tucker Carlson for anti-immigrant remarks on Twitter.
Bedoya’s views don’t just come from his family’s roots. He was born in Englewood, N.J., and grew up in Weston, Fla., not far from Fort Lauderdale. As a kid, he played on the field at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where last year there was a mass shooting.
He started college at Fairleigh Dickinson, then transferred to Boston College in the spring of his sophomore year. Bedoya was successful enough to earn attention from European scouts, and began his professional career at Swedish club Orebro. After two years there, he earned a glamorous move to Scottish powerhouse Rangers, where he spent one season before the club infamously collapsed into liquidation.
Bedoya then returned to Sweden, joining Helsingborgs for one season that included a run in the UEFA Europa League. In the summer of 2013, French club Nantes came calling, and he moved there for three years that were the peak of his time in Europe.
After a while, Bedoya decided he was ready to play in America. The Union first tried to sign him in the summer of 2015, but Nantes pulled out of negotiations. A year later, the two sides agreed to a deal, with the Union paying a $1 million transfer fee that remains a club record.
For most of Bedoya’s time here, he has worn the captain’s armband. He is a constant presence in central midfield, delivering a mix of hustle, defensive tenacity and smart passing. And he is a vocal leader in the locker room, never afraid to call the team out when poor results demand it.
In addition to his club travels, Bedoya played 66 times for the national team from 2010 to 2017. He came close to reaching a second World Cup, but was denied when the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament. Bedoya watched the decisive collapse in Trinidad from the bench, left out of the starting lineup and uncalled upon by then-coach Bruce Arena at a moment when his skill set was badly needed.
“For me to be on the bench and not take part in this game, the do-or-die situation, it really [stunk],” he said upon returning to Philadelphia. “There’s a lot of emotions: anger, disappointment, disgust. … We let our country down, we let our teammates down, we let our fans down, we let our families down, and ourselves down."
Bedoya is now 32. His national team tenure is likely over, and he knows it. But his time with the Union is far from done, as is his determination to be more than just a soccer player.