Luca de la Torre (L) eating octopus with Celta de Vigo teammates. Luca de la Torre (L) eating octopus with Celta de Vigo teammates. (RC Celta on YouTube.)

What’s the key to establishing yourself on a team in a foreign country where you don’t yet speak the language fluently? For U.S. men’s national soccer team midfielder Luca de la Torre at Spanish club RC Celta de Vigo, it was apparently a willingness to consume octopus. Kyle Bonn explored that in a piece published Friday at The Sporting News:

How did this start? Well, on Christmas Day this past year, the Vigo, Galicia-based La Liga club Celta de Vigo posted a video to YouTube of right back Kevin Vazquez (a product of their youth academy, and a native of nearby Nigran) showing international players Jorgen Strand Larsen (Norway), Williot Swedberg (Sweden), and de la Torre some of the seafood-heavy dishes of Galician cuisine. That included centolla (Galician-style king crab), crayfish, cigalas de coral (a small lobster), gooseneck barnacles, and octopus. And de la Torre proved a more adventurous and willing eater than the other international players, especially when it came to the octopus (starting at around 12:30 in the clip below):

Strand Larsen and Swedberg weren’t really into the octopus, but de la Torre was, to a point where Vasquez said “If I took you to my grandmother’s house, she’d fall in love with you” and gave him more. And that turned into quite the thing for de la Torre. The initial video drew some reaction, and then he posted about eating octopus again after a win where he started. And it has since turned into a wild tradition, where the team’s Twitter account regularly posts about him with octopus emojis, called him “el pulpeto” (octopus expert), and even told the USMNT “give him octopus” during the current international break:

de la Torre had some good quotes to Bonn on how this has gone for him:

“I think I probably ate a whole octopus by myself, because the other guys wouldn’t touch it,” De la Torre reflected with a chuckle. “Then after one of the games I started, we won, and I made a post after the game eating octopus. So now whenever we win, I’ll go out for dinner and get a bunch of seafood. It’s nice.”

…”At the national team now, everyone wants to know why I’m posting octopus every week,” De la Torre says. “Maybe I can get some of them to try it, too.”

And, since that dinner, de la Torre has become a regular starter for Celta de Vigo, appearing in their last dozen matches and starting the last 10. And they’ve won six La Liga matches in that span, despite winning just three before this. de la Torre also told Bonn he also feels like he’s settling in much better in Vigo, saying “It does feel like home now.” And while that’s probably not ascribable solely to octopus, el pulpo did play a role here.

[The Sporting News; image from RC Celta on YouTube]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.