KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — “I hope it was a girl,” said FC Barcelona goalkeeper Víctor Valdés after kissing one of three dolphins on the mouth at the Miami Seaquarium on Tuesday afternoon.
Well, it wasn’t. Valdés kissed one of three male dolphins — Ripley, Echo and Croix — that participated in the event, during which the Barça netminder donned goalkeeper gloves to field shots from the three dolphins. One of those shots actually got by the veteran, with Echo flinging the ball in mid-air with his mouth into the top left corner.
“There were a few shots that finished wide, but at the end, he scored,” Valdés told media after the event. “Pretty good [performance] from what we could see. The trainer told me they were training all week for this.”
Explained Seaquarium general manager Andrew Hertz, “They’ve been only working on that a couple of days. They’ll get better. It’s not their sport.”
Valdés was one of five FC Barcelona players to visit the Seaquarium during some downtime as their team prepares for a World Football Challenge match against Mexican side CD Guadalajara at Sun Life Stadium on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, Galavisión).
The players, including Pedro Rodríguez, Xavi Hernández, Sergio Busquets and David Villa, not only got to swim with the dolphins, but they played fetch with them, they fed them, they patted them and they posed for photos. They joined the likes of LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Jennifer Aniston to get the celebrity treatment at the Seaquarium.
“I had enjoyed the opportunity of swimming with them in another location,” Valdés said. “It’s a very beautiful experience and to share it with teammates and have a good time, that’s what it’s all about. They are not dangerous animals at all. You can enjoy yourself with them, I learned a lot and it was a lot of fun.”
One of the Seaquarium trainers admitted that the occasion was the first time that the dolphins had seen the FC Barcelona-branded balls and needed time to adjust. Otherwise the results for Valdés in net could have been worse.
“They don’t normally hit this level of international celebrity,” Hertz said of his aquatic stars. “This is huge. … They’ve staked their claim here. They’re our official soccer team now.”