Alex Callens is a marvel on and off the pitch

By Dylan Butler | Posted 2 years ago

He is Iron Man.

It’s the nickname Alex Callens earned with New York City FC in part, because the Peruvian center back has been an irreplaceable part of the club’s backline for five seasons, starting 136 of the 137 regular-season appearances he’s made, rarely missing matches to injury.


It’s also appropriate because of Callens’ passion. The 29-year-old loves all things Marvel, as well as anime, comics and drawing. 


It’s his escape from the pressures of being a professional soccer player. 


“Yeah, I feel like a kid and I forget about everything. I enjoy the moment. I live in the moment,” Callens said through a translator. “It’s a mindless feeling for me. I just forget about everything. I just really enjoy it.”


It’s a hobby that started growing up in the Peruvian seaside city of Callao. Then, it was mostly a dream. Now, it’s a reality. 


“I’ve always liked it, but now I can say I can afford it,” he said. “Back home it was very difficult for my parents to get me these things, it was always very expensive. But now that I’m able to afford it, I like to invest in things, I like to collect things, to bring it home. It just brings me a lot of joy.


“I just remember the days where I just window shopped and saw the figurines on display and I wasn’t able to acquire them. Now that’s changed.”


Back home in Peru, Callens still has notebooks filled with drawings. In his New York City-area apartment, are Callens’ drawings of some of his favorite comic book characters — Dr. Strange, Superman, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Mjollnir, better known as Thor’s hammer, and Thanos’ Gauntlet. 


“I’m a little rusty. I just need some practice to get back into it,” Callens said. “But if I put my mind to it, I can draw whatever I want.”


There are also figurines of some of his favorites. It’s not just the Marvel universe or comics. Callens is also a fan of anime, especially Dragon Ball Z and Goku. 


“I’ve always liked it as a kid. I used to draw a lot,” Callens said. “Now I don’t have as much time. I still love to watch anime, cartoons, to draw. I still watch it nowadays. I’m a big fan and it gets me excited. I have a lot of statues and figures.  It’s something that brings me a lot of joy.”


His hobby, though, is a unique one on a professional soccer team. Ronald Matarrita shared his passion for drawing, but the left back was traded to FC Cincinnati in a blockbuster deal in late December. 


Gone was Callens’ longtime defensive partner, but also the only one on the team to understand his hobby. 


“We used to draw a lot. But I don’t know of any on the current team,” Callens said. “If its something I bring up to someone who doesn’t really enjoy it, they tend to make fun of me.”


Callens played the part of superhero last Sunday, scoring the insurance goal in NYCFC’s 2-0 win over Atlanta United in the opening round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.


Callens played an instrumental role in the shutout, despite big concerns he’d play after sustaining an injury with Peru in a 3-0 win over Bolivia in a World Cup qualifier. 


Best moment for NYCFC? Not for Callens, who said that is yet to come. 


“Honestly, that moment hasn’t happened yet,” Callens said. “It’s just the beginning here with the club. But I’m just happy to help the team. It was an incredible feeling, especially after a tough week. I went through a lot just to be able to play, but I’m happy with the club and everyone that helped get me to that point.”


Next up, NYCFC take on the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference semifinals Tuesday.


The Revs set a record for points in a regular season and are the heavy favorites at Gillette Stadium. 


It’s a difficult task, but not an impossible one, for Iron Man and NYCFC. 


“It’s going to be a really tough game,” Callens said. “They’re playing at home, they want to defend their own home, they’re the Supporters’ Shield champions. But just like them, we’re preparing ourselves and want the result to go our way. I’m just looking forward to a good match.”


As for a future after soccer, Callens said he’s open to turning his hobby into a profession

“If anyone from Marvel or Tony Stark gives me a call, I’ll die,” Callens said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t know how to react or what to do.”

Get updates on the launch of OSDB Plus and sign up for the OSDB Newsletter.