By Laura Daniela Cortés V. (5th semester undergraduate FIGRI student, English Skills Through Multimedia student)
Time’s running out. The match will finish soon, but all the boys move their feet as fast as they can. As soon as the referee blows his whistle, the Titans gather around and celebrate. One of them is Juan Daniel, or as everyone calls him, Gafu.
At the age of eight, Gafu started to play soccer because his parents wanted him to improve his skills. Everyday he had to go to Alejandro Brand Soccer Academy and that’s where the challenges began.
“I had to quit because I was ten. I had to train with older boys so I felt like I didn’t fit at all.”
“I won a scholarship for 60% of the enrolment but it was still too expensive for my family and by that time we had financial worries, so I couldn’t stay in the U.S.”
As he was telling me about his experiences in Argentina, Gafu seemed happy about all the memories that came to mind. In that country he learnt true life lessons.
“Being a young soccer player in Argentina is really hard. There, soccer seems to be a religion. Everyone plays this sport, and there are many professional soccer players so trying to be successful was difficult as Argentinians think foreigners want to steal their opportunities.”
Missing his family and friends was the main reason to come back to Colombia. He decided to focus more on studying since he’d lost a year at school due to the absences he had. However, he had to balance school and soccer as he started to play in Millonarios.
“When you play soccer here in Colombia, you get to know people from different parts of the country, and also people with different lifestyles. For some of them, soccer is the only way to have a bright future, to be able to give their families a house or food.”
Gafu was in the last year of school, so all he wanted was to spend time with his friends and go to parties.
“Going to parties is not good for a soccer player. A soccer player needs to be a hard-working person, disciplined and efficient. That wasn’t healthy for me because I got injured so I couldn’t play for 6 months.”
At that time, he realized that he wouldn’t become a professional soccer player, despite the progress he had made. After he graduated, he started at the Externado University and now he’s studying Finance and International Relations.
Due to his academic responsibilities, he left the university team because he didn’t have time to train, so now he plays with his friends in championships organized at El Alcazar every weekend. Now, Gafu thinks of soccer as a hobby. He’s focused on studying, but he’ll never forget all the experiences he learnt from this sport.
When I asked him about his most prized award, he laughed and said:
“I have a bunch of medals and trophies, but the most important one is the “Best Goal scorer” one I won last semester.”