“Team Villa” and a dream fulfilled

It started like any Thursday, I woke up early and attended my classes in the morning. After a dose of 2 hours of political science courses, I began my return trip home, all normal until my social networks did their thing. By sheer coincidence, a 24-hour soccer event organized by the NYCFC was being promoted. At the time I did not think about it and I registered to be part of the event at 8 am on March 10. It was later when I took into account all the risks that my decision represented, the event was two weeks and I was not prepared.

I would be lying if I said that once I realized everything I was going to face, I was still motivated to participate. On the contrary, I had a lapse of doubts and insecurity that totally discouraged me. “You cant even stand alone without assistance for 5 minutes, do you really think you’ll last a complete game?”, “When you play you lose balance only with the force of the wind, you will not be strong enough to compete with the physical game”. “Do you have enough strength in your legs? No, so you better not think about going”. But the worst of all was knowing the risk that the organizers of the event would not allow me to participate due to my physical limitations. All those questions, as painful as they were, contained a little reality in them. In that aspect, I had many people who motivated me to try regardless of the result, because by doing so I would have fulfilled a goal. Incredibly I managed to motivate myself and started my race against time, double sessions of exercises for two weeks with a special focus on legs. As for practicing physically a soccer ball, I did not focus much, I followed my father’s advice who suggested that because I already had an idea on how to play the sport, it would eventually flow naturally during the game.

It was two intense weeks, but I did the best I could to be as fit as possible. The day before the game I bought the boots that would accompany me on my challenge, luckily they were a pair of Nike’s very comfortable for synthetic turf. The decisive day would arrive and to my astonishment, I did not feel fear or nervousness during my trip to the event. Maybe it’s like I’ve always said when it comes to football, my body transforms and becomes light, I can move freely without any difficulty. Something inexplicable but amazing without a doubt. I arrived at the Rockefeller Center and was received like any other participant of the event, before entering I took a look at the field where the game was taking place and it would undoubtedly be difficult. I went to register and it was a spectacular experience, they verified your name and filled out my information in order to give me my designated number. Honestly, I wanted the number 9 but I would have to leave my mark with the number 484. I also chose to represent David Villa’s team, it wasn’t easy but it was a good challenge. Once I took the official photo, it was time to go back outside and wait for my turn to play. The weather was against me because it was too cold, ironically it allowed me to warm up just like professional footballers do. That also gave me space to see the type of players I was going to face during the game. As I said before, they played very rough and used a lot of physical strength. I acknowledged the fact that I had gained a little bit of muscle mass during those two weeks, but I was not sure if it would be enough to match the rhythm of the game. While I waited, I relived many childhood memories, the games I played in school growing up and what they taught me. Also, the advice that my uncle and my great friend “ches” gave me every time they made me practice. “Never give up” and “always finish the plays” were the ones that repeated the most in my head.

When the referee said “come in” it was exactly as I had imagined it when I was a kid, with the announcement of number 484 entering the field and making his official debut with the NYCFC and the “VILLA TEAM”. Our goalkeeper and the referee gave me instructions as I entered the game. “High pressure and cover the left side,” they said. It was difficult to process, the dream of playing in an official team was being fulfilled and that was something that seemed impossible to me, due to the negative stigma that society has towards people with disabilities. I was doing it, by playing a total of 40 minutes and two games I broke with that barrier that prevented me from fulfilling my dream, even if it was on a friendly game. The time to end my participation arrived and my farewell was unexpected, many expressed admiration and respect towards me. There were applause and a lot of thank you’s from my teammates, a huge gesture. Without a doubt, it will be a day that I will never forget … the day in which player 484 showed that soccer breaks all kinds of barriers.

PS: A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO NYCFC FOR ALLOWING ME TO BE PART OF THE EVENT. I DEFINITELY HAVE A SPECIAL APPRECIATION FOR THE CLUB AS YOU HAVE GIVEN ME UNFORGETTABLE MOMENTS. THANK YOU!

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