21 Jun I took Pirlo’s Instagram Picture in Ecuador
Here’s why it matters.
Let’s take this back a few years. In 1997 I was at the complete height of my love for Club Sport Emelec. I would draw the team’s crest on my
notebooks, my favorite goalie was Jacinto Espinoza (Ecuadorian Rene Higuita, because of his appearance though not so much his skill at the goalkeeper position) his long hair and colorful sweatshirts made him look almost like a piñata at a quinceañera- ready, and waiting for a strike.
Jaime Ivan Kaviedes was the up-and coming future for Ecuadorian fútbol, a skinny, lanky, and boyish teenager who was deadly for the opposition front of goal. Those were the days. Oversized jerseys and big beer sponsorship reigned supreme in Ecuador and perhaps in all of Latin American fútbol team kits.
Dad and I
I was obsessed- Emelec was all I talked about. I wanted to wear blue all day. Blue shirt, blue shorts, blue socks, blue tighty whiteys- it was blue to death. Sangre Azul- Blue Blood! That’s right. Emelec was my team. My team. It was love, genuine love for a team that brought me so much joy- and who inspired me to want to play harder and pretend it was the Copa Libertadores final in the park as the warm afternoon rain came down on the dirt on the unpaved streets of Guayaquil. It felt as if every move I made on the ball was being watched in slow motion- The magic of youth, how time flies.
But destiny and my parents brought me to New York City in 1999. Bye bye Emelec, bye bye Guayaquil, bye bye Ecuador. I was forced to become American- and I did. Nobody plays fútbol in parks here, I had no friends. I took a soccer ball to the park to meet kids and make new fútbol
buds- but NO. There was nothing- a kid asked for the ball and he began to dribble it like a basketball- an image that sadly will never leave my memories no matter how many years pass, it was the ultimate disrespect to a fútbol ball.
For just over half a decade I forgot about fútbol. About how incredible the game is, and how much I loved every part of it. Then the World Cup 2006 came around and seduced me back into fútbol loving arms – It was a magical moment indeed. Andrea Pirlo joined New York City FC in July 2015, halfway through the inaugural season to attempt and bolster my new team’s chances of making it to a playoff sport, and maybe even an MLS Cup final in their first season, didn’t happen.
When the official announcement in late December 2016 was made that NYCFC would travel to Guayaquil to play none other than my beloved childhood team Emelec. I literally could not believe it- just what in the hell are the odds of that happening. Why Emelec? Why in Guayaquil? How did this happen? Who made this happen? I’ll never know. It was my childhood team against my new team.
I was able to get press access to the fame, It was a dream come true. An unimaginable opportunity for me to be a part of Ecuadorian history, as the re-opening of the Estadio “Capwell” Banco del Pacifico marked the inauguration of the country’s most modern stadium in its sports history. Hosting 2 World Cup winners, and a competitive big money MLS team in a city that largely lives just above the poverty line. This was not meaningless by any means- this was, and will be history. While the poor get poorer and the rich get richer, event the most humble of fans made their way out to this match.
Shortly after the players came out the tunnel, I went to Emelec’s side of goal by the corner flag to my left and sat down on the floor. It was a pretty good spot, I said to myself, “Hell, maybe I’ll get Pirlo if he comes to this corner and record a nice video.” — and magically, as if by the work of God less than 2 minutes into the game, the ball makes its way to that corner and bounces off an Emelec defender… and here was the main man: The Maestro, Andrea… I couldn’t believe my luck, so I recorded a short video, no big deal I see this guy all the time. He took the corner, and ran back to midfield with his flawless hair and perfectly trimmed beard. I laughed, because I got the shot I wanted for my video.
The famous corner
Before the second half was over — the ball was played over to the same corner and this time I really just couldn’t believe my luck. I was just watching the game, sitting down, half hating life because I had been out in the sun and in the heat for about 10 hours– and half excited to just be present. My phone was dying- and my camera’s SD card was beginning to run out of space forcing me to delete some personal photos. I was upset- but, oh damn here comes Pirlo again– I said to myself, try to take cool photos here, don’t mess this up.
Click.. Click.. Click.. Click.. Click 5 photos. Hell– at least one of them has to come out cool. And indeed, one of them came out pretty awesome. I think the name on the back of his jersey is a bit blurry but, it was a dope angle and photo nonetheless. I was just happy to use it for Instagram, and to mainly show my dad. I knew he’d like it.
The game ended. 2-2. Trash (NYCFC slang to express disappointment or disapproval). The following morning I was at the airport waiting to come back to New York, and being the groupie that I am, I went on Pirlo’s Instagram. My eyes couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Pirlo… World Cup and Champions League winner. Legendary, timeless, seemingly ageless talisman, precision passer, free kick specialist, with his jesus-like bearded look — NYCFC player,and fútbol culture icon posted my photo on his social media accounts. The photo had gone viral, and how is the 4th most liked on the maestro’s Instagram with over 175k likes.
To know that Pirlo, or his social media manager posted a photo that I took in the Estadio Capwell remains incredible to me, just what exactly are the odds of that happening? A Guayaquil native, living and working in New York City. A 28 year old aspiring artist, and creative, who flew down the witness history as his two home teams faced off in the least likely of match-ups. There’s surely been hundreds, if not thousands of pictures of Pirlo taken in Guayaquil. And out of all the ones seen, it was mine that made it onto his page.
Maybe this helps open doors for me, or maybe it just becomes a story I tell my grand kids one day. Only time will tell. While this may be insignificant in the USA and Europe, kids in my country have see that picture go around on social media. The local news talked about Pirlo’s posts of the stadium, and for all the fans it’s serves as the image associated with the legendary Italian’s visit to Ecuador.
As the 2017 MLS Season gets underway, I made a few phone calls and had the opportunity to meet the man himself early in the season, and get a few copies of my photos signed One of which I will donate to Emelec’s Museum later this year. This will be eternal, that moment will be eternal, that image will be eternal. It’s surreal to know that my name will be a part of my childhood team’s history.
The team at 593 Sports would like to thank Ricardo for his collaboration to this Blog. And would like to invite you to visit his own website and social media pages to get to know more about his life as an Ecuadorian and World Futbol fan in the U.S, his outstanding work and his love for the beautiful game.
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