A bus driver's assistant at 20, a double Europa League winner at 28: meet Carlos Bacca
On Wednesday, the football world came to a standstill as FIFA was rocked by a startling corruption scandal which led to the arrest of some FIFA officials on charges of bribery, money laundering among others. The credibility of one of the biggest organizations in the world, which boasts of more members than the United Nations took a beating.
Hours later, in Warsaw, while the world media were busy training its guns on FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter and his committee members, Sevilla striker Carlos Bacca struck twice against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk to help the Spanish side win the Europa League title.
In the grander scheme of things, Bacca’s man of the match performance may not be as significant as discovering the ugly truth behind what is now called as the ‘World Cup of fraud’. There is anger and outrage against Sepp Blatter with voices calling for him to step down. There are also calls for the presidential election to be postponed. These are indeed dark days for FIFA and football at large.
But at a time when the faith of billions of football fans worldwide have been shaken to the core, Bacca’s personal story goes a long way in restoring our faith in the beautiful game we love.
In football, 20 is an age when young footballers usually become full-fledged professionals. But in Carlos Bacca’s case, at that age, he was living in his hometown in Colombia, working as bus driver’s assistant to make ends meet.
“At 20 I was living in my village, Puerto Colombia, working as a bus driver’s assistant. Life was far from easy. Next I had to work as a ticket collector on the buses because I come from a poor family and had to earn money to help them out,” he had said in an interview shortly after he had signed for Sevilla in 2013.
“The doors of football had been closed to me for some time and at my age, it wasn’t something I could count on anymore. But that year I trialled for Junior de Barranquilla and, thank God, they took me.”
On Wednesday night, as the final whistle blew at the National Stadium in Warsaw, there were tears rolling down the cheek of the Colombian, knowing that he had well and truly left behind the poverty he found himself back in Puerto Colombia.
Bacca who once thought that the ‘doors of football had been closed’ for him had just kicked it wide open. If he had sold bus tickets as a youngster, today he helps sell football tickets with his match-winning performances.
The Colombian’s double strike in the final took his tally for the season to 28. The only other La Liga players to have scored more goals this season are Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar. That is certainly not bad company to be in.
Bacca’s match-winning heroics was crucial for the Spanish side as it ensured that they will feature in the Champions League next season. And it is reported that many big clubs like Manchester United and Monaco are interested in his signature.
After playing in the local leagues in his hometown, Bacca began his professional career with Atletico Junior before moving going on a few loan moves.
“It wasn’t until 2009, at the age of 23 that I played in my professional league match. I had a hard time as a child and when I started making money I thought I had made it, but I was wrong. I picked myself up and carried on. The brave are not those who let themselves sink but those who rise up stronger.”
He returned to Atletico Junior in 2009 after different loan spells and became the top scorer in the Copa Colombia. His impressive performances finally earned him a move to Europe as he was signed by Club Brugge in 2012.
After a slow start at the new club, Bacca managed to break into the team and went on to become the player of the year in Belgium by scoring 28 goals in the 2012-13 season.It was then that Sevilla spotted the potential in the player and snapped him up. Sevilla also had brought in Kevin Gameiro from PSG who was expected to be the Andalusian side’s first choice striker.
However, Bacca’s grit and determination eventually helped him become one of Sevilla’s most important players. Bacca’s stock has risen and rightly so with a sheer desire to excel and give his best. He remains grounded though, without forgetting his roots and gives credit for all he has achieved to God.
“I want to dedicate this to God and my family in Colombia. This is something unique. I want to enjoy it. I was pleased to help the side with two goals,” he said at the end of the match.
Carlos Bacca’s story is an inspirational one as it highlights the importance of never losing hope. Bacca’s career graph has been on the rise and according to his coach, the striker is always hungry to improve himself. As the football world is bleeding from the awful corruption scandal, Carlos Bacca’s personal story upholds the true spirit and sanctity of football.