Juan Arango - A true footballing legend
A tribute to Juan Arango, Venezuela's best football player ever.
“The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat at the point of exhaustion, when no one else is watching.”
20th March 2005. Mallorca vs Sevilla FC. Jersey no. 18 was dribbling past a few players when BAM! He was down on the ground, with whew-that-was-hard-but-not-that-hard look on his face. He was dead wrong.
In the 1970s, the La Liga was notorious for being home to a set of uncompromising defenders. Andoni Goikoetxea for instance, gained immense ill repute for a savage tackle on Diego Maradona, leaving the latter severely battered and bruised, for which Goikoetxea received the title of ‘The Butcher of Bilbao’.
Miguel Angel Nadal was also a player whose game was extremely physical and was considered by his opponents no less than a brute. In today’s times, Carlos Puyol may be considered a player of the same caliber, though arguably his influence is gradually diminishing.
And another defender of the same approach was Sevilla FC’s Javi Navarro, though considerably less talented. And he was the very guy who collided with Juan Arango. With Arango ripping through the Sevilla midfield at a rampant rate, Navarro did the thing which he deemed appropriate. An elbow straight in the face. It would have been a murder on the pitch had it not been for the quick thinking of Navarro himself and the referees.
What had happened? During the collision, Arango broke his cheekbone, swallowed his tongue and had serious cuts on his face. After collapsing on the pitch, he made a few gestures towards his nose. And then he fell unconscious. His body was shivering maniacally. There was an eerie silence throughout the stadium.
Defying everyone, including his doctors, Arango was back on the pitch. In one month flat. Next season, Juan Arango was Mallorca’s top scorer with 11 goals. Juan Fernando Arango Saenz, proved to the entire world that with dedication, devotion and sheer will power, one can make ‘impossible’ run for cover.
Born in the Venezuelan city of Maracay to Columbian parents, Arango’s rise to the footballing fray was a swift one. Arango, it seems was born to wield his magic on football field and at the tender age of 7 Arango began showing signs of a true footballing genius and caught the eye of scouts. Arango began his career for Central University of Venezuela u-20s in spite of being a 15 year old.
In 1996, he made a major breakthrough in his career as he was signed by second division outfit FC New Cadiz Venezuela from Cumana and upon his arrival lady luck showered on the team as it was promoted the top-flight of Venezuelan football – the Venezuelan Primera Division and at the age of 17 Arango got to play first-team first-division football. On ascending to the first division, FC Cadiz played under the name, Zulianos FC.
Having made a name for himself at Zulianos, Arango’s departure from the club was inevitable and 6 months following his exploits at the club, he was transferred to Caracas FC, a team with a rich history and heritage. Despite a much-hyped transfer, Arango struggled for first-team football and managed to score only 5 goals in 19 appearances before moving to greener pastures.
At the start of the 2000-2001 season, Arango shifted base to Mexican side CF Monterrey where he lasted for 2 seasons before signing a contract with another Mexican club – CF Pachuca.