It is said to be the longest walk in sport. But I felt no apprehension whatsoever as I walked from midfield and approached the penalty spot, ball in hand. I had put in the hard work on the training pitch; taken hundreds of spot kicks and had my pre-kick routine down to a science. Even if he guessed correctly, I would give the keeper no chance at saving my shot. He would not rob me of my goal. I coolly placed the ball on the spot, stepped back four paces, took a deep breath, and proceeded to rocket the ball into the top corner! Goal! I ran to the touchline into the arms of my father, smiling ear to ear. My penalty shot had won the game for my team.
I was only seven years old then, and of course, it wasn’t an important goal for anyone other than me. But that memory is still vivid, still resonates with me to this day. After all, nearly all youngsters dream of great sporting achievements, being famous, and making our family proud. For most of us, though, our dreams of sporting glory are confined to our youth. That, however, is not the case for Club America’s new striker José Ángel López.
It is extremely rare that a young boy or girl reaches the heights of professional athletics. Yes, the young person must have the physical attributes, mental strength, commitment, dedication, and willpower to reach his or her goal. Luck can also play a factor; being noticed by the right person is key in getting one’s opportunity.
There is one component of sporting success that is fundamental if a young athlete is to make it to the top: family. In the case of Club America striker José Ángel López, he has all of the aforementioned personal attributes but also has the family support that helped and nurtured his path to his debut for Club America last week. And what a debut it was!
A DREAM REALIZED ON THE BIGGEST OF STAGES
In a nil-nil game, López came on as a substitute to start the second half. With his first touch of his first-team career he gathered a pass on the right side of the 18-yard box and blasted a shot into the bottom of the net. He looked like he wanted to celebrate with the entire Azteca stadium, running first to his teammates, then the sidelines toward his coaches, and finally looking into the crowd for his family. It was a fairytale beginning to what could be a dazzling career at the center of the Mexican football world, otherwise known as Club America.
— Club América (@ClubAmerica) August 28, 2019
But it wasn’t really the beginning. José Ángel López was born in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. At the age of six his family moved to Ciudad Juárez. He honed his craft and eventually landed in the youth setup of Pachuca. That was not meant to be though. It has been a long journey for the entire family, filled with sacrifice and compromise. But the fruits of their efforts are now being realized.
His family – father José Ángel, mother Celia, and younger brother Ángel Sinuhé have all played a part in the Club America youngster’s rise to prominence. Younger brother Ángel Sinuhé is a product of the Atlético de San Luis youth system and is a name to look out for in the future. He will surely receive fantastic advice from his big brother.
A couple of days after his wonder debut at the Azteca, I sat down with José Ángel’s father to discuss his son, their family’s commitment to reaching this point, and of course, the emotions of watching his son realize a dream.
** Interview transcribed by Alan Geegan of The Stoppage Time**
A: This is Alan for The Stoppage Time here in San Luis Potosí and I am with a very special guest today. A man that is very, very happy today. Your name please…
JA: José Ángel López Cobos.
A: The name rings a bell, something happened this week. Can you tell me about it?
JA: Well, America called my son to play this week, it was his debut and he scored a goal.
A: Wow, how did you feel?
JA: You cannot imagine… an emotion that has no words. I remember and I tell you about it right now and I can feel the emotions coming back and I have no words for it.
A: Right, right, and, did you receive any messages?
JA: Well, many messages arrived.
A: How many?
JA: Too many after my son scored. We received many messages congratulating us on our son’s debut and his goal. It was his first touch of the ball and he scored so you can imagine it!
A: Of course. And, where were you?
JA: I was in the stadium watching the game just on the sidelines. Right in front of it so you can imagine.
A: Tell me about yourself, you also played when you were young…
JA: Mmm… not at this level, not because I could not but it was very different back then. Before there was not the diffusion you have today; also, I am an engineer and the pay was not that good. I made more money with my profession than playing football.
A: So, for you and your family it has been a long way to make it here.
JA: Of course, very daunting and full of obstacles, but the dreams of our kids make it worth it. Now you can see it paid off.
A: Did you ever imagine your son would make it this far? Was the dream always there?
JA: Well, I am a football person so I can tell if someone has it or not. Therefore, I knew he had it and I told him. Sometimes he would say, “Dad, I will never make it, I do not think I will get where I want to get”. Why? Because he was 18 years old and no club had called him yet; he had only played in the third division. But then Club America saw him, called him and a year later he has his debut.
A: And, can you tell me how did America notice your son?
JA: He went to tryout and Alfredo Tena saw him. Alfredo called him and immediately got a position in the Sub-20. Five months later they called him to train with the first team.
A: Was it difficult? Because you are originally from Mexico City. Or, where are you from?
JA: No, we are from Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. We left to Cd Juarez, Chihuahua when he was 6 years old and his younger brother only 2 years old. They were raised in Cd Juarez.
A: I understand.
JA: Pachuca called our younger son when he was 11. He was there for two and a half years and he wanted to leave due to circumstances. So, I took him out of the club but it took time to get his leave, as they did not want him to leave. Now he is with San Luis.
A: We are talking about your son, the youngest one…
JA: Yes, the oldest stayed with America. He tried Pachuca also, passed all the filters but he was never called.
A: So, your son´s name, the man of the week is Angel López…
JA: José Ángel López López.
A: A name we will all remember.
JA: Yes, number 192
A: Perfect. Again, congratulations to you and your family, and –obviously- to your son. Thank you for spending some time with The Stoppage Time today.
JA: Anytime, thanks to you.
It is easy to see that José Ángel López is an extremely gifted footballer and talented athlete. However, it is also clear that he has a loving and dedicated family who has given so much of themselves. With youngest son Ángel Sunuhé currently with the Sub-15’s of San Luis, their work may not be done quite yet. For now, though, José Ángel and his family should take a moment to enjoy their accomplishments. Many young boys dream of scoring important goals, very few actually do it.