All you need to know about ‘Kaku’ Alejandro Romero Gamarra

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By John E. Rojas – @jrojasa75

Alejandro Romero Gamarra turned 23 just a few days back (January 11). Born in Ciudadela (a neighborhood at the west side of Gran Buenos Aires) in the vicinity of Fuerte Apache (where Carlos Tevez was born). Now, ‘Kaku’ is expected in New York/New Jersey thanks to his soccer talent.

The Romero Gamarra household is not a small count. Alejandro has 11 siblings, the older ones didn’t make it to be a professional footballers. The two youngest are footballers too (Franco ‘Tata’ at the Huracán Academy, another #10 – and the little one who is right now at River Plate Academy). Lourdes his sister, plays the game too.

When ‘Kaku’ was about 10 years old, he tried to make it into the River Plate’s Academy but the competition didn’t allow him to have a significant amount of game time, same thing happened with Velez Sarsfield. At the time, Romero was playing for a local club name Jorge Nuvelin and the coach decided to take him to Huracán where he not only made the Academy and lived at the team’s housing (Pensión), but debuted on August of 2013.

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Kaku played more than 100 games for Huracán – Here with his family receiveng the jersey to mark the occasion

It was that coach who seeing Alejandro style of play wanted to compare him with a Brazilian star, and in an intent to call him little ‘kaká’ ended up calling Romero ‘Kaku’, a nickname that is more know today in Argentinian soccer than his full name.

Alejandro played academy for Huracán and when he was playing “Sexta” (Sixth division), Antonio ‘Turco’ Mohamed (today Rayados’ coach in Liga MX) called him up for the First Team, jumping part of the process (the path to professionalism would be 6th – 5th – 4th – Reserva and then First Team).

The Mohamed house played a big role on Romero’s process. He even recognized how Antonio’s wife Patricia, helped him with money when he had no means to make it to the next stipend he used to receive while in the Academy.

His first game as a starter was for Copa Libertadores against Peruvian side Alianza Lima. Huracán won the match 4-0 and Kaku scored one of the goals. That game was under the interim term of Nestor Apuzzo as coach of the First Team.

Apuzzo has been for a long time the director of Huracan’s Academy, someone who believed on Kaku’s talent from the early days even to the point of being label for Romero as his savior. It relates to a time when playing for the academy ‘Kaku’ suffered an injury that made him think on drop his dream and give up on soccer, but the insistence from Apuzzo and motivation from his mother, made Alejandro come back to the work and regain his fitness.

The work paid off, Kaku not only made it to First Team but played the U20 World Cup with Argentina. He has the two jerseys (Huracán – debut’s day and Argentina U20) framed at home. For two years in a row, Alejandro was important part of the silverware and International recognition that Huracán brought back to his fans.

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Huracán was on it’s way to the airport in Caracas, when the bus was involved in accident. Kaku got out safe and sound

On February 10, 2016, the dream was very close to be cut short. Huracán played the night before in Venezuela vs Caracas FC (for the preliminary round of Copa Libertadores -Huracán won the face off and made it to the groups stage). And on this day, the team was headed to the airport when the bus lost it’s brakes and flips over on a ramp. Reports at the moment said that the speed of the bus was as high as 120 km/h ( almost 75 milles on a ramp).

Lucky for him, Kaku was uninjured but two of his teammates didn’t have the same luck. Patricio Toranzo  lost four fingers from his left foot and Diego Mendoza resulted with an important injury on his right ankle (a member of the technical staff was injured too).

“After what I saw on TV, I will only feel he’s safe when I can see him eye to eye and hug him”, said Romero’s mom while waiting for hours that the team come back from Venezuela the following day of the accident.

It wasn’t only one of those mother’s things. Alejandro recognized that the relationship was different. “She suffered a lot when she was growing up and made sure that we had as much as she could. We were friends, she and I were very close”. Mom was on attendance to almost every game Huracán and her son played at home.

Yes!, were, because in September 2017 after an illness, Gladys passed away. The kid off course suffered a lot and on October 28th Kaku shook his sadness off (4-0 victory vs Lanús) and scored. “When the ball went in I just wanted to cry and look to the sky. We are a big family and she was everything for us”, he said after the game.

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Romero Gamarra and his celebration pointing to the sky like looking for his mom who passed away in 2017

“I wanted to take her to travel with me, I wanted to give her an own house. Now I will do it on her name”, He explained some weeks later.

Beside a few weeks of mourning, Romero didn’t lost his fitness or soccer form. He kept being important for Huracán and when the questions began to pop up about options to leave the club, he always stated that one of the important elements for him was to make sure that Huracán would benefit from him and any transaction so the club could keep focusing on the academy and give the youngsters better tools to be developed.

Before his mom passed away, Cruz Azul from Liga MX wanted to have Romero Gamarra, negotiations were going fine between the player and the Mexican side, but Cruz Azul wanted to have him on loan (paying US$2 million). At the end, the negotiations between Huracán and Cruz Azul fell through.

“I’m ok with that”, he said. “I’m fine here and if any club wants to take me, they will have to negotiate with Nadur (Alejandro – Huracan’s president), he’s hard to negotiate with, but I know that at the end, He will get the best for the club”.

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Leaving Huracán is not simple for Kaku, he played more than 100 games for the side including the local tournament, Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana (both continental competitions). He won Copa Argentina (2013-14) and Super Copa Argentina ( 2014) for ‘El Globo’, most of the time with the number 10 on his back.

He’s 5’7” – 147 pounds, a crafty lefty with a very good right foot. Mostly playing the left wing or as a number 10 behind two strikers, with a few games on the right wing too. Kaku is married with Karen and is a father of two kids, including a little girl named Catalina, who was born a month before Kaku’s mom passed away.

And despide all his hardships, Romero was well know inside the locker room for being a joyful guy who is looking to play jokes and make everybody laugh to keep the high spirit.

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Esta es la ‘joya’ de Montreal Impact que se fue al Barcelona B

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Por: John E. Rojas – @jrojasa75

El jugador más joven en la historia profesional del Montreal Impact (firmó con 17 años), deseo de equipos como Chelsea, Arsenal y Manchester City, será ahora miembro del FC Barcelona (inicialmente el Barcelona B). Pero por más que sea joven, el camino no ha sido corto.

Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, como es su nombre completo (prefiere que le llamen Ballou), es hijo de inmigrantes marfileños que tuvieron que dejar su patria y vivir en un campamento para refugiados.

El fútbol se convirtió en su forma de expresión y en el mecanismo para integrarse a una nueva sociedad una vez la familia se estableció en la provincia de Quebec, en Canadá.

Jugó sus primeros torneos organizados para la academia Pointe-aux-Trembles Jets y el club amateur Montreal club CS Panellinios. En donde obviamente despuntó y llamó la atención de propios y extraños.

Los sueños estaban por empezar a cumplirse y el sufrimiento a traducirse en alegría. Ballou llegó a la academia de Montreal Impact (de forma definitiva) en 2015 (Había pasado una temporada en 2013, pero regresó en la 2014 al Panellinios).

Una vez con Montreal Impact, se hizo de inmediato a un lugar en el equipo de USL (United Soccer League – hoy 2da división en USA). Con ese equipo, Ballou consiguió 21 apariciones y cinco goles. Y empezó a ser visto como el veloz volante extremo con gran habilidad sobre la pelota, visión de juego y fortaleza a pesar de su edad. Claro, tiene que pulir la toma de decisiones, el juego aéreo y otro par de asuntos.

Para ese entonces, Ballou ya había ganado el premio al mejor jugador canadiense menor de 17 años, y había tenido participaciones con el seleccionado en la categoría Sub 17.

Durante los ocho años que alcanzó a vivir en Abidjan, Costa de Marfil, soñaba, como todos los chicos con llegar a conocer al ídolo de todos, Didier Drogba.

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Ballou y su ídolo, ahora amigo, Didier Drogba.

Lo que nunca se imaginó es que el duro camino hasta la academia y el segundo equipo de Montreal, lo llevaría en 2017 a firmar su primer contrato de primera división y a compartir camerino con el ídolo marfileño de todos los tiempos. “Al verlo por primera vez en el entrenamiento empecé a llorar”, dijo en su momento Ballou quien ahora puede llamar amigo a su modelo de infante.

Con el primer equipo de Montreal Impact, Tabla jugó una sola temporada con participación en 21 juegos, 11 de ellos de titular (1,146 minutos en total), marcó dos goles y sumó dos asistencias.

Una vez más nombrado el Mejor Futbolista de Canadá, esta vez entre los menores de 20 años, a sus presentaciones ya asistían empresarios de Chelsea, Arsenal y Manchester City, pero Montreal Impact quería ofrecerle el tiempo necesario para mejorar su evolución y él lo entendía igual.

Las puertas del seleccionado absoluto siguen abiertas para Ballou tanto en Costa de Marfil como en Canadá. Es claro que la vida y el fútbol lo ha encontrado en el país norteamericano, pero su corazón, su lucha, sus ancestros están en el africano.

Por ahora y tras un total de 45 partidos, 8 goles y cinco asistencias en 2017 para los dos equipos de Montreal (USL y MLS) en 3,060 minutos, Ballou perseguirá otro sueño, debutar en un grande de Europa como el FC Barcelona.

Al equipo catalán llega con 18 años, en un contrato por tres años y una opción para dos más. La cláusula de rescisión se estableció en 25 millones de euros por los primeros tres años y se aumentará a 75 millones si el contrato se extiende luego de los tres años iniciales.

All you need to know about Atlanta United’s new jewel : Ezequiel Barco

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By John E. Rojas – @jrojasa75

Now that Atlanta United closed with success the soap opera of the winter (summer down south in Argentina – and it wasn’t the only drama for Independiente or the Argentinian teams), is time to know a little bit more about the new MLS jewel, Ezequiel Barco!

From the first reports back in early November until now, fans most likely saw every single clip, highlight and cut from Barco’s stile of play. So let’s jump that and focus on who he is as a person, where he comes from and why the kid is a special person and talent.

So here is all we can tell you about the 18 years old attacking midfielder known during the academy days as ‘Cara de Viejo’ (His face looks like a lot more older than he really is).

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Ezequiel Barco was born in Villa Gobernador Valdéz (Santa Fé Province). The small town is about 30 minutes from Rosario (Tata’s born city – one of the most soccer prolific cities in Argentina – yes! same as Messi).

Barco’s father (Omar) was his first coach on a local team called Mosconi, where he played along side his brother (Cristian) who is one year younger than Ezequiel. The trio and their team were champions on the local league. After the early shift at work, Ezequiel’s dad used to get home and go out with the kids to train them with the rest of the team. They used to play on a 7 vs 7 league with a 3-3 setting, Ezequiel being one of the forwards on that line of three.

He has said that he used to score a lot of goals and even though his family mention that he was the most talented on those teams, he did not notice it or acted out as a star kid.

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Since then, he considered himself as a winger who loves to make diagonals from left to right, but many saw him as a typical number 10 who should play behind two strikers. He plays the right side too on a line of three up front.

At the Barco household (two daughters and two boys) both parents worked. Even until 2017 Ezequiel’s mom (Esther) worked as a cleaning lady (you can imagine that in a small town in Argentina, working as a cleaning person does not provide the income that  people with that line of work can have here in the States).

When Ezequiel signed his first contract as profesional, he asked his mom to stop working and move with him to Avellaneda, but she did not want to stop working and depend only of his child.

Ezequiel’s dad worked on a cooking pots’ factory, he accepted his son’s invitation to quit the job and move to Avellaneda to live with Ezequiel, when the teenager signed his first profesional contract.

Before arriving to Independiente’s system, he was let go by Boca Juniors, Gimnasia de la Plata and River Plate. Ezequiel himself admits that he wasn’t in a good level at the moment, he was 15 at the time.

Jorge Griffa, a well known ex player, scout and coach took him under his wing and made him play on his academy until 2015 when he finally made it to Independiente (playing Academy 7th division – the path to professionalism would be 6th – 5th – 4th – Reserva ad then First Team).

Barco played a bit on 7th division and a bit on 6th, before being called up for the First Team (August 2016 under Gabriel Milito’s coaching staff – Milito played for FC Barcelona among other teams and the Argentinian National Team before his coaching career).

After moving to Avellaneda, He lived at the team’s housing (pensión). He used to sneak after his practice and watch the First Team’s training, thinking on what he had to do in order to be as soon as possible with the First Team ( “los grandes”).

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Ezequiel Barco during his first days at Independiente de Avellaneda Academy

Living at that team’s housing was hard at the beginning. Specially because he was away from his parents and had to comply with some tight schedule on a daily basis, comparing with the freedom he had at home only going to school and playing soccer.

At some point he told his parents that he wasn’t ready to live inside the academy and wanted to go back home. But his parents and family used to take turns to call him and motivate him to keep fighting for his dream. He accepted that during that time he used to cry a lot every day.

Things got better when he move out of the team’s housing and start to make his own life, once he signed his first profesional contract. One of his agents taught him how to drive last year.

He didn’t finish school because once he started to play for the first team, the training, games and travel got in the middle. On top of that, he accepted that he did not have a great desire to study, he actually accepted that during the team’s housing days he suffered when he had to go to school.

He was part of the Argentina U20 National Team during the South American qualifier for the last World Cup (South Corea 2017). During the tournament, Ezequiel complained about a case of mistreatment from the National Team coach and after qualify for the World Cup, Independiente decided that the club would not allow Ezequiel to travel with the National Team, resulting on Ezequiel missing the World Cup.

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Barco during the U20 South American Championship (2017)

During his days with the Academy. Barco used the number 10, so he did a t the U20 National Team. But once he signed with the first team his number was the 27. Ezequiel has said that he would love to wear that number 10 again at some point and that La Liga and Premier League are his favorites.

He’s 5’4”, his birthday is March 29th, debuted on Argentinian First Division on August 8th 2016 and scored his first goal on September 10th. He played in total 57 games for Independiente (38 League / 3 Cup / 16 Copa Sudamericana) and scored 8 goals (5 league / 3 Copa Sudamericana)

Fechas, enfrentamientos y rivalidades listas para 2018

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Por: john E. Rojas – @jrojasa75

La MLS 2018 empieza su cuenta regresiva camino a una histórica temporada en la que debutará el equipo 23 (Los Angeles FC), un clásico (LA Galaxy vs LAFC) y dos estadios LAFC (Banco of California) y DC United (AudiField).

Con ello en mente, más la participación en Copa de Campeones de Concacaf (Concachampions) y el año de Copa Mundial Rusia 2018, la MLS dio a conocer el calendario completo de la temporada 23 de la Liga.

En resumen, la temporada regular de la MLS se jugará entre el 3 de marzo y el 28 de octubre; la postemporada comenzará el 31 de octubre y la final se disputará el 8 de diciembre.

Estos son los enfrentamientos de la Primera Semana de MLS 2018:

 

Estas las fechas de los clásicos del Río Hudson (New York Red Bulls vs New York City FC):

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Estas las fechas para el nuevo Clásico en Los Ángeles:

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Estas las fechas del ‘Cali Clásico’:

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Estas las fechas del clásico conocido como ‘El Capitán’:

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Las inauguraciones:

LAFC – Primer partido en la historia del club en MLS será el domingo 4 de Marzo visitando a Seattle Sounders FC.

Audi Field – El estadio de D.C. United (20,000 aficionados), se inaugurará el sábado 14 de julio en el encuentro DC United vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Banc of California – El Estadio de LAFC (22,000 aficionados), se inaugurará el 29 de Abril con el encuentro LAFC vs Sounders FC.

Para tener en cuenta:

Formato: 34 partidos para todos los equipos (17 de local y 17 de visita). Conferencia del Este con 10 equipos, Oeste con 11. Cada equipo en el Este jugará dos partidos ante los rivales de su conferencia. Cada Equipo del Oeste jugará un partido adicional dentro de su conferencia. Todos los equipos jugarán al menos una vez contra rivales de la conferencia contraria.

All Star Game: Se jugará el miércoles 1 de Agosto en el Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta United FC).

Mundial Rusia 2018: A pesar de que ni Estados Unidos ni Canadá estarán en Rusia, MLS tendrá una alta representación en la Cita Orbital. El descanso de la liga será de nueve días (14 al 22 de Junio) durante la fase de grupos del torneo.

 

 

Joel Qwiberg’s inside fire comes from his roots and will settle in California

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By John E Rojas – @jrojasa75

San Jose Earthquakes secured with Joel Qwiberg (25 years old), a speedy left back with almost seven years as professional, a great deal of leadership, clear convictions and an internal fire with a big South American dream.

“I’m a team player; I work hard, very hard. I think I’m good taking the set pieces with a natural left foot”, said Qwiberg on a conversation through voice messages that took about two days, in order to surf his career and personal story.

He is coming to MLS in the midst of a few offers from big clubs in Sweden and at least one more European team, and after playing more than 50 games for a club that is consider in his country as ‘The Ajax’ of Sweden.

IF Brommapojkarna is the name of the club, well known for his vast academy. Records show that the club had 247 teams in different divisions and categories involving 3,000 players (men and women) in 2017.

“Some things were important to me when I was thinking about my next choice, but one of them is that it’s well known by now the professionalism in MLS, the facilities and the fact that as players we only have to take care of training well and perform well in games”. That’s part of the reasons why Joel is leaving his home country and Europe for United States.

For many, the fact that the new Quakes’ coach is Swedish, could be the perfect explanation for this move, and even some would think that Mikael Stahre, the new boss, brought Qwiberg into his project. However, the player explained it differently.

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Joel’s now former team is considered as ‘The Ajax’ of Sweden

“No, I don’t know personally Mikael Stahre, of course I know who he is and the big reputation that he has here in Sweden. But as far as I know, San Jose has been scouting me for a long period. I love what Jesse Fioranelli explained me about the project”.

Life is more than soccer

Another factor that motivated Qwiberg to come has more to be with his personal story and his big South American dream. “When I think of my idea of progress in my game, and what I want to do out of the field, San Jose is the best place for me to be”, he said.

Qwiberg had spells with the Swedish National Team Under 17 and Under 19. However, his real dream is to play for the Colombian National Team.

Yes! You are reading it right. It can be dream difficult to become reality, but Qwiberg has at lease the passport and the blood to begin with.

“I was adopted when I was 6 months old and I can’t even remember when I was told about it. Is something that I’ve always known about.” Said Qwiberg, who was born in Colombia and has never set a foot in the South American country since his adoption.

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“I never had a problem with being adopted; I had a fantastic life as a kid. But I consider myself a Colombian living in Sweden”.

A military father and a teacher mother, plus a younger sister who is a biological daughter of his adoptive parents, makes Joel’s Swedish family. “I never had a problem with being adopted; I had a fantastic life as a kid. But I consider myself a Colombian living in Sweden”.

Joel has a big tattoo on his chest that reads “Colombia”, and another in his right arm that reads “Santa Fe de Bogota” referring to the city that he was born in.

“Living in California will help me to learn Spanish with some teammates and the Latino community in San José, on top of being closer to Colombia than from here in Sweden”.

Qwiberg said that he had the plan to fly to Bogotá this December, but after closing the transfer with San Jose, the time to get things sort out and be ready to move to California made the trip complicated and decided to put a halt on the plan.

He is not actively looking for his biological family right now, but does not dismiss the idea of start doing it at some point.

“I’m really proud of my roots and every time I say that I’m Colombian, people make jokes and all that. For me that is not a problem. I’m proud of where I’m coming from”, he said.

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“…I’m proud of where I’m coming from”

Of course being public about his dream of playing for the Colombian National Team may affect his chances with the Swedish National Team, nevertheless Joel insists that this decision is part of who he is.

“You have to be honest with yourself and let’s say – just a thought- that I have the opportunity to play for both national teams and I have to take the decision. I will go with Colombia because that is what my heart is asking me to do”.

While his dreams of getting closer to his roots could be easier living in San Jose, Qwiberg’s determination and focus is with the Quakes, “I want to do great for them, play on a full Avaya Stadium and be of great help for the team”.