Sometimes it seems that you spent your life getting ready for a match that will set your course as a footballer.
“In your football careers, there are very important moments, and this is one of those. These are opportunities that won’t come back. You must understand that this is not going for a ramble”. Nicholas and Arnold nodded regarding what their Technical Director, who called them to make sure the importance of what they were about to experience in a matter of days: First-class opponents, demanding matches, big scenarios. Madrid was awaiting.
They were ready. Prepared to become the leading character of their own dream. “When Carlos Rivero told me about the trip I thought ‘fantastic’… I was very enthusiastic, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the opportunity I had”, remembers Nicholas Pambudi. What the U19 Marcet right back was more anxious about was playing against Atlético de Madrid. “It was something new for me. I wanted to know how a big team such as Atlético plays and I was willing to test myself, find out how I would perform against them. I wanted to find out what my real level was”.
The Indonesian defender was part of an expedition that counted with more than 120 people amongst players, coaches, trainers, analysts, psychologists, cameramen… Five teams for a three-day scouting event which would provide them with the opportunity of playing against worldwide First-class football clubs. “These are important matches that you don’t play every day”, says Arnold Barahona, Nicholas’s teammate.
But the trip to the Spanish capital didn’t happen as the Honduran midfielder was expecting. Arnold was carrying a back injury and, just a few hours prior to the departing, his situation got worse. “Pain did disappear a few days before, but it came back after the last match I played”, explains the footballer. The Marcet technical staff tried to find a last-minute flight for him to avoid the bus trip, but there were no empty seats. Arnold joined the rest of the expedition knowing that his chances to jump into the field were very little.
His situation didn’t change and the midfielder of San Pedro Sula, spear head of the Marcet U19, spent the match against Atlético de Madrid on the bench. It was the first time that Arnold, 16 years old, was injured. The physical problems appeared in one of the most crucial moments of his football career. “I wanted to prove myself, that was what I wanted, but – at the end – i couldn’t. It’s an opportunity that vanished”, regrets Arnold, with a severe look in his eyes as someone used to show confidence and to dribble distractions in order to focus on long-term objectives.
From the bench, the Honduran footballer saw how his teammates played an excellent match against Atlético de Madrid. A 1-1 draw after very intense 90 minutes. “I’m proud of our performance”, says Nicholas, who played the whole match. “I found out that our team has a very similar level than ‘Atleti’. It was a very good match and we were perfectly able to compete against them”.
The Indonesian defender, born and raised in a remote small village in the Java island, faced the match with the same enthusiasm of that who is living a dream. But also with the much-needed serenity for facing an important rival. “I wasn’t tense at all. I would have been a year ago, but the psychological preparation that we have before the important matches is paying off. I’m not nervous anymore facing big teams”.
Nicholas Pambudi en el encuentro entre el Juvenil Marcet y el Atlético de Madrid disputado en Cerro del Espino (Majadahonda) el 6 de diciembre 2016.
At Lippo Cikarang, his hometown, there are not football teams. There is only a small pitch to organise informal matches amongst friends. The contrast with the spotless facilities of Atlético de Madrid is significant. Three years ago, Nicholas had to travel to Jakarta four times a week to train. Two hours to get there and another two hours to go back. “Sometimes, the trip to the city was useless, because when we arrived we found out that the rain was heavy and the training session was cancelled”.
His father drove the car. “He always supported me in everything”, says Nicholas: “He loves football and, if I’m playing today, it’s because of him. I do miss my family here in Barcelona, but everything I’m doing is worth it. Because to reach your goals you always have to do sacrifices”. Like playing three matches in three days in Madrid. “I never played so much. I couldn’t even walk at the end”, explains the right back, confirming the words of his Technical Director: Madrid was not a ramble.
After the match against Atlético, the Marcet U19 played against Rayo Vallecano and Getafe CF. One defeat and one draw. And, above all, good sensations. Like Arnold’s recovery, who could to play for 20 minutes. It wasn’t as much as he wanted, but nothing stops the Honduran player. “My hope was for one of the big opponents to spot me. It was not possible, but that’s in the past now. It’s a lesson for my future”, explains Arnold after his return to Barcelona. “Now is time to keep working for the future. Here in Spain I have realised how important is to do things properly every day. When I started to do try-outs with different clubs and realised of the playing level here I understood that I wanted to be a professional footballer. Football must be a part of my life. I see my goal closer, but I also realise that it’s not easy and you have to make an effort and work hard every day. Now I understand how important is to make the most of opportunities. Honduras is not a country that stands out for his football level. Here in Spain I have been able to face teams like Valencia, Zaragoza or Levante. And that a huge personal achievement”.
The same as Arnold, also Nicholas sees how, step by step, is progressing. “I would like to be able to play at least in second division”, says the defender. If he were to achieve such goal, he would be the first Indonesian to reach this level in Europe. “I see the, little by little, I’m reaching my goal, because I learn new things every day. Years ago, I couldn’t even dream about being in Spain, facing teams like Atlético de Madrid. Me? From a small village in Indonesia? It’s fantastic. It’s incredible”.