Who is he?
Paraguayan soccer player for Hércules C.F. in Spain
Where you’ve heard of him:
If you follow Spanish soccer or watched the World Cup
This will probably be the first and last time you hear of Nelson Haedo Valdez because, well, he plays soccer, and we live in the United States.
This past weekend, Valdez scored two goals to lead Hércules to a 2-0 away win over mighty Barcelona in Spain’s first division, La Liga. Barcelona is the two-time defending Spanish champion. Seven starters from the World Cup-winning Spanish team play for Barcelona, as does Lionel Messi—the best player in the world.
This type of game doesn’t happen in the U.S., and that’s why there’s no comparison for how big of an upset it was. But that’s not why we’re talking about Valdez.
As Sid Lowe wrote in the Guardian, Valdez’s path to professional soccer is hard to imagine. At 15, Valdez was sleeping under the bleachers of a local soccer stadium in his native Paraguay. He walked around during the day, worked when he could, drank cane alcohol, and barely slept.
He also played soccer, catching the eye of a German scout at 17. In the first game of a trial (basically, a tryout) with German team Werder Bremen, Valdez scored four goals and earned his contract. His career has brought him across Germany, to a World Cup in South Africa, and now to the south of Spain with Hércules.
While Valdez worked his ass off to get out of Paraguay, he still gives back to his hometown. Valdez “sends €10,000 (£8,285) a month to his home town,” Lowe said, “where a community depends on him, and buys presents for 1,500 kids every Christmas.”
Here are his two goals and a song in his name.