• Thursday, September 18, 2014

From scavenger to Ecuador star

Afp, Viamao, Brazil

Edison Mendez is about to play his last World Cup and complete a remarkable journey from scavenging for food to eat and shoes to wear to becoming Ecuador's most respected footballer.
The 35-year-old midfielder was the man who scored his country's first ever World Cup finals goal in the 1-0 win over Croatia at the 2002 finals when he was 23, his team's youngest player.
But it was a rocky, poverty-stricken path to the sport's biggest tournament.
Mendez, capped 111 times, grew up in the harsh, dusty Chota valley in central Ecuador.
"We didn't have bread every day and for shoes we had to rummage through rubbish bins, pick them out and then wear them," said Mendez.
As well as being the oldest player in Reinaldo Rueda's squad in Brazil, where Ecuador are drawn in Group E along with Switzerland, 1998 champions France and Honduras, Mendez is the only one who will be involved in a third World Cup.
He is also mentoring the youngest, 19-year-old Carlos Gruezo who relies on the experience and input of Mendez in Brazil.


"Sometimes the climate, the people and the euphoria may take us all a long way from reality," said Mendez.
"But we have to be concentrated on our job and live our own history."
Mendez said he intends to live every moment of his last World Cup.
"My aim is to make the most of every minute, of each training session and perform to the maximum with my teammates."
Mendez certainly brings plenty of experience to Ecuador as they try to make the last 16 for only the second time after getting out of the group stages in 2006 in Germany.
After beginning his career at Deportivo Quito and Nacional in Ecuador, he moved to Mexico before returning to his home country where he won a league title with Liga de Quito.
He then tried his luck with PSV Eindhoven, winning two Dutch titles, followed by a short stay at Atletico Mineiro in Brazil.
Mendez then went home again, to Emelec and another spell at Liga de Quito.
This year, he was on the move once more, signing for Independiente de Sante Fe, in Colombia.
Once the World Cup is over, Mendez will seek another challenge with one last club.
For now, it is the World Cup which is concentrating his mind and he will be key to his team's chances along with fellow experienced internationals, goalkeeper Agustin Delgado and defender Ulises de la Cruz.
Come what may in Brazil, Mendez will always remember his humble roots which helped propel him to fame and fortune.
"Sometimes to become somebody, you have to go hungry. The key to success is there," he said.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, June 13, 2014

Last modified: 1:28 am Friday, June 13, 2014

TAGS: world cup Brazil 2014 World Cup

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