Tag Archives: USA

The Story of Victor Yanez: The Important Untold Story of Football

Many of us around the world may be unfamiliar with Victor Yanez. He seems like an ambitious Jesuit priest-in-training if you meet him without any context about his past. Yet, what if I told you he was supposed to be the next breakout star in North America? Yanez indeed had a pretty fantastic career as a youth footballer in Mexico and the USA. Yanez played for both Mexico and American national youth teams and rubbed shoulders with many players who would go on to have successful careers in top leagues worldwide. Some of the players he has played alongside include Giovanni and Jonathan Dos Santos, Sheanon Williams, Brek Shea, Andy Rose, David Estrada, Freddy Adu, Brian Perk, and, interestingly, American football player Josh Lambo. Yet unlike his teammates, Yanez never became a pro. For the most part, I have been interviewing players who managed to become a professional player through their own struggles. Yet for every footballer that makes it, countless others do not. This is one such story. 

Beginnings in Mexico and Journey to the IMG Academy

Yanez was born and raised in Mexico but moved to the United States when he was 11 years old. Growing up in Mexico, Yanez played football in the streets and realised he was a gifted footballer. A young Yanez would go to his backyard in Mexico and practice various challenges, such as doing touches against the cement wall without the ball touching the ground. He’d also imagine himself playing against teams. Back during a time where YouTube wasn’t around yet, his imagination and friends were his entertainment source. After school every day, he would set two rocks on the ground in front of his house to demarcate a goal post and play with his friends.

“Sometimes we used sticks of a broom and hammered it down for goalposts. When we used rocks, if the ball passed it and was too high, we’d get into an argument if that was a goal or not.”

Interestingly, Yanez struggled with systemic practice in the USA when he moved over. Playing street football since he was a kid, he had a knack for knowing what to do when he was on the pitch. However, he wasn’t an excellent practice player. Things like warming up and cardio exercises frustrated Yanez, who did not understand why these things were important. Later on, he did acknowledge that practice sessions helped his agility and natural fitness, but at the time, it was a real challenge. 

Yanez played in one of the most competitive youth leagues in California and was scouted for the Olympic Development Programme (ODP), like the state team. Every state had an ODP and each state team would play other state teams in their region. There were four regional zones established. From each region, players would be selected for the regional teams and out of these four regions, the best players would be selected for the national Under-15 team. Yanez managed to climb through the tiers and in 2005, when he was 15 years old, he left home and was recruited to the U-15 USA National team. He would move over to Florida to take residence in the IMG Academy where he would stay and train for 2 years in preparation for the U-17 World Cup.

Next to Josh Lambo and Fro Adu (far left) with the U17 USA. Photo Provided By Victor Yanez.

“Back then. There wasn’t really a U-15 national team. The idea of the U-15 team was to get you ready for the U-17 World Cup that would happen in 2 years. Even if you called yourself a U-15, the idea was always to go to the [U-17] World Cup. So, you’re in that pool. You’re getting ready for that.”

U17 US National Team at the Nike friendlies. Photo Provided By Victor Yanez

Switching Allegiances to Mexico 

Unfortunately, after two years with the IMG academy, Yanez could not represent the United Stated U-17 team because his immigration paperwork was being processed. Instead, he took advantage of how players could switch back and forth and play for multiple youth national teams. He chose to play for the Mexico U-17 team instead due to the circumstances. 

“I remember moving to Mexico to link up with the U-17 team. I remember how we were supposed to introduce each other and share what team we were playing for. Back then, I was playing for a team in California and we used to call ourselves Manchester United. I never played for Manchester United but this was the closest thing. And this guy next to me says he’s Jonathan dos Santos and I play for Barcelona. At the time, his brother Gio [Giovanni dos Santos] was starting to come up and I was asking him if it was the real Barcelona or is it like a random Barcelona team [much like Yanez’s Man United]. Next thing you know, I find out he was playing for the real FC Barcelona and that was the level we were playing at.”

Victor with Jonathan Dos Santos. Photo Provided By Victor Yanez.

Yanez and dos Santos would become really good friends during their time in the Mexico national U-17 team. While it’s been years since he last talked to dos Santos, Yanez recalls many fond memories with him.

However, despite the wide array of talent on display, the Mexico U-17 team did not qualify for the 2007 U-17 World Cup. It was a huge disappointment for the Mexico team, and it left many perplexed. Two years before, the Mexico U-17 team had won the World Cup in 2005, and thus, it was “odd that the Mexico team couldn’t qualify”. The chance to represent the USA U-17 team was also off the cards because his citizenship processing was not ready. It was only six months after the World Cup when Yanez managed to get his American citizenship. 

Crushed Dreams & Learning Outcome at UCLA

With his dreams to play in the U-17 crushed and his UCLA scholarship jeopardised as a result, tragedy struck once again. This time, it sounded the death knell for his footballing aspirations.

“This thing happens to me. I was going for happen to the ball and the defender pushes me in such a way that my foot fell into this small hole in the field. These aren’t the synthetic grass field that we are used to now. These were old school grass pitches. So yeah, I tore my ligaments. I remember asking myself if there was much more to life? The funny thing is that I had asked myself that question before. I remember a year before I was with the national [U-17] team and played internationally and wasn’t satisfied. I had always been a happy person but I was looking for fulfilment. So, there was that little nudge to look at something more in life than just being famous.”

UCLA with David Beckham coaching his kids at a UCLA summer camp. Photo provided by Victor Yanez

The injury led to Yanez suffering from depression and made him question the purpose of living if he can’t get to where he needed to be, which was the national team set-up. The football dream did live on for a bit at UCLA. UCLA had always been Yanez’s back up plan. The goal was to always go pro and play for the national team. 

“When I tore my ligament, I couldn’t play at the level I wanted to play at. I had a very tough time at UCLA [because of that]. I mean I was there for four years and I was committed to the University but I never recovered fully to be able to play at the level that I wanted to. I spent a lot of time on the bench, and I was dealing with other injuries. So, what happens is that when you’re pushing your body to compensate for the torn ligament, other injured happened. I had all this downtime and it was then when I really started to study the game because I had all this downtime.”

Stepping Into Coaching 

At the back of his mind, Yanez felt like coaching might be his calling instead. His footballing career officially ended at UCLA in 2011, and the career in coaching thus began. Yanez thought he could make a living out of coaching if he remained committed to the craft but also knew he had to be open to moving around the country whenever an opening came up. He was coaching club soccer for a while when an opening at a local high school became available, where he was appointed as head coach. And thus, Yanez juggled both roles at the club and high school for the next year or so.

The more Yanez coached, the more he applied what he learned while studying sessions at UCLA. From strength and agility conditioning to nutrition and the psychological aspect of the game, he started to analyse the game from different perspectives. He realised it was a viable career, but the club and high school he was coaching at were not paying him much – they were only stipends.

At Wabash College. Photo provided by Victor Yanez.

“That’s when I started applying for all these college jobs. They got back to me saying I had a great playing resume but zero coaching experience. So, I was telling them to give me a chance. The only person that was willing to give me a chance was Chris Keller at Wabash College in the middle of nowhere in Indiana. It was also an all-male institution and I was like ‘what is this place?’ but I was also ready to go. People often tell me I did it backwards. People from Indiana often want to go to California but I did the opposite, I went to Indiana instead.” 

In 2013, Yanez signed as a coach for Wabash College as part of Keller’s backroom staff. For the next 3 seasons, Yanez would learn a lot from Keller, who became one of his best friends. The first season with Wabash was a huge shock for Yanez as the Little Giants had a record of 4-11-2 (4 Wins, 11 Draws and 2 Losses). Coming from UCLA, Yanez was part of a team that had a habit of winning. Having rarely lost a match, it took time for him to adjust to the different challenge that the Little Giants posed. 

Yet, Keller and Yanez managed to turn things around the following season, and they had a far improved 13-3-3 record. Yanez explains how Keller’s vision was so strong that everyone believed in him.

With Chris Keller at Wabash College. Photo provided by Victor Yanez.

“I don’t think I had a weekend off in the 2 to 3 years I was working with him. We were majorly recruiting all over the country. I knew every player by name and we knew what type of player we wanted to get every year. I was mainly working on the development of younger talent. I set a programme up for progression for the future. And so, till this day, Wabash continues to have major winning seasons. They haven’t had a losing season ever since.”

After 3 years with Keller, Yanez wanted to explore a role as a head coach but that’s when he joined up with the Jesuits and so he hasn’t really explored his full potential as a coach just yet. That may very well change soon. Recently, his superiors have given him the green light to get involved with coaching yet again. Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced many leagues to cancel and thus his coaching ambitions are on a temporary hold right now. One thing is for sure. This isn’t the last you’d hear from Victor Yanez.

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Football is A Universal Language – A short story of how we became friends

UNC Chapel Hill Campus, by Jack Transou, February 2020

It has been almost 3 months since I have contributed to anything on this site. School has taken up most of my time and committing myself to write weekly articles, let alone daily ones, has been an uphill task. Jack has tanked the workload well has consistently contributed to this platform, and I am thankful that he has kept this blog somewhat alive. Thankfully, the semester has finally ended, and I can focus on writing about football again – oh well, so I hoped.

Football has been on a standstill for a while now, a long while. I was certain that leagues would have resumed by now. Yet, as each week passes, the pandemic only seems to be intensifying. Even worse, leagues are legitimately considering pulling the plug on this season’s campaign. The Dutch Eredivisie got cancelled and very recently, so has the French Ligue 1. Now I’ll go over why this is a pressing issue for other leagues in another article but I’ll say this much for now: Life without football feels so empty. I do not watch every United game, nor do I keep up to date with the latest rumours. Still, being unable to catch up on new highlights nor tune in to any football over the weekends has made me feel incomplete.

Nevertheless, that does not mean there is nothing to write on. I have been away for a while now and many issues that I wanted to raise remain unsaid. Top of that list (of unsaid things) has got to be how jack and myself met in UNC, Chapel Hill. So I am taking this opportunity to share the tale of our friendship, one that is grounded on our love for football, beer, and military history.

2018 was the first time I set foot in the United States. Living in America was a dream come true, and studying for an academic year was indeed something I was extremely excited about. However, I had to look for a football kaki (a buddy to watch matches with), and I found no one to catch it with during my first semester. Sure, I met a few people who were fans of the sport and followed European teams, but it was in early 2019 when I met Jack Transou – someone who was as passionate, if not more, about the sport as I was. I knew I found the right Football kaki.

It couldn’t be sheer coincidence that we were in 2 classes together that semester and we saw each other in lecture every single day. Instead of paying attention to our lectures, we were busy watching football matches. Jack will argue against this – he would probably say he paid attention to the lecturers AND watched the matches. Living in Singapore, I did not have the luxury of watching a lot of games when most games were late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. So, you can imagine how great it felt to conveniently watch games in the middle of the day.

If it weren’t during lectures, we’d hop over to Four Corners to catch Champions League matches. It was ritual for us to grab a bucket of beer and some cheese fries with bacon bits every game. By far the best experience I had was seeing my beloved Manchester United during their Champions League Round of 16 clash with PSG (or as Jack puts it, the Qatari overlords of Paris). United came from behind and won 3-1 in the away leg of that tantalizing fixture. Seeing Marcus Rashford score that Penalty is still unbelievable, considering how dreadful that United team was.

Jack once touted the idea of writing a football blog to me. I remember this happened when we were eating lunch at the bottom of Lenoir Dining Hall (something we routinely did after lecture every Tuesday and Thursday). I didn’t think it would ever materialize, but a few months later, SocckerKakis was born. Jack and I may be thousands of miles apart, but we remain connected through this blog. It is a platform for us to air our views but also an outlet for us to grow our unique friendship.