Beyond The Pitch: Mascia's Story

February 10, 2019

 I was literally born with a football and probably the first thing I touched after my birth was a football. My mother would often tell me how my father placed a football next to my crib right after my birth!
My father was an Argentinian and played in the Boca Juniors Youth Team and my mother is a Uruguayan whom he met during a holiday trip. So I come from mixed cultures of two football frenzy nations and grew up in an environment of football all along.

 

I have two brothers and one sister and we’re all almost the same age, so childhood was all about playing backyard football with my siblings and we often ended up breaking flower pots and windowpanes of our house and the neighbourhood.

 

We were a troublesome group of siblings for the neighbourhood! We would often jump fences or sneak into their houses to fetch our ball that we’d knock over and they would often get really annoyed with us.

 

When I was in school, I played multiple sports. I was playing football, rugby, tennis and participating in athletics. Around this time, I started to play in the baby leagues of Montevideo and playing in those leagues usually gets you an opportunity to play in zonal youth tournaments in Uruguay.

 

 

I was around 14 while playing in one of those tournaments, when Pablo Forlan (Diego Forlan’s father) saw me playing. He saw me play a few times and told me that he saw some quality in me and my style of football and wanted to send me for a trial for the Atletico Madrid Youth Team.

 

It’s not every day that Diego Forlan’s father says that he sees quality in you! So naturally I was surprised and excited about the trial! So in order to prepare myself for the big trial, I had to give up all other sports and focus entirely on football. I started to train under Pablo Forlan for the Atletico Madrid trial that was coming up in a few months’ time and back then I was mostly playing as a left midfielder.

 

Finally, I ended up in Madrid with my mother for a two-week trial and it was unbelievable! Training for two weeks under the shadows of the imposing Vicente Calderón Stadium and training in such a great academy structure under professional coaches that has produced so many legends, just left me in awe.

 

After two weeks of trial at the club, I had to return to Uruguay to complete my studies. But I always knew from within, I would have to go back.

 

3 months later, we got the call and I was summoned by the Atletico Madrid Academy to join their youth structure. I went there all alone and stayed at their residential academy and met Diego Forlan who was playing for the club at that time. It was surreal to even realise all that has happened in the past few months and I was awed by everything!

 

 

I was on course to become a professional footballer and was offered a contract by Atletico Madrid to join their youth team after having impressed them during the trial.

 

But right when everything seemed to go well, things fell off the grid right when I was about to start the journey of my youth career. My father’s cancer was detected in early 2008. It was devastating news for my family. He was under diagnosis for six months and was going through the whole chemotherapy process and responding well, but sadly he passed away all of a sudden in 2008.

 

It was a bad time. We were all completely shook. My dad was probably as excited as I was for my new journey if not more. After that, my mother was virtually left alone to raise us, three kids to take care of and hardly any money because of the costs of medical expenses that we had already spent on dad’s diagnosis. It was extremely difficult for us financially and emotionally. I decided to let go of the Atletico Youth Academy opportunity to stay with my mother during this difficult period. She needed all the help she could get, and I had to stay back with my family.

 

Back in Uruguay, I was still coming to grips with this difficult situation as a 14-year-old and the Coach of the U-15 Uruguay team who was aware of my club situation called me for the U-15 national team of Uruguay.

 

After returning from Atletico Madrid, I wasn’t playing for any club. So, the Coach of the U-15 Team asked me to find one because my teammates had clubs and they were playing day in day out for their teams and I needed to find a club immediately to get those minutes and be match ready.

 

Eventually I picked Miramar Misiones during the 2009-10 season and trained with their academy setup to be able to compete for the National Team selection.

 

I played my first official international tournament in the 2009 South American Under-15 Football Championship, where I played six matches and scored three goals against Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador as we finished fourth in the tournament. It felt great to be a part of your National Team and score goals! It was my first tournament and I enjoyed it a lot!

 

 

In 2011, I was selected to play for the Uruguay U-17 team for the 2011 South American Under-17 Football Championship held in Ecuador. I remember each and every goal in that tournament because I ended up as the highest scorer with six goals! I remember scoring both of our goals in a 2–0 group stage victory, I scored another double in a 3–2 win against Colombia in a final group stage game as we finished runners up to Brazil and qualified for the FIFA U-17 WC 2011, Mexico.

 

In the U-17 tournament final, we lost 2-0 to Mexico and it was the first time we played in front of 100,000 people! Usually back home we would sometimes have a maximum crowd of 400-500 since we were kids playing but this felt like something else, something you’d watch on a TV screen! We did end up losing the match, but it was my first time on such a massive stage, it was unforgettable.

 

In 2012, I signed for Club Nacional de Football, one the top two clubs in Uruguay. It was great experience to share the dressing room with Uruguay's top players like Alvaro Recoba and learning various aspects of the game from them was fantastic. Every day I spent with them was like a lesson. But as a young player when you sign for a big club like Nacional who have big ambitions they always try to bring in new players so it was difficult for me to find a place in the regular starting XI.

 

Between 2012-17, I played for Club Nacional de Football but had limited opportunities to play where I wanted but I was always ready to contribute for my team and score important goals whenever needed.

 

To find more playing time and more starts, I moved to El Tanque Sisley in 2017, a First Division club in Uruguay. I played for a season there but unfortunately one day before the start of the next season the club owners declared bankruptcy and we were left in an uncertain situation at the very last moment.

 

So I moved to Plaza Colonia, another first division club at the start of 2018 and I enjoyed my time there in the beautiful city of Colonia and enjoyed my football there and got a regular start for the Championship side. I finished as the top scorer for the 2nd division league before NorthEast United came calling.

 

Before coming to India, I spoke to Emiliano Alfaro about the ISL and got to know about the great quality of grounds, professionally managed clubs with professional staffs and amazing infrastructure.
 

 

I did not know Federico Gallego (also from Uruguay) but we played once against each other in 2017 when he was playing for Liverpool FC, the one in Montevideo, and before coming he spoke to me because I signed for the club and arrived in India a few weeks earlier.

 

Now we are like brothers, I think he cannot live without me (laughs)! I am enjoying my time here with NorthEast United and really look up to players like Bart Ogbeche, who for me, is the best player in the league.

 

And when you have a quality player like him, you know he is the main man for your club. I am happy with whatever plans or role the coach has assigned for me and I’m always mentally ready to help the team whether I start or come in the last 10 minutes as a substitute.

 

I am extremely happy to score the goal against Kerala Blasters and help my team win, the goal against them is one of the best goals I have scored in my career along with my goal against Newell's Club Argentina in the Copa Libertadores 2014.

 

 
I like challenges and it is a motivation for us as a team to take NorthEast United to the Playoffs, something that hasn’t happened before


It has been a great experience so far, I always keep myself ready to do my bit whenever called upon. Though I miss Uruguay staying almost 9500 miles away especially going to my uncle’s cattle farms in the countryside, enjoying barbecue in the outdoors or drinking ‘Mate’ with my friends but I am ready for the mission to be a Highlander and fight every day, every match with my teammates and win whatever we can as a team this season.

 

 

 

 

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