As first two games of the Fifa Under-17 World Cup commenced, so began India’s tryst with football on an international stage. Even as the spotlight shone on the country’s fledgling stars’ maiden game in New Delhi, the evening was nearly as special in Navi Mumbai as a group of youngsters from four different countries got their first taste of World Cup action. In their trials and tribulations in a foreign country in alien conditions, one could only imagine what the moment felt for them.
The stage was made even sweeter for Paraguay youngster Diego Huesca Colman. Not only was it the custodian’s maiden world Cup appearance, but also his first game ever with his national team.
And it proved a stern test for the 17-year-old. Thrust into the deep end, the pressure was palpable. The mad-cap game made it even worse as Paraguay were stretched by Mali in an entertaining fixture that saw the South Americans prevail 3-2.
Huesca, despite conceding two goals, was one of the stars of the day. In all he made six saves, nearly all which could have well ended up in the back of the net. It was a testament to the youngster, who wasn’t even part of the team’s qualification rounds and was called up only in July ahead of the side’s training camp for the U-17 World Cup.
There’s a reason why Huesca was so sought-after. At 14, he emigrated to Spain with his parents in search of a better life. After playing football since a young age back home in Villa Hayes, he knew then that the beautiful game would be his calling card.
He began training in school in Spain. With impressive performances, he was soon courted by Spanish giants Valencia. The lad did not look back from there on. Earlier this year, he was asked to come train with the senior team following impressive displays against youth teams of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
As images of the young lad hobnobbing with stars like Nani emerged, interest back home in Paraguay grew further. With the U-17 World Cup approaching, Paraguay were quick to swoop in and include the youngster in their ranks.
“Playing for Paraguay was a dream. When I come to the country, you can feel love of the people,” he said after the game against Mali. “It was a great test today. I had not played at such a stage. It was a great experience and a great feeling as we emerged victorious.”
Huesca’s debut seemed to be headed for a dream start as Paraguay took a 2-0 lead early on with the goalkeeper hardly being stretched. He, however, was soon in the hot seat as Mali fought back almost immediately. In the end, Paraguay were lucky to win a penalty in the second half, that sealed a hard-fought win.
For Huesca it was a different world with new playing styles. The challenge for the keeper now is to adjust his game from what he is used to in Spain, to now with the Paraguayan side.
“European football is different to the game in Paraguay. In Europe the work is more on the ball. In South Africa the focus in more on spaces, which means working much harder,” Huesca said.
After day one, Paraguay lead Group B with New Zealand and Turkey sharing a point each in their 1-1 draw.
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