Q1 - Tell us a bit about growing up in Venezuela and how you started playing football?
Venezuela was an incredible place to grow up in - 25 degrees all year round made it easy for me to be able to play outdoors every day. I grew up in a footballing family and went to a very sporty school surrounded by great players - both of which set the perfect conditions for me to engage intensively with what I loved most - a football and playing as much and as often as I could.
Q2 - You enjoyed a scholarship in the USA. Did you consider staying in America, how did the move to Northern Ireland come about?
I had a great time at Uni in the US - an incredible life experience. I didn’t consider staying as I wanted to go back home to Venezuela. Whilst at Uni, I met my future wife who was there for a one year exchange programme (she is from Northern Ireland) and after a few years, we decided to settle here.
Q3 - You enjoyed two spells at Carrick Rangers. What did you make of your time at the club?
I only have good things to say about the club - great supporters, great players. Two spells full of great memories.
Q4 - You were part of the team that reached the Final of the Steel and Sons Cup in 2008. What do you remember about that day?
It was freezing, and also exciting to be playing in front of a full house. A great experience. A tight match that unfortunately didn’t go our way. We were gutted!
Q5 - Who was the best player that you played with in your career?
There were so many - good players and good people. In the US, a forward called Shaun Beyers who eventually played professionally. In Venezuela, Manuel Ponte, a classy goalscorer. Both incredibly good for a midfielder like myself to feed and play to and from. And at Carrick, there were several and I’d highlight James Costello, who was brilliant to have upfront and ideal for assisting to. He didn’t know how good he was.
Q6 - What would you observe as the biggest difference between the club football that you played in South America and the time you spent at clubs in Northern Ireland?
Technically, football was better in South America. The intensity and grit were higher in N. Ireland.
Q7 - You are notably remembered as being somewhat of a set piece specialist. Was this a part of your game that you specifically focused on?
Yes. I grew up in a small house located in a cul de sac that ended on a wall. When I was 9, I painted a real size goal on the wall and must have hit thousands of shots from every possible angle. From there onwards, I was always keen to be on free kicks everywhere I played.
Q8 - What is your role outside of football?
I work in healthcare, heading up work in Europe and Latin America for a non profit US based organisation - the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Best job in the world - and I should say that the lessons I’ve learned in football are so valuable every single day.
Q9 - What about now, do you have any involvement in football?
I run a once-a-week small voluntary academy called Football for Life, to get young girls to experience the joy of football. It’s something I’ve done with the school girls from the years of my two daughters up until they reach P7 - which my youngest one will do next year. Otherwise, I play as much as work and life allow.
Q10 - What impact do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will have on both local football and more widely, football across Europe?
We’re living through something historical, and very complicated. A new normal will emerge, and the priority for now is to ensure that football leagues contribute to keeping people safe. Over the next few months, as lockdown restrictions start to slowly ease up, football leagues will have to decide how best to adjust.