Edward Leal (31) He is one of the many trained at Universidad Católica who did not have great opportunities in the club’s honor squad. The ‘Egg’ only played 12 games as a crusader between 2012 and 2014, and therefore had to knock on other doors. That was how Barnechea, Copiapó, Lota Schwager, Unión La Calera, Valdivia and San Antonio Unido appeared in his path.
However, in 2019, Leal grew tired. At just 28 years old, and after some problems at ‘SAU’, he decided to quit football. Today, yes, the former midfielder does not waste his time, since he manages a fast food and sushi place that he founded with a partner after saying goodbye to professionalism. The name of his business is ‘Abrazo de Gol’ and it has two branches (Peñalolén and Huechuraba).
“I miss several things about football, but this stage is also beautiful, because we already have two stores and we are seeing if we open a third. We have only been two years and the pandemic affected us, but it has gone very well for us, ”says Leal in the middle of a chat with AS, where he also reviews his career with a lot of self-criticism.
– Why did you decide to leave football in 2019, when you were only 28 years old?
– I retired because of two problems I had in San Antonio. One was with the leaders, clearly because I think one of my teammates, ‘Mota’ González, was unfairly fired from the club. I was the only one who opposed it and I showed my anger with the coaching staff and the leaders, and then the biggest ones thought that I was paddling to the other side and that I was practically not even there with the team… I also suffered a serious injury in the adductor, having to be out for about four months, and it happened that the leaders decided to untie me.
– Because of the ‘rebellion’?
– Yes. I mean, they took it that way, but in reality it was because the club didn’t have the means to give me therapy. They didn’t want me to be treated in Santiago, because obviously I had contacts in Católica, in Meds. But San Antonio decided that I should be treated by the club’s kinesiologist, who is a good professional, but he also did not have the necessary weapons to treat me in the venue where we trained.
– Did you still leave football due to some disappointment?
– What happens is that the injury occurred right in the middle of the year and I had to wait six months, between when I recovered and went back to training by myself. Nor did I have the motivation to look for a team in B, because at that time I could no longer play in Second Division, having been in San Antonio. B was the option and Primera was a long way off… But just at the end of the year, the opportunity arose to set up the food business with a friend, since I had my lucas saved up. In 2020 I still went to Sifup, but I only managed to train for a week, because we just opened the place. They didn’t give me the times. So, in reality, I was not demotivated, I was not disappointed in football, but I was disappointed in the last year I lived. And previously, something similar happened to me at Deportes Valdivia.
– What happened specifically?
– I had problems with the ‘Mortar’ Aravena in our ways of thinking, which were different. What happens is that he is super hierarchical, he is like a good farm boss. So, that is already obsolete in football. Now, the technicians have to know how to lead the players. There is no longer that thing that the DT worries about the headlines and that the others row it alone and that he practically does not speak to them. The ‘Mortar’ is like that. They wouldn’t let me train and, in fact, I called Sifup and they told me ‘if they don’t let you train, we’re going to have to fine the club’. The ‘Mortar’ played soccer 11 against 11 and left me out. He just made me run outside. At that time I spoke with the president of Valdivia, but he told me that he supported the coach and that each one had his own way of working… I lasted about six months without training. He trained alone…
– Did you have a bad time?
– Yes, but I took refuge in my companions. The good thing is that they were clear about my soccer level and the contribution that I could make to the team. I got along very well with everyone. Despite not playing, I never downloaded with them. I was always the joy of the dressing room, I liked to joke a lot and, in fact, we even joked with the misfortune that happened to me. But still, after so many years, one assumes that this can happen. It’s sad, it’s angry. It’s impotence not being able to play and not being allowed to train, but in the end, more than a passion, football is just a job.
– Did you need to fight it or was retirement a good decision?
– I could have given a little more, because obviously everyone has their goals. Perhaps some see it as a life passion, others as a job and still others as a hobby. But obviously my dream was always to return to play in the First Division, be it in whatever team it was, and consolidate myself. Now that I’m grown up, suddenly I still regret having been through so many clubs. Perhaps at some point I had to have stayed in one, about four or five years and have struggled, because, in the end, going from club to club is not very comfortable.
– Did you reproach yourself for not having options in the First Division?
– What happens is that I always considered myself a very skilled player, very technical, and since I grew up at Católica, I was always in good physical condition. But I was never a player who worked twice as hard or in the afternoons. I never stayed after workouts. So, like in turn, I settled a bit. I was never able to polish my weaknesses and that, perhaps, still led to many injuries, because in recent years I suffered many tears. Perhaps it was a poor diet, the rest, not training twice as much. Nowadays, players are much more professional and have many more tools to play for more years.
– Who did you grow up with at Católica?
– Of my generation, no player shone as well at the National Team level, but they are still active. Diego Opazo, who is the captain of Puerto Montt, Juan Pablo Gómez, who is in Curicó… What happens is that in youth they join you with two or three years. So, I got to play with Enzo Roco, Claudio Sepúlveda, Felipe Gutiérrez, Stefano Magnasco, who is my best friend… I was still on the squad for several years and when I came back from loans, I had to train with them and do the preseason. It was a nice experience, they were good years. I managed to play professionally for about 10 years and well… In the end, one regrets, perhaps, not having been more professional and not having trained twice as hard.
– What did you need to take care of?
– When I was younger, I still went out with friends, went to parties. When you’re young, money comes to you out of nowhere, they give you a contract and you go on TV…
– Did the night play a trick on you?
– I don’t know if it was a dirty trick (laughs), but it was one of the points that affected me in the end. In the same way, there are many players who may not go out, but they do eat badly and are fat… Although yes, when I was young, I went out too much. Not at the level of Pinilla and not as famous either (laughs), but I did go out with my friends. I liked to go out once or twice a week.
– Was he spending a lot of money?
– Actually, we all put lucas. It wasn’t like I squandered all the money, but when I went out with friends who weren’t yet in college, for example, obviously I was the one putting on the lucas. In the end, I was the one who at 20 years old already had a car and they worked as much as they could. I, whore, had a contract, played for Católica… Now that I’m retired, I can tell you that I didn’t take care of myself, that I didn’t train twice as much and that, perhaps, I didn’t eat properly.
– And returning to what was his last experience in football, in San Antonio Unido, where he was able to be with Humberto Suazo. Did you learn anything from watching a player like him?
– I didn’t share so much with ‘pacifier’. I mean, obviously we did share a dressing room, he was a great guy, but he was very quiet. In fact, he only spoke in the matches, as well as in the previous harangue. I think I just ran into him when he returned to football as if to re-enchant himself, to have fun… Then I saw him and he was 10 kilos down. So he did take football seriously again. When he was with me, obviously he wanted to win, he wanted to win again, but I did see him more relaxed.
– What caught your attention of Suazo in football?
– His quality was tremendous. In the definition work, he sent them all to the angle and with both legs. A mobility on the field that only elite players have… For me it was much more comfortable to play with a footballer of that style, than with a young man who is just getting ready.
– Has ‘Abrazo de Gol’, your venue, given you more economic returns than football?
– Here I only manage and it is a bit similar. But I can tell you that when you play soccer and train, you have a good time. Many times, in my work I don’t have a good time, because obviously nobody likes, all of a sudden, serving people, buying things, paying salaries. Suddenly one gets bored. But it is much more entertaining to own something, where you can manage your time. Whore, if I want I don’t work. In other words, I manage, but I don’t take turns and I pay someone.
– And still playing soccer?
– Yes, in amateur leagues in San Felipe, where they pay me and everything. Many friends tell me ‘why don’t you go back to professional football?’, but I say ‘hey, you know what? Eating 10-hour bus trips, having to train with the coach’s schedules, being told what I have to do and what not, no… Like I already put on the boss suit.
– I have seen that César Fuentes has gone to your premises. They are friends?
– Yes, I met him through (Stefano) Magnasco. Since they played together at Católica, we became friends. He has supported us a lot and, in fact, we want to make a roll in his name (laughs). As well as ‘El Corralero’ and that he comes out sponsoring it.
– Explain about the names…
– We have fast food and sushi. And on the sushi menu at least, everything is linked to football. Sushi promotions are called ‘Cult promos’, which are all the phrases that soccer players have sent: ‘He with me without me’, ‘with sparkle’, ‘we saw the Lion King’, ‘my girlfriend’s boyfriend’ , ‘Pacifier and your sister’s shell’… And then, each section has the names of selected ones, coaches. It is a very extensive and entertaining letter.
– Soccer people must like it a lot…
– Yes. In fact, a lot of people who go to the place laugh their asses off at the promos. This section is also super entertaining. Now it’s complicated, because sales fell due to how the country is, but it’s still being sold. In the end, people don’t stop consuming, they don’t stop eating, and having a couple of lucas, they still go to a local. The good thing is that the menu is super extensive and a complete one can cost you a thousand or so, for example.
– Have you been visited by other football personalities?
– Several have gone to the Huechuraba venue, which is in a sports complex (Club Rinconada). Jeisson Vargas, Mario Larenas, Magnasco himself. The project there is also to have jerseys of all the soccer players who are friends or who want to give us away, and have them framed.