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Off-the-radar: The saddening story of Betis' Eder Vilarchao

Sarthak Kumar tells us more about the Real Betis player who left the sport without anyone noticing.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

In the buildup to El Clásico a story momentarily flashed in the Spanish news and was forgotten just as quickly.

Eder Vilarchao had retired.

You may not have heard of him or seen him play. You may not have known anything about him and yet he warrants this article. In fact, he warrants more than just this article.

A Baskonia graduate - the farm team to Athletic Bilbao - he was once a third division player courted by first division teams. In January 2012, Sestao River Club fought the losing battle of rejecting lucrative offers for the talented 21-year-old midfielder from the likes of Real Sociedad, Osasuna, Villarreal and Real Valladolid.

In the end, he stayed and joined Betis that summer at the age of 22, initially assigned to the reserves. And since then, he has played just twice for the senior team, and has never started a match in La Liga.

So why would a player who has played just 33 minutes in La Liga be worth an article?

Because he is a symbol of mismanagement of injuries and what’s wrong with the Spanish football federations.

On 22nd January 2013, Vilarchao suffered a left ankle joint fracture while playing for the reserves and was prescribed surgery which would rule him out of the season. However, he responded poorly to the surgery and was prescribed surgery again in July. He was then rushed back into the squad, but cartilage issues delayed that till September.

Eder wasn’t given the proper time to recover. And it would ruin him.

In January 2014 he made his La Liga debut and two weeks later he was again on the treatment table for the same ankle injury. An injury which he struggled to truly recover from and which ultimately led him to retire this month. At the age of 25.

So where is the LFP to blame?

In the 2014-15 season, Eder Vilarchao wasn’t registered for any squad simply because of a ridiculous salary cap that exists on all teams imposed by the LFP, which limits the wage bill of teams in professional Spanish football (the first two divisions). Eder couldn’t register for Betis due to the salary capping, and couldn’t even transfer to another team - interested parties included Osasuna, Recreativo, Racing Santander and Alcorcón - for the same reason.

Usually teams get around this by registering extra players with the B team, but Eder couldn’t play for Betis B due to age restrictions. Therefore, Eder was unregistered for a whole season, and ended up training with the reserves without playing a single game.

At this point, I can’t say more because I can’t believe what I’m writing. And the sad part is that I have nothing to console myself.

All we have are the words of the man most affected.

Today is the day I never wanted to arrive. I debuted with Real Betis on January 13, 2013 - it was an unforgettable day and a date I was convinced would be the beginning of a long and beautiful career. If I was asked about the time where I saw this coming - my worst nightmare - I would say goodbye to soccer, my passion since childhood.

After nearly three years of a long and tough struggle to regain my ankle and having tried almost everything and putting in all the efforts and means in my power to return to the pitch, today it saddens me to say goodbye. As much as I hate it, I have concluded that my ankle cannot compete at the level required by this sport. I'm not one to give up easily and if you have not heard much from me during this period it’s because I focused on trying to recover and I did not want to lose time to mourning.

I will not be able to play football again, but I like the sport and I will keep my link to it one way or another. I lost a battle but still give a lot to this sport called football and without which I can’t imagine my life.

I want to thank all of you who have supported me and shown your love. Every day you have had interest in me. You have achieved that, despite how hard it's been, sometimes when no one else did. I will always take Betis in my heart and although my time at Betis did not come to be, I'm going to be one of the many there are worldwide. Now I understand why.

I also want to thank the club for the confidence it has shown in me by giving me a place in the first team. I feel privileged to have been able to debut with the shirt of Real Betis and I hope our paths cross again in the future. And despite having had our differences at times, Real Betis has cared for and protected me acting like the big club it is.

I do not want to forget each of the colleagues with whom I shared a dressing room, with all I have lived joys and, unfortunately, in recent years through very complicated moments in which they have always supported me

On 18th November, 2015, a man retired from the greatest sport on earth. And those were his words.

Adios, Eder. Siempre estarás en nuestros corazones.

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