I am a lucky man. In my brief lifetime, I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the most important events to ever occur in the sporting world. I’ve seen arguably the best players in many sports ply their craft. I even saw a horse win the Triple Crown! I saw Ronaldihno get an ovation from the Bernabeu; I saw LeBron James and the Cavaliers come back and change basketball history against the winningest team ever; I saw the Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino; I saw Peyton Manning break the all-time touchdown record. I hope to see Venezuela qualify to their first World Cup. Yes, I know they are a terrible team, but they are getting better, and you always root for your country no matter what.
I’ve seen every dazzling performance, every near impossible goal, every masterful free-kick, change of pace, body-check, missed penalty Leo Messi has gifted us. But the thing I am most grateful for, the thing that makes me the most fortunate man in existence is the fact that I got the chance to see Carles Puyol play football.
Carles Puyol changed my life. Let’s get one thing clear here: Carles Puyol is not the best defenseman to ever play the game. Honestly, I don’t think he even cracks the top 10. There have been too many defenders with too much natural talent, and no matter how much I idealize the Captain, I am not one to delude myself. Heck, he wasn’t the best ever at Barcelona. But when push comes to shove, there is no one I would rather have leading my team than Carles Puyol. While many kids, and, let’s face it, many adults, fantasize about their perfect, legendary starting eleven and their choice of Maldini, Nesta, Beckenbauer, Cafu, Hierro, Moore or many others, my first choice will always be the Capi.
To me it is a simple choice. While Puyol might not be a natural talent, he has spades of something I value more…heart. He never quit on a play. You could always count on him to lay his body on the line for the good of the team. Heart. With his passion, his love for the team, and his joy for football, Puyol more than bridged the gap between himself and the natural talents of the game.
As a young man growing up with a debilitating disease, I am ever grateful for the captain Carles Puyol. I only ever got to play football in a wheelchair, so it is safe to assume that I did not have the same physical ability than any of my peers. But thanks to Puyol, I learned the value of passion and putting your heart into things. I’ve applied that same never-say-die attitude to my daily struggles with my disease. Gràcies, Carles, you saved my life.