Saturday, September 25, 2021

Colombia’s Valderrama still enjoys iconic status 14 years after retirement

Barranquilla, Colombia, Jun 27 (EFE).– Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama, who was the face of Colombian soccer in the 1980s and 1990s, remains an icon in his homeland 14 years after hanging up his cleats.

Remembered for his unmistakable mane of blonde hair and as the captain of the national team at the 1990, 1994 and 1998 editions of the World Cup, Valderrama got his start in 1980 as a member of Union Magdalena, a team in his native Caribbean city of Santa Marta, and last suited up in 2004 in a tribute match at Roberto Melendez Stadium in Barranquilla.

A player who was not gifted with great athleticism, Valderrama showed it was possible to dominate the action on the field with slide-rule passes and uncanny vision and soccer IQ.

After his playing career came to an end, Valderrama ran into controversy in 2007 as an assistant coach for Colombian club Atletico Junior when he accused a referee of being paid off, even taking out a 50,000-peso note and showing it to the official.

The 56-year-old former star says he remains involved in soccer with an U-17 team in Barranquilla. He also provides sports commentary via his YouTube channel and continues to appear in advertising campaigns in Colombia and take part in charitable activities worldwide.

Valderrama, who grew up playing on a sand lot in a poor neighborhood of Santa Marta, now lives in the nearby city of Barranquilla and rarely goes unnoticed on the streets.

Still sporting the same flowing locks as before, he always has time to give autographs and take photos with people of all ages.

He also is a prominent supporter of Colombia’s new golden generation of soccer talent and was in the stands at Kazan Arena along with former teammate Rene Higuita for the Cafeteros’ 3-0 victory last Sunday over Poland at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.