Every once in a while when we discover inspirational stories we share them with our players, coaches and parents to reflect on their success and what it took to get there. This time we had the pleasure to interview one of the finest NYC’s underdog soccer players, Christian Turizo. He played for many different teams and won lots of prestigious trophies in the past decade. WeGotPlayers asked Christian 10 questions and we would like to share his story and answers with you.
WGP: 1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started playing professionally?
Christian: I grew up playing in the streets of Barranquilla, Colombia. Never played for an actual club team until I arrived to New York City at the age of 9 with my family. Started playing with BW Gotschee, then joined the famous Flushing Meadows Park club “Zafiro” under coach Pascual Bermudez. Here I played most of my youth years. Pascual took a few of us to play for Joe Barone’s historic club “Brooklyn Italians”. There we played and won many prestigious tournaments such as the state cup, cosmopolitan league and a few others. That was the moment when “THE TWINS” started making a name for themselves. My brother and I were and still are a powerful duo on the pitch. We were both forwards. I’m right footed and my brother is left footed.
After attending high school in Colombia for 2 years, we received a full scholarship from Bryant and Stratton University. That didn’t go so well after being benched by the coach even when the team was winning. I still don’t know the reasons. We left right after that fall semester.
I played in multiple Park leagues for a few years, getting more exposure with my brother. In 2005 someone introduced me to the legendary coach, George Vizvary from Ulster County Community college. We couldn’t play that fall season because we needed 24 credits to be eligible. My brother left and I decided to stay and give it a shot. It has been the best decision I’ve made in my life. I played the 2006 season. Scoring 30 goals and 19 assists, I was the nation’s top scorer for a division 3 school.
In 2007, coach Vizvary sent me for trials with the Rochester Rhinos in the USL. I thought I did pretty well scoring a few goals in 2 scrimmage games. But all that didn’t matter since the coach told me I wasn’t good enough to compete in the league. That was the first pro trial I had ever been to so I really thought I was just not good enough. Coach Vizvary pulled a trial in Debrecen Hungary. I was there for 2 weeks with the first team. It was a tough environment being that the language was difficult to learn. I had a great 2 weeks. They said they will keep in touch, they called coach Vizvary a few days later and said they liked what they saw but I wasn’t very happy with the thought of going back. I asked coach Vizvary if he had something else I could give a last try. He set up trials with the Columbus Crew in the MLS.
So I went for a week on trial, at that time I had an idea of what the pro football world was like. I had the pleasure of playing with the great Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Gaven, Brad Evans, Marcos Gonzales, Kei Kamara, Chad Marshall, Robbie Rogers and many more experienced players. At the end of the trial coach, Sigi Schmid told me that they would contact me. The following week I received an email with a contract from 3 days. I was in the roster to play with the reserve team against the Chicago Fire in Chicago. I didn’t know how to react. Crying wasn’t going to help me.
After being rejected twice and the thought of giving up came across my mind many times, at the age of 23 when it’s almost impossible to make a professional team without any pro background, finally the dream of every Footballer was happening. I only played about 15 minutes, but I played as if it was the last game of my life. I remember I had an open net shot to win the game and missed. I wanted to kill myself after the game. Hahaha, coach Schmid was very pleased. I was on the roster for the home game against the Colorado Rapids. I played 75 minutes to a 2×2 draw. I was gaining confidence and realized all the hard work I’ve put in was finally paying off. The season came to an end and coach Schmid went on to coach the Seattle Sounders. I was left with an option to return to pre-season where nothing was promised or play in the first professional Puerto Rican Soccer League. I have never had much guidance from anyone. Every decision I make I ask God for knowledge.
In 2008, I went with the PRSL. I had a very good season with Carolina Giants. Unfortunately, it was only a 5-month season. Little did I know that later on the biggest tragedy of my life will happen.
My mother past away in 2009 due to breast cancer . It was one of the worse times in my life. But that pushed me to work even harder and reach my goal. She always told me she wanted to see me on TV playing. In 2008 while playing the PRSL. Games were live on TV. She watched me play and told me to never stop doing what I love. I will never forget that.
In 2009 I went back to the PRSL with the same team. The leagues level dropped due to lack of funds from many teams so I decided to go back home early. So 2009-2011 consisted of many tryouts but I didn’t make any of the teams. That thought of giving up came back even stronger being that I was already 27. During that time, 3 teams from Puerto Rico joined the USL-Pro. Someone contacted my brother from Puerto Rico United. He brought me along. We played half of the season because the 3 teams were dropped from the league due to insufficient funds to travel. I got in touch with a member of FC New York and explained to him the situation; he said they didn’t have any more money for contracts. There were only 5 games left for the end of the season. My brother and I joined the team. I won a starting spot within the first week of practice. The end of the season came and I was offered a contract for the following season. Unfortunately, the team also dropped from the league due to insufficient funds. I didn’t understand what was going on. Why didn’t anything turn out to be positive?
A LOT of people started making comments like: ” you’re too old”, “give it up”, “you’re not good enough”. So 2012 come and it wasn’t a good year either. I had many trials but nothing happened.
In 2013, I decided to go to Canada and try something new. I played in a local league for a few months. Someone in a New Jersey Haitian league spotted my brother. They asked him if he was available to go play first division in Haiti. He accepted but with the condition of giving him the chance to go play a tournament in Canada then traveling to Haiti right after. While in Canada, he got injured and he asked me to go for him. I said: Haiti? I had no idea what that was like. I ended up traveling. I had never been so nervous in my life. Arriving to Haiti and seeing the amount of poverty and disaster the earthquake left behind was overwhelming. I played 7 full games with Cavaly FC. I scored the wining goal in my second game. People loved me. The fans and coaching members were very pleased with my performance. Life in Haiti wasn’t so bad after all. I was surprised with how humble people were. People couldn’t wait for Sunday to attend the stadium. I’ve never seen more passionate football fans than the Haitians. Season came to an end and went back home.
I thought 2014 would be a good year being that I had all of this pro background… Unfortunately, at 30 years old many teams turned me down. Just ended up playing in Park leagues making good money. But I didn’t want that. I wanted to train everyday and play in front of a big crowd on Sundays. 2015 through a very good friend of mine I had the chance of going to the Dominican Republic to play the first professional league ever. I had a very good season scoring 3 goals. One was said to be top 5 best goals of the league. I was surprised with the level of the league. Mainly Dominicans and Haitians. There were only 3 foreigners per team allowed. I hope I can play a few more years and retire with my head held up high for never giving up on my dream.
Even though, I never made it to a top league I know I could’ve played in one. But God has a story written for every one of us… And mine is a great one. I Thank Him for it every day.
WGP: 2. Do you enjoy playing your sport now as you did when you were younger?
Christian: I have always enjoyed the game, it’s all about having fun and doing what you love.
WGP: 3. Are you striving to succeed or to avoid failure?
Christian: I strive for success everywhere I play. I believe that you fail when you don’t try.
WGP: 4. Do you have any specific plans, strategies or rituals before playing the game?
Christian: I pray before games, and I’m the last one to jump into the pitch.
WGP: 5. What does competition means to you?
Christian: Competition to me means trying to play your hardest even if you are not the best on the field. There’s nothing better than playing with your heart.
WGP: 6. What are the most valuables lessons you’ve learned from soccer so far?
Christian: Discipline, hard work, never give up and never underestimate your opponent.
WGP: 7. How important is the recovery process after a game?
Christian: Extremely important. Your body is your tool for work. If you don’t maintain it and take care of it, it will stop working properly.
WGP: 8. What’s your most memorable highlight of your career so far?
Christian: I have many, one that I can point out it would be learning about the many different cultures from playing the game in different countries.
WGP: 9. What motivates you and keep you going especially thru hard times?
Christian: My mother and God! I ask for strength and knowledge in tough times.
WGP: 10. What advise do you have for players who dream to play in college or at the professional level?
Christian: One thing I have always told young athletes is to work harder than anyone else and NEVER GIVE UP! Hard work beats talent any day…especially, when talent doesn’t work hard.
We hope you enjoyed our short and inspiring interview with Christian Turizo. Because of soccer he has visited many different countries and made friends all over the world. The world of soccer has given Christian the opportunity to learn, make friends, grow as a person and do what he loves most, PLAY THE BEAUTIFUL GAME.