It isn’t the easiest moment to be a Lanús supporter but last week Luis Zubeldía handed a debut to an unknown 17-year-old academy product and as Jimmy Lee explains his performance provided a moment of excitement at La Fortaleza…
While it is no hard-set rule, on the majority of occasions, young footballers working their way up in a club’s academy will begin to make appearances with the reserve team when the manager thinks they are getting close to making their first team debut. If the player performs well, he may make an appearance on the bench for the matchday squad and if the situation presents itself, he may even make a substitute appearance in the second half. If the performances continue on an upward trajectory, the player may get the chance to play first team football more regularly and could even find his way into the starting eleven.
It is a long journey, one that takes time. But that entire process was thrown out the window by new Lanús manager Luis Zubeldía who promoted a 17-year-old kid who had never made an appearance with the reserve squad into the starting lineup.
When Lanús played Superliga leaders Racing one week ago, starting in the midfield for El Granate was Pedro De La Vega, a baby faced boy with long blond hair who had no idea he would be playing first team football, let alone starting, until the day before.
Born in the province of Buenos Aires in the city of Olavarría, Pedro began his young footballing career with Ferrocarril Sud de Olavarría. At just 11, his parents attempted to find their son a place with one of the major teams in the city of Buenos Aires. He tried his luck with both River and Boca but was told there would not be a spot for him. Finally, after multiple attempts, he was given an opportunity to join the youth divisions of Lanús and moved into their academy.
After Ezequiel Carboni called it quits as manager and Luis Zubeldía was given the reigns, the latter decided the team needed something different and started to speak to everyone working in the youth divisions. He started to hear good things about Pedro De La Vega and opted to invite him to a practice with the first team.
On Friday September 14th, just two days before the match with Racing, Pedro was introduced to the first team and practiced for the first time with them. What began as any other week for the young kid who idolizes Lautaro Acosta, would end with him joining Laucha in the starting eleven.
So, imagine you are 17 and have with just one day notice been called up to play first team football alongside your idols. Would you try your best to simply pass the ball along to the experienced players and try not to make a fool of yourself? Or would you take full advantage of the opportunity and try your best to prove to your teammates, manager, and the entire country, that you have what it takes to be on that pitch?
That is exactly what Pedro De La Vega did.
He did not march out onto the pitch with the hope that he could mostly go unnoticed. He played like it was his one and only opportunity, and while Lanús would lose the match 1-0, he left the pitch Sunday evening as El Granate’s top performer. Nearing the end of the first half, Pedro took a shot from outside of penalty area, 20 meters from goal, and forced a spectacular save from Racing Keeper Gabriel Arias to keep the match scoreless. It was Lanús’s best chance all afternoon.
Opposing Manager, Eduardo Coudet, said of De La Vega after the match that, “Usually when you are not training with the first team, the speed is different, but the truth is, he is a kid who was ready for it.”
Speaking with Paso a Paso after the match about the young kid, Laucha Acosta said, “We’ve heard about [Pedro], and we know he is a great player, so I wasn’t surprised. He is a very responsible player who works hard. And he is still a kid who goes to school, tomorrow he will be back at school.”
And the next day, he was back at school, receiving an ovation from his classmates.
El Pepo De La Vega, debuta en primera y así lo reciben sus compañeros en el colegio. Si, COLEGIO 🇱🇻👏🏻 pic.twitter.com/uzNuJiUYdH
— Sentimiento Granate (@SentGranate) September 18, 2018
Unfortunately for El Granate, putting Pedro De La Vega into the starting lineup did not lead to a victory. But Lanús is a club that currently sits near the bottom of the Superliga table and has had a less than ideal start to the season. A new manager as well as a shot of youthful energy into the starting lineup may just be what they need to get back to winning ways.
Jimmy lived in Córdoba, Argentina as a teenager and is still an active Socio for his beloved club, Belgrano. He currently lives in Seattle, WA and loves to write about football when he has a break from work and family. He also runs the Belgrano – English twitter account.