Overcoming trials is something that each of us has to learn in life. From trying to take our first steps and falling, life is filled with challenges. Some will overcome those moments, but others will allow those hardships to defeat them. Vélez right back Tomi Guidara is an example of a young man who has seen some of the most difficult things that life can present and has taken each day as an opportunity to learn and grow.
In his youth he was abandoned and had to live on the streets – something that could have destroyed his life. But Tomi found a silver lining in his personal hell-storm. I spoke with him via Instagram Live about his life, how he starting playing football, the ups and downs of his career, and what his goals are going forward.
When you were a kid, your family left you and you lived out on the street, correct?
A lot of kids spend their time outside, but I had to live at the plaza in our neighborhood. I had a lot of friends and I spent all my time outside playing. But I learned to love it. I spent all my time playing football. I look back on it and think that it was something really great for me, I learned a lot during those times. I’m happy with how everything turned out. I try to rescue the good that came from that experience and the relationships that I was able to build.
So right there living in the plaza, that was how you started to learn to play football?
Exactly. Most kids play for football academies when their young, I did my academy in the plaza. That’s where I learned everything I could about football. I try to focus on the good, but there were bad things that happened too. But those bad things have taught me a lot about life. All the challenging things that come with a football career, but those trials have taught me to be grateful for everything I have and focus on the good in life. I am grateful to God for everything He has given me.
You started playing football in the plaza, so then how did you end up playing for Belgrano?
I was able to start playing for one club in the Liga Cordobesa. Then I went to play for another one in Rio Primero (a city south of Córdoba). I had a great experience living there and I spent a wonderful year down there. Then a friend told me that there were tryouts in Belgrano and asked if I wanted to go. There were a lot of kids, but it went well. I tried out for the entire week and won a spot with the club. This was 2011 when I was 15.
What did it mean for you to be able to live in the academy and have a bed to sleep in and food to eat every day?
A lot. A lot. When I started with Belgrano I had to take the bus or ride a bike and it was always challenging. Then one day the psychologist asked me if I would be interested in moving into the academy even though I was from Córdoba (academy spots are usually only reserved for players who come from outside the province of Córdoba). I accepted the opportunity of course. I made a lot of friends living there and had a lot of special experiences. I am always grateful for that opportunity. I had food at night, breakfast in the morning, a bed to sleep in, I had everything I needed there. I was able to train and go back to school.
When you started with Belgrano, you didn’t always play as a right back did you?
No, I started playing as a ‘9’ (center forward). I played there for one year. But I was too short. So, they moved me over to the wing. Then one day the right back got injured, or maybe he got a red card, I don’t remember, so they moved me back. From then on, I started playing as a ‘4’. They told me that if I played there, I might have a better chance to make it to the first team. They didn’t have as many players in that position.
But ahead of you playing at right back was someone who would go on to play in Europe and for the National Team, Renzo Saravia. What did you learn from watching him play?
I tried to enjoy watching him and learning from him. There were a lot of players that I watched and took notes from. I always liked to watch how each played moved around the field. Now I look at Renzo and I am so happy for him.
I think if I had done a survey of all the Belgrano fans last year and asked who their favorite player was, almost 100% of them would have selected you. What did you to do create such a strong bond between you and the fans?
Be simple. Give my best. And not just on match day, but everyday of the week. I am extremely grateful for the fans and the love they have always showed me. Of course I always tried to play my best and contribute on the attack, but I had to also be willing to run back and play defense and try and get the ball back. The fans appreciate that. We were not going through a good moment as a team, but the fans noticed those players who were giving their all. That’s life. You could be going through a horrible time, but you have to keep running and working. I just tried to always give my best. I will always be grateful to the fans and what they gave to me.
After Belgrano was relegated, it was clear that you had the talent to stay in the first division. There were a lot of teams who were interested in you. How did you decide to play for Vélez?
That’s just how football is. It’s a career and I have to try and take advantage of every opportunity. I took a look at what was on the table and tried to select the opportunity that would best help me to continue to grow. I have goals of playing football at the highest levels. So putting those goal out there, I made the decision to go to Vélez. I’ll never forget what I learned from Belgrano and everything I experienced there, and now I have to take advantage of this next opportunity and continue to learn and grow.
At Vélez you had a Manager who has shown an ability to develop young talent and get the best out of his players. What did you learn from your year with Gabriel Heinze?
He is amazing. He loves football. He loves his players. He loves the work and gives everything he has to the job. He is always looking for the right tool to make sure every player does their best and feels comfortable and can reach their top level. I personally loved it because his coaching reaches the players and it’s every day, every second, trying to connect with the players. Outside of football, he has a lot of values that I admire. Loyalty, respect, communication, responsibility. I looked at him and knew that was the path I wanted to follow.
During this transfer window that just recently opened, there have already been rumors that Racing is interested in you. How do you stay focused on football with all the noise?
There are always rumors and of course I hear them. But there are more important things that I need to give my attention to. My family, my training, my health – that’s where I put my focus. I hear the noise, but I continue to focus on what matters the most. What happens in the future will happen, I can only focus on what I can control today.
What league in the world would you like to play in?
England or Spain. I would love to be a part of that style of football – dynamic, physical, and tactical football. That is the highest level and I would love to reach that someday. I want to try and get to the highest level possible. And of course, I want to return to Belgrano at some point. But there is still a lot ahead in my career and I’ll have to wait and see what God has prepared for me.
Rapid Fire Questions with Tomi Guidara
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to play PlayStation and Fortnite.
The best show or movie you’ve recently watched?
Your favorite Yerba?
Milanesa with rice.
Who is the best right back in the world?
The nicest stadium you’ve played in?
And the most difficult?
River, Argentinos Juniors, and Union.
A club that you were close to joining?
Your favorite place in the world you’ve visited?
A place you want to visit?
Spain and the United States.
If you won the lottery, what would you buy first?
I would make sure all my family and friends had everything they need.
A dream you have yet to accomplish in football and in life?
In football, play for the National Team. And in life, that my family is good and happy.
Who is Tomi Guidara?
A simple person. I’m the same person now that I’ve always been. I value the simple things in life. I’m still the same laid back and humble kid from my neighborhood.