Beer tasting Belize captain is king of Catalonia

“New 11-a-side football team starting in the Barcelona International Football League. Players of all nationalities welcome. Interested? Email XXX.”

That was the advert I placed in various publications around Barcelona in the summer of 2006. I heard nothing for weeks. When people asked how the team was going I lied and said: ‘We’re getting there.’ In reality we had four players. I put the word out to everyone from neighbours to a lad I met at a Bosnian train station who had a mate in Barcelona who played football, but responses were still minimal. 

Eventually, the responses started to trickle in. Some, like the former Anderlecht and Belgian Under 18 international who merely sent his CV, looked very promising. He’s now team captain. Others, whose main attribute was listed as being “enthusiastic” didn’t. I looked at 42 players in total, whittling them down to a manageable 20. The players who bigged themselves up tended to disappoint in the flesh, while those who let their football do the talking didn’t. One player looked outstanding at an early training session. He was quiet, unassuming and easily worthy of his place in the starting line up.

A month into our first season, we beat former champions Dynamo 3-0, a real watershed for the fledgling team. An attractive Argentinian lady with a small child approached me in the bar after the game.

“I’m Jorge’s wife,” she said shyly. “We’d like to invite the whole team to a BBQ one day. To say thanks for making my husband feel so welcome. He’s enjoying his football now more than any time since he played for the national team.”

The what?

“He’d never tell you this, but he was the captain of his country, Belize.”

That explained why he was so good, despite being 37. At club level, Jorge Garcia played for Juventus (no, the story is not that good), the three-time national champions of Belize. For his country he played in the qualifiers for the France ’98 World Cup. In front of 41,000, he marked the Panamanian forward Dely Valdes, who played for Cagliari, PSG and the Malaga team which reached the UEFA Cup. Belize might be one lowest ranked countries in the world, but it was still impressive.

The season ticked over, but once a month Jorge would say: “I can’t make it this Saturday, I’m away.” I soon realised that this wasn’t an English language teacher eking out a living in the sun. Then we found out that his job, a brew master for one of the world’s biggest brewers. He gets paid to travel the world tasting beer.

We considered giving him a nickname. ‘God’ and ‘Life’s not fair’ were mentioned. Like star-struck village idiots we talked of lobbying the local government to erect a statue of him on the beach.

A defensive midfielder, he stands out at our level and has won more man of the matches than any other player. Which is a slight hindrance for him as the man of the match has to down a large whisky with a hint of cola – not ideal for a driver like Jorge.

We were 0-0 at half-time a few weeks ago when he turned up late – he’d been sorting out peace in the Middle East and knocking back Elizabeth Hurley’s advances or something. With Jorge inspirational, we won 4-0 – to the delight of his former fans who’ve discovered this blog on the other side of the Atlantic.

Tell us, dear readers, does he have any faults?

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