Monday 11 March 2019, 04:05

Yendrick Ruiz, an idol on and off the pitch

  • FEDEFUTBOL and Recrearte restored a pitch in Costa Rica

  • Stated aim is to help the development of the country’s youth

  • “Dream, then strive to make those dreams a reality,” says Costa Rican Ruiz

There is no denying that Yendrick Ruiz is enjoying a purple patch at present. The Costa Rican striker recently swapped the colours of Herediano for those of Bolivia’s Oriente Petrolero on the back of a superb 2018, in which he won the Costa Rican Apertura and the Concacaf League, top-scoring in the latter.

The younger brother of Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz, Yendrick has shown that his virtues are not limited to the playing field by finding time to support an important grassroots football programme.

Though set to depart for Bolivia a few hours later, he found time in his schedule to accompany the Costa Rican Football Federation (FEDEFUTBOL) to his home canton of Alajuelita to attend the opening of a futsal pitch for children from the Geranios neighbourhood.

“It’s a really nice project. Essentially it helps restore football pitches in deprived parts of Alajuelita so that local children have somewhere to practice,” the player explained.

For some time now, FEDEFUTBOL and the Recrearte organisation have been working together to help young children in their development, driven by the love of football. However, the path to opening the organisation’s second pitch in Alajuelita, a couple of years after the first in Tejarcillos, has not been an easy one.

To raise the requisite funds, they had to organise charity golf events, half-marathons as well as invest their own resources and secure backing from sponsors who believed in the project. In the end, though, they did it.

“We’ve been working to help children and young people in Alajuelita for ten years,” said Recrearte’s Ana Cristina Araya at the recent inauguration. “This pitch represents our struggle to unleash the full potential of football to transform not only the lives of people, but also the communities where it’s practised,” she added.

Yendrick Ruiz also agreed that football can make a societal contribution. “We know that sport can keep children away from drugs. What the organisation is doing here in Alajuelita is very important, as it gets kids focusing on other healthy pursuits, like sports. And all this is very important for the canton and its surroundings.

“When I was a child, we didn’t have the opportunity that this facility provides; there simply weren’t places like this to play football. It’s nice for me to be able to take part in these activities, because I couldn’t experience it when I was their age. Now though, I get to see the joy of the children who are going to have that kind of pitch,” he added.

Yendrick Ruiz, in brief

  • Born 12 April 1987 in Alajuelita, Costa Rica

  • He came through the youth ranks at Alajuelense before playing professionally for rivals Herediano

  • He’s a lethal striker and usually tasked with delivering goals. However, national team coach Gustavo Matosas has recently been entrusting him with more creative duties, the same role his brother Bryan fulfils

  • He racked up his 100th league goal in Costa Rica’s top flight last December

  • He has had spells abroad with India’s Pune City and Thailand’s Chiangmai FC

Yendrick Ruiz (c) celebrates together with his team-mates after winning Herediano's 27th Costa Rican title

Example for future generations

Ruiz’s presence, along with that of FEDEFUTBOL president Rodolfo Villalobos, coach Gustavo Matosas and other players, caused no little excitement among the young people present, who will now be able to enjoy the new pitch.

“I’m really happy and enthused about this. To see a kid show up and say that one day he wants to be like me just motivates me to continue giving my all every day on the pitch and in life. That’s because this is more than just a commitment on the field of play,” said the striker.

And for all those young children, Ruiz has a clear message: “Dream. Any of you who have that dream should push yourself to the limit to realise it. As a kid I had it, and I gave absolutely everything to fulfil it. Put your faith in God and work really hard.”

What is certain, though is that, at 31 and at this great period in his career, Ruiz continues to dream. “In terms of football, things are going very well for me at present, and I want to continue that growth. You always have the dream of representing your country. It’s a source of pride, every time you’re called up to wear the colours and have your country’s emblem on your chest.”

It remains to be seen whether this generous player can finally become a mainstay of the national team, but in the meantime, he will continue to do his bit to spread a little joy and make the world a better place.