Thursday 30 May 2019, 19:40

Ecuador's Campana boosted by family backing

  • Leonardo Campana’s family are in Poland to watch him play

  • The Ecuador forward has yet to score at the FIFA U-20 World Cup

  • His country’s qualification gives him another chance to find the net

“I don’t think people have seen the real Leonardo at this tournament yet.”

In addition to being the father of Ecuador No9 Leonardo Campana, Pablo Campana was an accomplished tennis player in his day, representing his country in the Davis Cup and the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and reaching the third round of the US Open that same year.

Now the Ecuadorian Minister of Commerce, Pablo has always had a strong sense of family. When he found out he was going to become a dad, he decided to put away his racket at the age of just 24. And so he had no hesitation in covering 10,000km with his extended family (12 people in total) to cheer on _La Mini-Tri’_s young penalty-box predator.

“I’m very proud of my son,” he said. “He was top scorer at the South American U-20 Championship with six goals, and I’m sure he’ll end up playing in Europe in the near future.”

And that praise is not just another example of a proud father talking up his son. Leonardo, dubbed the “Goal Angel” by Ecuador U-20s coach Jorge Celico, even picked up his first couple of caps for his country’s senior team in March.

The Campana fact file

  • Date of birth: 24 July 2000

  • Place: Guayaquil, Ecuador

  • Height: 6ft 1in (1.87m)

  • Club: Barcelona SC

  • Favourite players: Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez

  • Nickname: “Goal Angel“ (Jorge Celico)

  • Top scorer at the South American U-20 Championship (six goals)

  • Two caps for Ecuador’s senior side

Leonardo Campana of Ecuador has his penalty shot saved against Italy at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019

It should be noted that sporting excellence very much runs in the precocious striker’s family. Aside from his tennis-playing father, from whom he clearly inherited his athleticism and strong mental attitude, he is descended from two figures who made a significant mark on Ecuador’s footballing landscape.

His great-grandfather, Gabriel, won six Ecuadorian league winners’ medals in the 1920s, and his grandfather, Isidro Romero, was the president of Barcelona Sporting Club – where Leonardo plies his trade – for 15 years; the team’s stadium in Guayaquil is named after him.

As for his father, he always manages to find the right words to encourage his son.

“We exchange messages every day,” he said. “I tell him to visualise things in his head, to stay focused and to stick away any chances he gets. He’s a born goalscorer, so the more he scores, the better he feels.”

Goal drought

Frustratingly for Leonardo, he has now gone 270 minutes without finding the net at Poland 2019; he even had a penalty saved against Italy. After Ecuador’s final Group B match versus Mexico, his disappointment at missing a handful of viable chances was so intense that he was unwilling to talk to the media – an understandable reaction from a player who lives and breathes goals.

Fortunately for him and his team-mates, Friday’s results saw La Mini-Tri advance to the knockout stage as one of the best third-placed teams. And while this path to the second round is not one the reigning South American champions would necessarily have dreamed of, the Campana family will likely be happy. If Leonardo regains his nose for goal in the Round of 16, their Polish holiday may well extend all the way into mid-June.