“Before the South American Cup started, I said that Liga had a promising future. We have proven that it is possible to accomplish the greatest goals throughout a good and serious work”. The words of right wingback Ulises de la Cruz go far beyond triumphalism and resort to sensibleness. After almost a decade in British football, Ulises has returned to Liga de Quito, his former club, to win the 2009 South American Cup.
Interview published in the Conmebol magazine, in December 2009
By PABLO ARO GERALDES
“It is utter happiness”, adds the experienced player, who had to watch a great part of the final outside the pitch, since he was sent off by the referee Carlos Amarilla.
-They were atypical finals. What do you think of the definition in Rio?
-It was a very tough match, with a Fluminense entirely devoted to attack, since they knew that they had many goals against. Hence, they resorted to an offensive and aggressive football, though perhaps the 5 points we had scored in Quito, made them a little nervous. On the other hand, we were relaxed, although we had to confront a very strong team in attack.
-What‘s your opinion as to Liga throughout the South American Cup?
-Reaching the final and winning the title is not the result of the last match, but the outcome of all what we had done throughout the tournament.
-A decade ago, the Ecuadorian teams were those with which the others made calculations on goal differences. What has changed and why?
-I might think that all this is the result of self-esteem, of our will to win. Ecuador had a lacklustre football and there were and are people devoted to make a 90 degree turn towards putting an end to such a negative attitude.
-Self-esteem also existed before, though it is not enough...
-It’s true, it has always been present, though nowadays we deal with different circumstances in a more professional manner. Besides, the player and especially tose belonging to the black race, see football as a possibility to develop and become important. It’s a way of leaving unsolved matters behind, of growing and being able to help your brethren in need.
-During the Qualifiers campaign for 2002 Japan/Korea, the Ecuadorian fans created a slogan: “Yes, we can”. And you could…
-And we could. The Ecuadorian player’s efficiency was a fact, as everybody pointed out. The differences among other processes were based upon the roster’s unity and the common aim among footballers from different regions of the country.
-What differences did you find when returning to Liga a decade after leaving for Great Britain?
-In ten years, I noticed an outstanding change as to institutional credibility, support to the players, respect to the formation developments… In 1999, it was impossible to think of winning the Libertadores Cup… Not even dreaming of it! And today, it has not only become a reality, but the South
American Cup has been added.
-You were able to celebrate the last one as a protagonist, but how did you live the 2008 Libertadores Cup in England?
-The Ecuadorian football had already established its growth in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. There’s no longer fear or shyness to confront Brazilians and Argentinians. This is noticed in Europe and is reflected in the large number of my countrymen who are playing there nowadays. My country’s footballer now stands on an equal basis with other foreign players, and not as he used to do several years ago, when he had to wait until the end of the match to change his shirt with that of his rival, alter having lost.
-What incentive has a team that has already reached the summit?
-Everyday I wake up thinking of being the best and I take that idea to football, with the same winning spirit of the first day. Moreover, this team lived through a renewal since they won the Libertadores Cup. Guerrón, Manso, Bolaños left… The Cup Winners’ Cup increased their interest and the South American Cup is a fair prize. I always want more…
-What did you learn from the football of Scotland and England?
-The way of living. In life you’ve got to do right everything you have to do. My people have many obstacles and rejections. I want them to have the same rights all the Ecuadorians enjoy. I really can’t sleep thinking of this problem. Football gives me the opportunity of having a name and a place in society that allow me to search influences and push. When you go to England, the First World, you realize that you don’t belong to the Third World, but to the Ninth. Injustices are done everyday and I don’t look aside because I’ve done well. Today there are one hundred and fifty families who live thanks to the foundation, one hundred and fifty children who go to the school we established. We give them drinking water, that the village did not have, and a health center. And everything thanks to what football has given me.