Soccer player follows father’s footsteps

By Liliana Marquez

Matias Amato started a new life away from family, friends and his home country to embark on another journey to pursue his long-time dream of becoming a professional goalkeeper.

The moment when he had to leave his family and friends behind was something difficult for him.

“Everyone went to the airport to say goodbye to me. It was sad. Once I got on the plane I realized I wasn’t going to see them for a long time. I cried when I saw my father cry,” Amato said, in his native Spanish language.

From the moment Amato was born, soccer became one of the most important things in his life, especially because his father was a professional soccer player.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Amato, 19, decided to leave his home country to come to the United States to study and play soccer and like most Argentinians, Amato’s life revolves around that sport.

“In Argentina soccer is the first and last sport. We are born playing soccer, so I believe that the passion for soccer is all around me. Soccer is my life. If I’m doing homework I am also watching soccer at the same time. I spend all day watching soccer,” Amato said.

He said that the beauty of the city and the cultural diversity along with his interest in studying communications were the reasons why he decided to come here.

Amato is currently one of the three goalkeepers on East Los Angeles College men’s soccer team.

Teammate and captain Andy Gutierrez said that he considers Amato to be a good goalkeeper who still has a lot of room to learn and who is only going to get better and improve as the season progresses.

Gutierrez also said that what caught his attention about Amato was his height, 6’2”, and the fact that he is good with his hands and feet.

“His game will rise to the top. He just has to adapt to the system and he will be OK. Once he starts feeling comfortable he can take his game to the next level,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez also added that Amato needs to work on his communication on the field.

“Maybe it’s hard for him because everyone speaks English, but most of us speak Spanish as well. I say he is a bit shy when it comes to screaming to players and getting his point across,” Gutierrez said.

Although the season is halfway done and the Huskies haven’t achieved a lot of good results, Amato has high hopes for them.

“I think we have a good team and I think we can achieve some great things if we keep working together. We just have to keep working hard to achieve our goals,” Amato said.

Once Amato arrived here, he found himself enjoying the tactics used by his coaches during training.

“I went to watch the LA Galaxy play and even though the quality (of the game) is not as good as in Argentina, it’s still improving season after season,” Amato said.

“I also like the way that our coaches motivate the team. They are always talking about being positive and be united which is amazing because that’s what usually makes teams achieve great things.”

But things weren’t like he expected them to be. Amato thought that he was going to be able get more minutes on the field, but as of now it has been difficult because the team has three goalkeepers, so they are competing for game time.

For ELAC goalkeeper coach David Garcia it’s not easy for a player to come and support a teammate who is competing for the same spot.

“The other (two) keepers support whoever is on the field and whoever starts. During practice they try to compete to make sure that whoever is going to be representing ELAC earns it,” Garcia said.

“That type of attitude brings a level of competitiveness during practice that shows on the field and it shows how they respect their teammates on and off the field. They are willing to support him while also competing for a spot and that’s rare to see.”

While most players who want to become professionals start to train young, Amato did not start training with a professional goalkeeper coach until he was 16 years old, so he struggled to develop his technique.

He said he believes that if he had started before, he could probably have already become a professional.

Although his father played forward during his soccer career, Amato decided to play goalkeeper.

“I tried different positions when I was younger. I played as a forward, then at a certain point in my life I played as a goalkeeper and I thought I was better in that position, so I started to work hard to improve my abilities during training,” Amato said.

Despite being born in Argentina, Amato grew up in Spain and because of his father’s job, his family had to travel constantly.

Amato was about 6 months old when his parents took him to Spain where he attended school until he was 9 years old.

He also lived in Scotland, and Brazil where his father played for different teams.

His family moved back to Argentina and his father, now a retired soccer player, is the assistant coach of Argentinian soccer team Club Atlético Banfield.

Back in Argentina, Amato played for the lower divisions of Club Atlético Tigre where he struggled because he didn’t have a chance to play, so  he didn’t feel  part of the team.

“I went to train every day and I felt as if I was invisible for the coach. I finally feel important here (at ELAC) and that’s because I was able to cope with that (back in Argentina) and move on,” Amato said.

From the first moment he arrived to the club, Amato felt that the coach didn’t like him, but he still worked hard to change things.

He stayed with that team for a year and a half until he decided to come to this country. During his time with that club, he only started and played a match.

For this reason, he said that not playing for such a long time is up to now his biggest disappointment as a soccer player.

“It was also something I learned, even if I didn’t get to play for such a long time. I still trained and my game improved because of that,” Amato said.

Amato had the chance to train with former Argentinian National Team’s goalkeeper Carlos Roa, who represented his country in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and is now the goalkeeper coach for Banfield.

“Roa told me that I have what it takes to become a professional goalkeeper and that is something I always remember when I play. It motivates me to keep working hard,” Amato said.

goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon as a role model and that he tries to follow his footsteps.

“I always liked how he defended his posts and I also liked his leadership. I also admire the fact that he is respected both in and off the field. I am just like him. I like to gain respect from other players and I like to be a professional,” Amato said.

“When you are practicing, you are practicing. You can have another time to joke and laugh. You can tell that Buffon is like that. He is very professional.”

Even if things don’t go according to his plans, Amato said that he already has a lot of good memories from the ELAC men’s soccer team.

“No matter how things go or what happens next, I will always remember the moments before going on the field,” Amato said.

“We pray and we get together to talk about the game. We leave all our problems aside. If there are problems within the group, we forget about them because we are a team and a family,” Amato said.

His father Gabriel Amato, said that he hopes that his son is not pressuring himself too much just because he has a father who made it as a professional soccer player.

For this reason, he tries to advise his son.

“I tell him that he can’t achieve things without being dedicated, humble and without working hard and showing passion for what he loves. Being a soccer player is not easy, even if some people think otherwise,” Gabriel Amato said.

Matias Amato is planning to visit Argentina on December to spend Christmas with his family. Once he returns to LA, he wants to keep studying and hopes to find an amateur team where he can play to continue improving his game.

Amato said he sees Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon as a role model and that he tries to follow in his footsteps.

“I always liked how he defended his posts. I also like his leadership. I also admire the fact that he is respected both on and off the field. I am just like him. I like to gain respect from other players and I like to be a professional,” Amato said.

“When you are practicing, you are practicing. There’s a time and place to joke and laugh. You can tell that Buffon is like that. He is very professional.”

Even if things don’t go according to his plans, Amato said that he already has a lot of good memories from the ELAC men’s soccer team.

“No matter how things go or what happens next, I will always remember the moments before going on the field,” Amato said.

“We pray and we get together to talk about the game. We leave all our problems off the field. If there are problems within the group, we forget about them because we are a team and a family,” Amato said.

His father Gabriel Amato, said that he hopes that his son is not pressuring himself too much due to having a father who made it as a professional soccer player.

For this reason, he tries to advise his son for the next level.

“I tell him that he can’t achieve things without being dedicated, humble or without working hard and being passioniate for what he loves. Being a soccer player is not easy, even if some people think otherwise,” Gabriel Amato said.

Matias Amato is planning to visit Argentina in December to spend Christmas with his family. Once he returns to LA, he wants to keep studying and hopes to find an amateur team where he can play and continue improving his game.

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