Exclusive interview with Barcelona super scorer Fidel Martínez

The Libertadores' early goal scoring leader talks about his family and his isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outside, there's a dirt field. Fidel Martínez looks at it every day. Observes, hopes. And when the moment comes, he hits it, running off to play. He's just 5 years old, and there's nothing in life he loves more than taking his ball, tying up his shoes, and running until there's no more light to run in. Today, that child has grown into a man, 30 years old but still running, now in search of goals for his Barcelona de Guayaquil side.

Fidel believes in the law of attraction and follows the ideas from the book The Secret by Rhonda Byne. That's how he became a professional footballer: hard work and desire, plus lots and lots of strength. That's also how he earned his spot in the Ecuadorian national team. He wanted his mother to see him on television, singing the national anthem of his country.

Today he's the top scorer in the early stages of the CONMEBOL Libertadores, with 8 goals that helped his side earn a spot in a difficult Group A. Barcelona are joined by Flamengo, the defending Libertadores champions, Independiente del Valle, last year's CONMEBOL Sudamericana champions, and Junior of Colombia. But right now, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, football can wait. "The truth is, things are really difficult. We're at home and we're hoping that everyone else is doing the same. The most important thing is staying at home, by doing that we can help protect a lot of people" he says.

He's seen his life change a lot in the last six months, and he attributes his recent footballing success to the arrival of his daughter Antonella. Fatherhood has brought a new outlook on life and it's the motivation for every strike of the ball. He says it's important to not let the success get to his head, to keep the same joy while playing that he had as a child. 

What was it like coming to Barcelona after being out of action for six months?

In December of 2018 I had the opportunity to join up with the squad and that's really where it all began. We had a really difficult pre-season, and our manager had told me that the intestity that that preseason had would be what allowed us to play at such a high level. Since my first day my teammates have been really great with me, and I'm really content in Guayaquil.

Along with Ecuador you've also played in Mexico (Atlas, Pumas, Tijuana, Leones Negros) and Uruguay (Peñarol), what differences did you find in the football in those countries?

In Mexico it's very intense. There's a lot of high level players, the football is a lot of back and forth. Everybody wants to always attack. I liked that a lot. I arrived in 2012 and just really enjoyed it. At Peñarol, everyone knows that it's a big club and the football is such a battle. A lot of sacrifice. It was good to play there for six months because I learned a lot and also got to experience the Uruguayan culture.

In what position do you feel most comfortable?

I feel most comfortable on the wing, but in Mexico I spent a year and a half playing in the middle and I actually did really well. I don't have any problem playing in any of those positions, the important thing is to be there and take the opportunities. I always like to plant myself in the box, score goals, and with the chances I have, I know I have to be 100% focused.

What do you make of Barcelona's start in the Libertadores?

We had a tough start to the group stage, but we'll turn the page. After everything that's happened with the Coronavirus, I hope we can be at the level we need to be to achieve our goals. I always feel the support of my family.

You talk a lot about your family, what are they like?

My family is what keeps me going. My daughter changed my life. She showed up with a lot of good fortune and goals in her. I found out in January of 2019 that I was going to be a father, and I remember I celebrated by putting the ball under my shrit. That year, I scored 17 times in all competitions. She was born September 17th of 2019, and after that I celebrated by sucking my thumb and from there I got even more good fortune. 8 goals so far in the Copa. Sometimes with the travel it's hard, and with both the opening stages and the group stage, we were basically away for a month, but when I'm around them, I really enjoy it. That contact is so important. 

You like the book The Secret, how'd that come about?

It's my favorite book. An Italian gave it to me when I was 16. He told me that it would change my life and he was right. It's like it says in the book, what one wants, one gets, the law of attraction. You have to work and be patient, but you always have to be positive because with what you have in your mind, you can make it happen. I had it in my head that I would become a professional footballer, and help my family. It happened little by little, but I never imagined that I'd get to a level like this.

And now, how are you spending your days in quarentine?

The truth is, things are really difficult. We're at home and we're hoping that everyone else is doing the same. The most important thing is staying at home, by doing that we can help protect a lot of people. Here with the baby we have a distraction, and we try to go outside to the patio to walk a little bit, but we're always taking care of the baby. I'm doing the workouts and my wife is there too. With the club, we're making videos on social media to tell the people to stay home, encouraging that.

How are you with social media?

Well... Hardly anybody follows me. I post pictures of my family, of the team, but it's all pretty calm.

And do you have an urge to get back to playing?

Yeah, I'm already watching film. I look for plays, games, I watch European football. I'm trying to watch matches to make myself better.

Translation by Austin Miller