Rico Patrocinio would love nothing more than to join the ranks of his favourite players Cristiano Ronaldo and Javier Hernandez.
“They are so smart, just the way they play with so much passion,” said Patrocinio, of his footy heroes.
The South Okanagan Youth Soccer Association product moved to Guadalajara, Mexico in January where he tried out and earned a spot with Estudiantes Tecos under-16 youth team, which plays at the top tier level. Through a family contact, Patrocinio was able to make an impression on the Tecos coaching staff.
“The experience has been amazing,” said Patrocinio, who returned to Penticton to spend Easter with family. “It’s just so much different there because soccer here and soccer there is totally different. Competitively, it’s like hockey here.”
While the Tecos have won eight of their 10 games, it took Patrocinio a few games to find his comfort level. He discovered how quickly plays must be made as the opposition doesn’t give players much time with the ball. Once Patricinio figured things out, he took off collecting three assists while earning the acceptance of his teammates.
“I’m playing as good as I ever have,” said Patrocinio, a centre midfielder.
Patrocinio takes nothing for granted and realizes he has to work for playing time, which has provided him an inner determination.
“I thought, Oh yeah, I will make pro,” he said. “Now that I’m there, I really have to work harder.”
To get as far as he has, Patrocinio has had to make many sacrifices, one of them being leaving his family. While he was joined by his sister Emily, and has some family support on his mother’s side, Patrocinio said it took time to adjust to being away from his family here, especially his father Tony.
“My son and I have been really close friends for a long time,” said Tony. “He has been with me since he was four. Always hanging around me doing the work that I enjoy doing.”
Tony admits it’s hard not having his son around, but wanted to reward him for being a good kid.
“It’s a life experience,” said Tony, who owns Skaha Meadows Golf Course and does landscaping work. “It was hard to send him away but a little easier because my daughter went with him.”
Since the two reunited during Easter, father and son did what they enjoy best, working on the golf course and doing landscape work. Oh, and playing soccer.
“Just talking more as friends than father and son because that is the way our relationship has been built,” said Tony. “Lots of memories kicking the ball. He has always loved soccer.”
Tony has watched his son’s games on the Internet and seen photos, but is planning a trip to watch him. Tony has seen maturity in his son and from the feedback he has heard, knows his son is improving his soccer skills.
“He has a lot more confidence and it’s a different game down there,” said Tony. “It’s not physical, it’s more based on the ability of the player. They really push the players. His touches on the ball