Giving back to the game

Fernandez, an Irvine resident, grew up as a goalie and now teaches youth in his city.

October 09, 2010|By Devin Ugland, Daily Pilot

The days in the net may be over for Ruben Fernandez, but you won't find him too far from a soccer field.

The Irvine resident now shares his love, dedication and devotion to the beautiful game through coaching. He is teaching the youth of the Irvine Strikers boys' U15 soccer club how to properly handle being the person between those two pressure-packed posts. Because when the defense breaks down, you're all alone on an island; with all eyes focused on you.

Fernandez was a journeyman goalkeeper. He played everywhere, from Spain to the United States, and even on Brazil's most beautiful beaches.


Goalkeeping is now his specialty, but as Fernandez will tell you, he didn't always know that was his calling.

"When you played with your friends in the street, you played every position," he said. "It was when I started playing organized soccer that I knew I wanted to be a goalkeeper."

The athletes who play this position have to have the highest self-confidence, because they are the first to blame for a loss, and sometimes the last to receive credit for a win. Goalkeepers need a humbleness about them, and Fernandez has it.

His players learn from him on the pitch, yet they also receive lessons from becoming aware of his background.

Like most children in Spain, Fernandez grew up wanting to become a professional soccer player. While Fernandez was growing up, kids spent their free time doing outdoor activities.

"We didn't have a lot of electronics to play with, so most of our time was spent outside playing soccer," he said.

He quickly developed a love for the game, and knew he wanted to make it a career.

His playing career began in the very well respected Real Aviles youth system. These systems are designed to take young, talented and determined athletes to develop their skills. From age 11 to 18, Fernandez worked day in and day out, in hopes of one day reaching his dream of becoming a professional soccer player.

Fernandez moved up the ranks of the Real Aviles youth system, and played his first professional stint with CF Fuensalida in Spain's third division. It was there that Fernandez received his first soccer culture shock.

"It was going from playing against boys, to playing against men," he said.

His second and last professional soccer team in Spain was Atletico Alcorcon, also in Spain's third division.

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