For some reason, I can remember the final of the second international indoor soccer tournament in Mexico City like it was yesterday. That summer of 1992, in the Rayo del Norte center, a Brazilian named Zizinho (aka Geraldo Dos Santos) scored four goals and led his Mexican team Shuma to defeat the legendary San Diego Sockers in the final.
But more than the Brazilian’s power, a former star from team America, I remember two children kicking a ball at the walls of the indoor soccer field, while their father warmed up for the game.
Like every child that likes soccer, I was envious of those children – Eder and Giovani, the little Zizinhos. They had the privilege of being the star team member’s kids and professional soccer pitch was their playground. At the time, Gio wasn’t even two feet tall, but he already had more grace than his older brother. Gio was three years old and celebrated his goals just like his father, with one hand in the air and the other on his stomach while dancing samba.
More than 20 years have passed since that magical night, where the middle child of Geraldo Dos Santos gave his fans joy even before he’d played his first game.
Giovani embodied the dreams of all Mexican soccer fans.
His father had retired from professional soccer after playing with America, Necaxa, and León and played semi-pro in the indoor soccer league and the Spanish League of Mexico City. Back then, it was common to see Gio playing as a child in the fields of Mexico’s capital before the family moved to Monterrey and after Barcelona. He embodied the dreams of all Mexican soccer fans who, at one time or another, wanted to be Brazilian.
In 2005, Mexico defeated Brazil to win their first Under-17 World Championship, which was also Mexico’s first world soccer title. Gio was on that team and all of us who had seen his father play were in awe; we had a Brazilian who played amazing soccer, with a style similar to Ronaldinho, but who played with the Mexican jersey.
Gio wasn’t like Zague, another Mexican-Brazilian, who could only kick with one foot, ran like a goofy giraffe, and was the butt of every joke at school playgrounds where soccer balls rolled. Gio was different; he ran like a cheetah looking to hunt through the right wing of the field. He even had Ronaldinho’s hairstyle, a ponytail that was more like the long and muscular tail a cheetah uses for balance while it chases its prey.
Gio was different; he ran like a cheetah looking to hunt through the right wing of the field.
When surrounded by defenders, Gio would pivot and change rhythm; he could stop suddenly and then immediately go from zero to 100 in one second. I might be exaggerating, but I remember he would always keep his eyes on his prey, and without looking at the ball he would give the final pass at the precise and perfect moment.
I remember exactly where I was on October 2, 2005, when everyone was eagerly awaiting the Under-17 final. I had a class project to finish – a production of Samuel Beckett’s sparse play Waiting for Godot.
In the play, the characters Vladimir and Estragon wait for a third man named Godot, with whom they might have a date. While they are waiting unsuccessfully on the side of the road, two more characters named Pozzo and Lucky arrive and give them the message that Godot is not coming, but that maybe he will come the next day.
They go on waiting. The play ends.
But instead of examining the message behind the absurdist plot, all I could think about was the final. Instead of waiting for Godot, my friends and I joked, we were waiting for “Gio-dot.”
Now Gio has a new chance to make it to the stage.
Now it seems like all of Mexico is waiting for “Gio-dot.” The promise of the young majestic player never seemed to materialize.
Our “Gio-dot” has sent a few messages here and there hinting that he might arrive, like his dope goal against the United States in the 2011 Gold Cup or the goal against Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup. But he never really, truly shows up. While he has played on seven different teams in the 10 years since the Under-17 World title, he has failed to become the icon of Mexico’s national team.
Now Gio has a new chance to make it to the stage. Playing with L.A. Galaxy, he could finally realize his full potential and give Mexican fans all the goals they always dreamed of.
And let’s hope he does.