Meeting A Dreamer

Meeting A Dreamer

Did you have big dreams growing up, but sort of forgot about them?

“Every week I will be writing about my lifestyle as a professional athlete and how I became the man and athlete I am today. I want my writings to help people understand that uniqueness and willingness go a long way in making someone successful. But today let me tell how I got to where I am..."

When we are in our younger years of life we constantly hear the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Some of us want to be police officers. Other want to be doctors or veterinarians, and there are those select few who fall in love with a sport and fantasize about becoming a professional athlete.

I was one of those little boys growing up who loved a ball more than anything else. I, Vincenzo Marco Antonio Nicola Constantino Candela Lopez (yes that is my real name, thanks dad), dreamed of kicking a soccer ball in a “hooligan” packed stadium.

Born in Colombia, to a passionate Italian father and a competitive Colombian mother you could pretty much say that soccer was in my blood from the get go. At age 4, my family was forced out of Colombia because of violence in the country and we relocated in search of the American dream in Sunny Isles, Florida. We spent our first three months in America living in a Best Western, praying that things would get better. I started school, and my parents noticed I was a bit weird and hyper so they put me on a soccer team. And boom, it was there on those torn up soccer fields of Highland Oaks Park on Ives Dairy Road where a young kindergartener would kick and scream for the first time opening the gateway to a dream of becoming a Professional Athlete.

As the years zoomed by the world was changing but my mentality and will to be great never altered. Age 10, "Vincenzo what do you want to be when you grow up?" Age 12, “Vincenzo what do you want to be when you grow up?” Age 15, same question and with the same answer every single time. Teachers and older individuals tortured me to pick another profession. But I simply could not envision myself doing anything else when I was older. I wanted to be a professional soccer player .

I always kept at it and trained every day of the week. My angelic mom drove me to the end of earth and back so I could get the best trainings. I would rather go out for a jog or find an empty field to find solace rather than go with friends to pick up girls or a party. I always remembered my parents repeating over and over “if you are going to do something be the best at it." And before every training, even to this day, I repeat that phrase in my head to get myself going. It was not easy but I found happiness in sacrifices and working hard.

Fast forward a couple of years now, August 2009, my first day of high school. I did not go to the massive public school that I was zoned for, like all of my friends. Two of my close friends (who also played soccer) and I choose to attend a very small private preparatory school who contacted us to play soccer for them. A preparatory school gets you prepared for college, and the ironic thing is I never wanted to go to college. The school counselors laughed more than once at me for telling them that. I laughed back; I didn’t know what was so funny to them. They, like many others before, tried to change my mindset about my future. Of course, they failed in trying to change me. I do not care what people think about me or the decisions I choose to take. I will do what pleases my heart because there is only one person who can judge my actions: God.

Now, this new school we choose to attend was a culture shock for us. We were three foreign kids who were thrown into a completely new world. We had each other and no one else in the beginning. We were always together, which led us to getting the nickname "The Three Musketeers." Every day, we would pray for the school days to end so we could leave the confinement that was forced upon to find happiness in football after school. High school did end up getting better (even though we talked about leaving every day) and in our second year at the school, we helped the school win its first ever state title in any sport.

That taste of success was a gateway for me. I wanted more, I was hungry for success. I felt for the first time that I was ready to take a leap of faith.

After my sophomore year in high school, I decided (with my parents blessing) to leave school and finish my courses online so that I would have more time to focus on my craft. What I was doing was unheard of where I grew up. I had people judge me hard for leaving school, being called a bum, an idiot , and a loser for chasing what people considered an unrealistic dream. My decision was very simple. I had already figured out what I wanted to be in life and felt that I needed to get ready for my future, and no school could get me prepared to be a soccer player. So I left.

I thought life was going to be a walk in the park without having to attend school, but boy was I wrong. Every day I would wake up at 6:15 a.m., a quick shower, have breakfast and drive 45 minutes to train. We would train for about two hours every morning, two more hours at the gym at noon, and another two hours in the evening. I would get home around 9 p.m. every night and do my school courses. It was brutal to say the least, but I loved every minute of the suffering. I did not miss school. I was happy I broke away from the stereotype that was associated with being a high schooler in South Florida.

It feels like almost everyone in America follows the same path growing up. Six years of elementary school, three of middle school, four of high school, go to college and get some job where you ultimately end up becoming an average Joe. I stepped off the basic assembly line and risked a comfortable life for a chance to be someone; for a chance to be heard. I hate mediocracy. I did not want to be an Average Joe with an average job. I was a dreamer and I would do anything to achieve it. I was told by many people that they had never seen such a determined young man who was so clear with what he wanted to do. “Forget girls and parties, sacrifice yourself for a couple years and when you get to the top they will be there waiting for you.” One of my coaches growing up told me that and it had a huge impact in my life because I truly believed every single word. And today I can confirm it is true.

After ten months of relentless three-a-days, I got the chance at age seventeen to go train with one of the best academies in Valencia, Spain. It was an opportunity and I grabbed it by the horns. I said goodbye to my friends, to my parents and just as a dreamed of doing, I set off to the Mecca of football. I was headed to Europe. I killed myself in trainings in Spain. I did not want to take anything for granted. I would always try to arrive early to training so that I could juggle a tennis ball to better my technique. And, I would stay after training to jog so that I could improve my fitness. There were days when I called home and just felt like saying that I wanted to come back and that it was too tough. But the support system I had with friends and family never let me even think about going back. I willed myself through, and it would pay off.

Just six months into my experience in Spain a huge sports agency contacted me and offered me to join a professional club in Portugal. I would play for their youth team and boy was I excited. I had cemented myself in European football. After playing one year of youth football in Portugal I was ready to make the jump to play with the big boys. I did not want any more youth soccer; I wanted to be on a professional roster.

In the summer of 2013, I had tryouts lined up to try to make a professional team. I was rejected by a team in Portugal and a first division and second division team in Italy. I was devastated. After being rejected the third time, I called my father and tears just started flowing. I thought it was the end. I thought I would have to go back to America, go to school and be what I feared the most, being average. I had one more tryout left with a team in Germany. It was Germany or bust. And that pressure brought out the best in me and was offered a one-year contract. I made it, I was a professional footballer. I had people tell me I would never make it. They told me I was too small, too weak. But, they never measured my heart. Everyone I see I tell them to risk what they have to follow a dream. If you believe in yourself and have the will and determination you can achieve anything. Your mind can move walls, so do not ever think you are too weak to accomplish greatness.

Cover Image Credit: Vincenzo Candela

Popular Right Now

30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.

Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

The Anaheim Ducks Are In A World Of Pain

The Ducks have now lost 19 out of their last 21 games amidst a multitude of problems and a rebuild may be at its beginning stages after Randy Carlyle's firing from head coach.


On December 17, 2018, the Anaheim Ducks had just defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road 4-2, and sat in a playoff spot with a 19-11-5 record, good for 43 points and 2nd in the Pacific Division. Since then, the Ducks have lost 19 out of their last 21 games, going 2-15-4 during that stretch, now sitting at 21-26-9 and 51 points on February 12th, eight points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. After their last loss, head coach Randy Carlyle was finally axed and general manager Bob Murray stepped in as the interim coach. Many issues exist currently and for the foreseeable future in Anaheim, which could see its first sustained rebuild since the early 2000s, where the team missed the playoffs three years in a row.

One of the Ducks' bigger issues is the lack of goal scoring throughout the lineup. The leading player in goals is forward Jakob Silfverberg, with 12 in 47 games played. That's not enough for a team that is 56 games into the season. The overall points production is quite anemic too. Captain and center Ryan Getzlaf leads the club with 36 points in 50 games, and he is the only player with more than 30 points to this date.

Injuries are also factoring into the equation: center Adam Henrique and defenseman Brandon Montour are the only Ducks to have played in every game this season, with players such as forwards in Silfverberg, Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, and Ondrej Kase as well as defensemen Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm, and goaltender Ryan Miller all spending at least five games on the injured reserve.

With so many players in and out of the lineup, not to mention that most of the fill-ins are inexperienced at the NHL level, it is hard to develop any sort of chemistry for an extended period of time. Goaltender John Gibson has been unable to maintain grade A performance in net, as his save percentage is now at 0.914, below where he started the season. With all of this considered, the Ducks have a tough future ahead when considering their salary cap situation.

Perry and Getzlaf, both of who will turn 34 in May, have a cap hit of $8.625 and $8.25 million for the next two years after the 2018-19 season, while Kesler, who turns 35 in August, makes $6.825 million for the next 3 years after this season concludes. Perry has only played in five games this year due to injuries, Getzlaf's production is declining and not up to par with how much he is paid, and Kesler has only six points in 48 games, and he also only played in 44 games last season due to injuries, scoring just 14 points.

These expensive contracts are untradeable unless they attach a younger asset in a trade, like prospects Sam Steel, Max Jones, Maxim Comtois, or Troy Terry. It is possible that Kesler and/or Perry will be bought out of their contracts in the offseason, meaning they will save money against the salary cap for the remainder of those contract years, but will have portions of that contract counting against the cap for a few years more.

Despite these bad contracts which currently prevent the Ducks from signing more than one big free agent, the aforementioned prospects will most likely see more substantial time in Anaheim next season, which could boost the club, but it is unlikely that any of them take the league by storm to make the Ducks a contender again. For this to happen, young forwards like Rakell, Kase, and Daniel Sprong will have to exceed expectations, while the defensive core will also need to step it up compared to their performance this, which makes them look overpaid.

As it stands, the Ducks are 4th in the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery and could see a highly touted prospect come to Anaheim next year, but the current roster and prospect core will need bounce back seasons or the management group will be forced to blow up much of the roster, which would almost guarantee missing the playoffs again.

Related Content

Facebook Comments