A Brazilian with a record in Ponferrada

Although it was not the most prominent news of the sports newspapers of national circulation, Yuri de Souza again broke a record just ten days ago. He became the third footballer to reach 400 games with the SD Ponferradina jersey. Another brand to add to your collection of feats. In 15 seasons in Spanish football he has surpassed the scoring records of compatriots such as Rivaldo, Ronaldo Nazário or Neymar, with more than 180 goals, and is only a score of games away from surpassing the indefatigable Dani Alves as the Brazilian with the most league games, counting his appearances in Segunda B and in LaLiga SmartBank. A trajectory that he has forged almost without leaving Ponferrada, a city in the El Bierzo region, at the end of the province of León, caressing Galicia, in which he is a legend and of which he, on the verge of fulfilling the 39, says he never wants to leave to continue making history.

Yuri carries soccer in his blood, in his genes. At the age of five he moved from Brazil to Portugal, where he grew up accompanying his father, recently signed by a Portuguese team. His uncle played for Santos at one time, says the left-handed attacker, “where to play there you had to have a high level” and also his brother Igor and his cousin Charles Dias have forged a career, passing, among others, through the ranks of SD Eibar, RC Celta or Levante UD. With them, in fact, he coincided in his first steps as a professional, back in 2006. They formed a unique forward made up of three family members at Pontevedra CF de Segunda B. Yuri from the left, Igor from the right and Charles from the center. “We always had ease going into the goal, since we were little and we played on the street. That year we swelled to score goals. I think that only the FC Barcelona trident with Eto’o, Ronaldinho and Giuly beat us ”, explains the middle of the second generation of players.

The good work of the clan dispersed them throughout Spain, in search of greater challenges. Yuri, after a brief assignment to UD Las Palmas, in LaLiga SmartBank, ended up joining SD Ponferradina, then in Second B. A team in which his first season was not as successful as expected, despite having become the dessert in the figure with the most goals in history and current captain.

This is how José Fernández, president of the entity that recruited him in 2009, recalls: “That first year was not easy. He had an injury and could not participate as much as we expected. But at the club we try to help him, to be close ”. The story coincides with that of a footballer who, little by little, tells, fell in love with the family atmosphere of the institution, the affection of the fans, a “quiet” and “relaxed” way of life and the botillo, a sausage typical of the El Bierzo region made from different parts of the pig.

The president of the ‘Ponfe’, José Fernández. Cesar Sanchez

Over time, that love would translate into goals and loyalty. The Brazilian has remained at the club since then, except for a brief experience in China, and in all seasons except the first two and in 2016/2017, when he played just a dozen games, he has surpassed ten league goals. With the Ponfe has experienced three promotions to the silver category and on several occasions has been on the verge of reaching the play-off promotion to LaLiga Santander. Without going any further, this season the team has been touching the first six places until the end and reaches the last day in eighth position, although no longer any options to qualify for the final qualifying rounds. One of the great unknowns to unveil on the last date of this weekend in LaLiga SmartBank, where both the sixth place and two places of the four that lead to the decline have yet to be decided.

A weekend full of emotion

LaLiga SmartBank reaches its conclusion this weekend with eleven games full of emotion. Both in the upper part of the table and in the lower part, the last 90 minutes of the championship will be decisive.

In the fight for sixth place, the last one that gives access to the play-off of promotion, Rayo Vallecano and Sporting de Gijón are separated by only two points. Therefore, a bad result of the Madrid, who on the last day have a heart attack match against CD Lugo, one of those involved in the fight for not relegation, could give hope to the Asturians, who face the quarterfinals classified, the UD Almería.

Below, two of the four relegation places are still unassigned. In the battle this Sunday at nine o’clock at night, the schedule in which all the decisive matches will be played, there are up to four involved: AD Alcorcón, CD Lugo, UD Logroñés and CE Sabadell. The first two start with an advantage, but the two points that separate one and the other leave open the possibility of anything happening. The emotion is served.

Upon arrival, Yuri found a modest outfit booming. La Ponferradina, which in 2022 will celebrate its 100th anniversary as the oldest club in Castilla y León, always ranged between regional football and the Third Division. Their first appearance in Segunda B dates from 1987 and it was not until 2006 that they managed to appear in the silver division, something that was already experienced as a milestone that more than 20,000 fans came out to celebrate in a municipality of about 65,000 inhabitants.

“The entrepreneurial spirit that we have here has been key, added to our two flags: familiarity and humility. We have the third lowest salary cap in the category. Therefore, knowing who we are and all going to one is very important ”, explains the president, whose tenure, which has now exceeded two decades, has marked the most glorious era of a club that has been in six of the last ten seasons in LaLiga SmartBank fighting from El Toralín, a stadium with capacity for just over 8,000 fans.

A SD Ponferradina flag on a balcony in Ponferrada.
A SD Ponferradina flag on a balcony in Ponferrada. Cesar Sanchez

The castle of the Templars is a symbol of Ponferrada and also appears on the shield of the local team, founded in 1922.
The castle of the Templars is a symbol of Ponferrada and also appears on the shield of the local team, founded in 1922. Cesar Sanchez

The head of communication, Javier Santiago, delves into the importance of the entity’s take-off for a region where the closure in 2018 of the Salgueiro well permanently buried any trace of an activity that fed thousands of families and that had been declining since the eighties. “Mining was the great pride of the Bercianos. And football, to a certain extent, has restored it. In an area that is trying to convert towards renewable energies or the promotion of local products, such as fruit or wine, the team is also a claim, a way of making the city visible ”, he explains. An impression to which the president adds: “In Ponferrada there are only two sacred things: the Ponferradina and the Virgin of La Encina.”

Perhaps we should add the name of number ten on the local team to the list. For him, the most difficult decision of his career was convincing his family to leave the nest in Ponferrada to fly to Qingdao, a port city in northeast China. The experience – “very positive and with an easier adaptation than we thought despite the distance,” he explains – did not last long, however. After a few months, Yuri was back in the city where his legend began. Where everyone loves him and where they live with concern the day he is gone, although the president even jokes about giving him his chair on the day when his strength is not enough to score goals.

Yuri celebrates the promotion of SD Ponferradina to LaLiga SmartBank in 2019 in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento de Ponferrada.
Yuri celebrates the promotion of SD Ponferradina to LaLiga SmartBank in 2019 in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento de Ponferrada. Cesar Sanchez

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