Guillermo La Rosa: the Tank that beat COVID and the little-known story that links it to André Carrillo | INTERVIEW

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If we have learned anything in the last year and a half, it is that COVID-19 makes no distinctions: in an oversight, we can all get infected. And hence, what happens is uncertain. It does not matter if you are strong and big as a battle tank or if you have recently led a healthy life. Although it seems that we are armored, that microscopic virus can still knock us down. Guillermo La Rosa Laguna (Lima, 1954) knows it well. Three months ago, what at first seemed like a simple cold turned into pneumonia that affected 60% of his lungs. He was admitted to a local clinic in an emergency, where for more than a week he received oxygen due to his low saturation. “This virus is tremendous, it destroys you. But with the grace of God, the medicines and care that I had, I was able to heal. After many days I returned to my weight and happily I have no sequels “, reflects the former national team and twice World Cup, with the gratitude of someone who has received a new opportunity.

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What was going through your head when you were hospitalized?

When you go through such a difficult situation, you seek your salvation. I asked the Lord to keep me alive. And he listened to me. In the midst of my loneliness I tried to take refuge in his word, remembering passages from the Bible. I never lost faith.

Where did he get strength from?

From my family and the people who love me. Many prayed for me and made prayer chains for my health, which makes me feel grateful. Well, at the clinic I tried to feed myself, even though I didn’t have much of an appetite. My father always said: ‘sick who eat, do not die’.

What was your prognosis?

After overcoming the most difficult part of the illness, the doctor was clear with me. He told me: ‘you were a candidate for you to leave’. It seemed almost a miracle that I recovered, considering my age – he turned 67 on June 6 – and that I have early diabetes. In a few days I evolved favorably. Now I am here, in my house, with my family. There is nothing that makes me happier than being with them.

Fans from all over the world send postcards to the 'Tank' for him to autograph.
Fans from all over the world send postcards to the ‘Tank’ for him to autograph.

***

Today the ‘Tank’ feels calmer. A few weeks ago he received the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine, like others selected from the seventies and eighties, such as Héctor Chumpitaz, Hugo Sotil, Jaime Duarte and his compadre César Cueto, with whom he wrote the most glorious pages in the history of Peruvian football. Two of his goals were decisive to qualify for the World Cup Spain 82: a powerful header that gave us the tie in the final minutes against Colombia, silencing El Campín de Bogotá; the other was an angle shot against Uruguay at the legendary Centenario Stadium, after a pass from Juan Carlos Oblitas, who opened the way to victory. “Being in the Peruvian team was an honor and a blessing for me. It gave me the opportunity for people to get to know me, go play in another country and earn money to live without worries “.

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AGONIC GOAL.  The precise moment in which the 'Tank' scores his goal against Poland in the Spain 82 World Cup. The game was played on June 22 at the Riazor stadium, in La Coruña.  (Photo: El Comercio historical archive)
AGONIC GOAL. The precise moment in which the ‘Tank’ scores his goal against Poland in the Spain 82 World Cup. The game was played on June 22 at the Riazor stadium, in La Coruña. (Photo: El Comercio historical archive)

Guillermo La Rosa grew up in Puente Piedra with his ten siblings. “There were many shortcomings, but with what little we had we were happy”, says the ex-footballer. As a child, with their other friends from the neighborhood, they played to be Pelé, Didí or Garrincha, then figures of the Brazilian team. His qualities with the ball, in addition to his biotype, led him to Alianza Lima, the club of his loves, to then make the leap abroad and play for Atlético Nacional de Medellín, where he is considered a legend along with César Cueto. He was summoned to the World Cup in Argentina 78, but did not score. He took the nail in the World Cup in Spain, scoring in the 5 to 1 defeat we suffered at the hands of Poland.I have a lot of mixed feelings about that goal. On the one hand I fulfilled the dream of scoring in a World Cup, but the result was a failure “, he comments. It took 36 years to break the spell: André Carrillo did it in the World Cup in Russia, whom La Rosa trained as a child in his soccer school.

OF COLLECTION.  Guillermo La Rosa Pérez, son of 'Tanque', lives in Spain and works at the Rayo Vallecano club.  In that country he bought from a collector the Adidas shirt that his father wore in Argentina 78.
OF COLLECTION. Guillermo La Rosa Pérez, son of ‘Tanque’, lives in Spain and works at the Rayo Vallecano club. In that country he bought from a collector the Adidas shirt that his father wore in Argentina 78.

How was coexistence in the Peruvian team?

I keep the best memories of my time as a selected one. There was a lot of camaraderie among the boys. We laughed, we celebrated and in defeats we all suffered together. There was no bad vibes. I was able to make great friends and I consider many of them part of my family, like my compadre César Cueto.

Is it true that when you played together in Medellín Pablo Escobar went to training sessions?

That is a legend (laughs). At that time there was a lot of violence in Colombia and there was talk of Mr. Escobar. Maybe he went out there to watch a game, but I never found out.

Was it difficult for you to adapt to Colombia?

When I arrived, the president of the club told me: here you leave your house, train, come back and nothing will happen to you. I listened to him. It helped me a lot to be with my wife, she was my support at all times. And it also helped me to be a disciplined person.

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INTIMATE FRONT.  Guillermo La Rosa is very loved by the players of the Peruvian team, with whom he has a friendly relationship.  In the image, with Paolo Guerrero.
INTIMATE FRONT. Guillermo La Rosa is very loved by the players of the Peruvian team, with whom he has a friendly relationship. In the image, with Paolo Guerrero.

How to educate the restless footballer, the moth?

I feel that sometimes it is very easy to judge others without really knowing their life stories. “Why do they drink? Are they crazy? ”Says many people without knowing what is behind it. As a formative coach, I have met rebellious kids who come with problems from home, from dysfunctional and violent homes. You have to give them love, protection. Speak to them with authority, but without yelling at them. Tell them your story and how you became a professional.

Let’s talk about the current moment of the selection. How do you see the team in this Copa América?

Honestly, even before the Cup, I saw the national team without dynamics, with a lack of rhythm. We were doing badly in the qualifying rounds, but the victory on the road against Ecuador has given the team new life. When you win there is a wind of safety and you feel confident. Now I see the boys motivated, wanting to do things well. I am hopeful that they can go far in the tournament.

André Carrillo (sixth in the row above) at the 'Tanque' school in 2000.
André Carrillo (sixth in the row above) at the ‘Tanque’ school in 2000.

The national team is going through a generational change: Jefferson and Paolo are playing the discounts of their careers. Why haven’t cracks of its characteristics come out again?

They are a cluster of factors. But the main one is that they are not working on looking for players. We had to bring Lapadula and Ormeño due to the drought in front. To solve this problem, work must be done in conjunction with the federation, the clubs and the sports academies. You have to travel across the country to find those talents, which I’m sure there are.

The last one: what did you think of the participation of some selected in the ‘Put your shirt on’ campaign?

On political issues I prefer not to go deeper. I can only tell you that if they were asked to participate in that campaign, they accepted making use of their freedom. We live in a democracy and I hope that it continues to be so. //

GOAL TANK

  • In the 1978 Copa Libertadores, Guillermo La Rosa was established as the tournament’s top scorer, with eight touchdowns. That year, the La Victoria team reached the semifinal.
  • In 1981, exactly 40 years ago, he became champion with the Atlético Nacional de Medellín club. During his time at the club he scored 50 goals and is considered a legend by his fans.
  • Towards the end of his career, the ‘Tank’ played for the LDU club in Quito, one of the historic Ecuadorian teams. He scored 21 goals in 49 games.

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