Meet Nahuel Barrios… San Lorenzo’s Newest Hero
Things were not looking good for San Lorenzo as the prospect of being eliminated from Copa Libertadores loomed large. Between that and their struggles domestically, many began to ask for Diego Aguirre’s head a while back.
Aguirre looked at his bench and saw his diminutive attacker over and asked him to come on. In many other instances, one would have perceived that this was a sign of desperation. Many except Nahuel Barrios. It was a long time coming as that The youngster was about to make his debut in the 84th minute against Chilean side Universidad Católica. He came in for Fernando Belluschi and the desperation seemed to be complete as the substitution was received with mixed reactions throughout the stadium as the 1–1 draw seemed like a helpless conclusion.
Through all that, the diminutive number ten took that challenge with a great deal of responsibility and joy. For him it was a dream come true and not that much more difficult that the matches that he had to play in his old neighborhood where he was first seen by scouts. “Age didn’t matter there,” said Barrios in an interview with Olé. “I grew up that way, that is why I don’t get scared if I have to play. I got hit a lot but I got used to it.”
He played football as a young kid on a dirt pitch or on cement. There he “honed” his craft or he avoided flying challenges and defenders looking to break his legs. Even at San Lorenzo he mentioned that he was “baptized” by one of his teammates, but “got up quietly”.
The 18-year-old playmaker made former River Plate phenom Diego Buonanotte seem like he towered over the frame of Barrios, who at 1.56m (5'1") who was making his debut at the professional level. His first goal promised to be memorable as a cross to the far post was met by the diminutive attacker as he beat the defender to the ball and gave San Lorenzo the lead for good. It was the beginning of a fairy tale for a young man that had battled adversity since the day he was born.
His header debunked logic and science with street and anticipation. He beat out a ex-forward in Ricardo Noir and became the front page of every daily in Argentina after that goal. In all of this, a young kid that was nicknamed “El Perro” (The Dog) because of his combative nature and tenacity took heed of a bit of advice that was given to him in his neighborhood.
“Take advantage of playing in first division. Many players that came from here did not and look at where they are.”
As a kid, Barrios went from the neighborhood of Dock Sud all the way to River Plate to train. In terms of distance that is about 10 to 12 kms. That trek could take about two hours depending on how traffic is. Dock Sud is an old industrial area in the south side of Greater Buenos Aires more synonymous with a modern-day landscape that could pass for an early Industrial Revolution slum or some type of area that would make Bed-Stuy look like Beverly Hills. The river waters are contaminated beyond repair and the violence rampant due to the ascendent insecurity due to drug trafficking.
Barrios saw the violence of places ironically named Villa Tranquila (Tranquility Villa). This area, just about a five-minute drive from the presidential Casa Rosada is located, is a drug trafficking stronghold and is one of the most violent areas in all of Argentina.
After three months, he got tired of the long treks across after being tired of having to travel across Buenos Aires to just train. He has become the jewel of San Lorenzo’s youth system. His tenacity and persistency allowed him to start to gain the attention of many within the club, but tonight’s goal gave him an even greater stage and over in Boedo they have a new darling. He led San Lorenzo’s sixth division to the league title and was awarded the player of the year at that level.
For Barrios it was not just a goal, it was a step towards being able to accomplish his dream. “My ultimate dream is to be able to get my family of the neighborhood,” said Barrios. “I want my little nephew to grow up elsewhere. It’s fucked up to grow up in an area like Dock Sud. I don’t want him to go through what I did.”
Here is the video from Secta Deportiva
“My dream is to play with Real Madrid. My idol is Cristiano Ronaldo. But first it is my goal to debut with San Lorenzo and then win a Copa Libertadores. My third goal is to give my mom and family a better life.”
As of right now, he’s already scratched two items off his list.