From Rosario slum to Osasuna star: The tragic and heroic life of Chimy Avila

From Rosario slum to Osasuna star: The tragic and heroic life of Chimy Avila
Chimy Avila with his Osasuna teammates
Chimy Avila with his Osasuna teammates
Born in a Rosario slum, Ezequiel 'Chimy' Avila has experienced poverty, family tragedy and a knee injury with Osasuna on the eve of his medical with Barcelona. A powerful striker, he is the perfect representative of the Rojillo club, which dreams of returning to Europe under Jagoba Arrasate. Before the duel against Real Madrid in the final of the Copa del Rey this Saturday, portrait of an Argentine who does not give up.

Chimy Avila's career was about to change in the last week of the January in 2020. Barcelona were actively looking for a striker and had set their sights on the Argentinian from Osasuna, not exactly in the style of Lionel Messi, from Rosario like him, but the kind of player who never gives up and piles up the goals.

On loan from San Lorenzo, his time at Huesca was a success, with a historic rise to LaLiga and a first season in the top flight with 10 goals and two assists in 34 games. Although the Aragonese club fell back into the Segunda, the striker left for Osasuna for €2.7million, a gift.

His arrival in Navarre was a success: nine goals and three assists in 20 league games. These statistics interested many clubs, starting with Bara, who wanted to sign a striker for the second half of the season. The matter is almost settled, with only the medical examination to be passed after the reception of Levante at Sadar.

But what happened next was not what he had imagined: "The day before the game, the Míster (Jagoba Arrasate) stopped me in the dressing room and asked me what I wanted to do. Coach, if you want to play me, do it.

"Because I'm going to play like it's the last game of my life, like always. I owe it to the fans and I owe it to you, because you believed in me when I arrived with 10 extra kilograms."

Unfortunately for him, it didn't work: before the hour mark, he tore the cruciate ligaments in his knee. An anecdote that says a lot about him.

Chimy Avila ruptures cruciate knee ligament against Levante in 2020

Wrongly accused, he becomes a poor worker

Avila was born in Empalme Graneros, a slum in Rosario. His youth was accompanied by everything that can surround an underprivileged kid with its cocktail of violence and drugs.

Fortunately for him, his family does its best to keep him away from delinquency, in a neighbourhood where "it's easier to find a gun than a priest".

And then there is football, with a pitch literally downstairs: "the buildings surrounded it and, to get in and out, you had to cross it".

And when you play, you also have to know how to avoid the cartridges: "I had to dribble the balls and that's more difficult than dribbling the defences", the man who has a Colt tattooed on his right flank told El Pais.

The only weapon his father, a bricklayer, had was a trowel. His son followed him to work as a painter, after being accused by his training club, Tiro Federal, of stealing jerseys and televisions, even though CCTV footage shows the opposite.

A story that cost him two years of his career, between the ages of 18 and 20, and also forced him to sell clothes and boxes.

"We don't hold grudges but we don't forget," he explained in Panenka.

"It makes me angry because Tiro Federal got a lot of money from each of my transfers. With the tears, bitterness and hunger they have caused me while they are stuffing themselves...".

Miracle baby and murdered brother-in-law

It was at this time that he became a father, a dream of his but one that came at the worst possible time for him and his wife. Ten days after the birth of his first daughter, Eluney, she contracted a serious virus and went into respiratory arrest.

His wife stayed with the newborn when he had to work, get on his bike and ride the 20km to the hospital: "The bus ticket cost €2.5 and if we both took it, there was nothing left. I cycled there and back so that with the remaining €2 my wife could eat.

When the couple was allowed into the room, the cot was empty: "I destroyed everything because I was going crazy, my wife was crying. My daughter was gone. A doctor arrived to tell us to calm down because she was fine and could go out the next morning. The nurse had forgotten to tell us. This episode left Avila with an unshakeable faith in God.

The journey from Empalme Graneros to Pamplona takes 24 hours. But reality takes much longer to catch up with the Avila couple.

Five days after his knee operation in 2020, his 20-year-old brother-in-law, his sister-in-law and his niece were killed by gunmen on a motorbike. "Only my wife was able to return. She had to dress her one-year-old niece in the coffin, as well as her brother.

"He was like our son.

"That's why it touches me when people judge you without knowing what you are going through. Some people say that a player earns millions. But I'll give you the millions if you give me back my brother-in-law and my niece."

As a tribute to them, he tattooed an owl on his throat: "I dreamt of them walking towards heaven and it accompanied them."

The people's goalscorer

The episode in which he inadvertently wore a portrait of Santiago Abascal because he liked the phrase attached to the photo of the far-right leader VOX seems laughable, even though Osasuna is a club with a strong republican past in a region where Franco's militants played a key role during the Civil War (1936-1939).

If he was affected by the criticism, a goal and an apology to the ultras in celebration quickly made him the idol of the Sadar, one of the best stadiums in Spain.

Always at his best on the pitch, Avila wants to represent the people he plays for: "How many people go out of their way to buy a ticket for their child to see him happy? I want to give people a show.

"A jersey for a kid is €80 or €90. Why not put on a show? You have to be honest: for a professional player, €100 is nothing, a coffee. But why would you value the 100€ they spend? We live thanks to them."

With seven goals and two assists in LaLiga, the Argentinian has made a significant contribution to Osasuna's good results, which have seen them finish 10th, three points off the European places. And with a cup final to come, the Rojillos' season could be one of the best ever for the Navarrese club.

Although the attacking sector has struggled this season with 29 goals, the 19th highest in LaLiga, the prospect of winning a trophy against Real Madrid could give Arrasate's men a boost.

With their commitment, humility and defensive rigour, they are a feared team who must force their fate to bring the Copa del Rey back to Pamplona, 18 years on.

Follow the final with Flashscore.


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