The former Peruvian Beach Soccer international jumped from the sand to the highest level of football in his country
It was in the Copa America 2018. Peru’s number 9, a quick and strong striker, caught everybody’s attention. His name was Alex Valera, and had been recruited by national team coach Francisco Castelo Branco, or “Chicão”, just months before.
After finding himself without a club and opportunities, Alex kept training and playing beach soccer, a sport he adores. Castelo Branco saw his natural talent and called him up to be a part of the national side for the coming Copa America.
He did not let the coach down, scoring four goals in the competition.
After that success, his footballing career definitely took off, and he finally joined Cusco side Deportivo Garcilaso. From there he moved to Deportivo Llacuabamba, where he became a professional footballer.
In 2020 and after having scored nine goals for his club, Valera was called up for the national team for the first time, starting an international career on the grass that has made him a regular in the Peruvian national side.
After that, he became the star signing of Universitario de Deportes, the club of his heart, for whom he has already scored 13 goals in his first 30 games.
Last Sunday, Valera accomplished another of his dreams, scoring his first goal for the Peruvian national team. It was in the game against Panama, but that would not be all, as three days later he would score again for Perú, in the 3-0 win over Jamaica.
Always with beach soccer in his mind and heart
Alex has always recognised how important beach soccer was for him to finally succeed in football, and will never forget the lessons learnt and the conditions gained on the sand.
“Beach soccer helps you increase your physical power and also improves the way you hit the ball. Playing in small spaces and on an irregular surface like the sand demands a lot of skill”, he admits.
“Beach soccer gives you abilities that regular football players do not have, such as the capacity to do bicycle kicks or being a good header”, he adds.
Indeed, those who know him and know about his evolution as a football player can easily identify how crucial beach soccer has been for him to become a top class forward. One of those people is Juan Carlos Bazalar, his former coach at Piratas FC (2018-2019): “He has great technique, thanks to his experience in beach soccer”, he points on.
The story of Alex Valera is a new proof of how high the level of beach soccer is getting, and how demanding and competitive a sport it is.
Without a doubt, we will see more stories like Alex’s coming to light in the coming years.