From beach soccer to the 11-a-side national team

Find out how beach soccer launched Alex Valera’s career from being a free agent to the player under the spotlight in Peru

Alex Valera is the man of the moment in Peru. With seven goals and two assists at the Peruvian elite football league for Deportivo Llacuabamba, he has recently earned his first cap for the Peruvian national team.

However, many are unaware of the amazing story behind this unique player, and how beach soccer helped the athletic striker make his way to the top of Peruvian football.

Just three years ago, Alex, from Pomalca (Chiclayo) in the northwest of Peru, was out of football. He had no team, and his expectations of ever becoming a professional footballer had already disappeared. 

To keep himself active and in good shape, Alex kept playing beach soccer, a sport he has always loved. In 2018, he was called to be a part of the Peruvian national beach soccer team to play the Copa America, where he Brough on notable performances, even scoring 4 goals.  

He admits that he owes much of the abilities which have made him a top-class forward to his time 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”.  

Alex Valera feels that his experience as a beach soccer player have helped him a lot. “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 highlights. 

Juan Carlos Bazalar, one of his coaches in eleven-a-side football Piratas FC, the team he played for in 2018 and 2019, agrees: “He has great technique, thanks to his experience in beach soccer”. 

 

Mentality work

Francisco “Chicao” Castelo Branco, the Peru beach soccer national coach, and the man who recruited him, was immediately delighted with his ability when he saw him for the first time. “He was a very strong forward. With amazing shooting and finishing capacities”, he recalls. 

During his time with the beach soccer national team he lived in the Peru FA facilities for seven months, in which he trained tirelessly to improve as a beach soccer player, and also as an athlete.

But it was not only a physical and technical training, as Chicão recalls: “He was already very disappointed with football, he didn’t want anything to do with it, but we managed to change his mind, somehow getting his mentality ready for professional football again”. 

Actually, the work being done by Chicão and his staff at the Peru national team is already giving good results, as eight players of the beach soccer Blanquirroja have already been recruited for Peruvian professional teams. 

 

Landing in professional football

The time fully devoted to beach soccer helped him get back into the race of professional football. In 2019, he left Piratas FC and signed for professional club Deportivo Llacuabamba. That season, Valera was instrumental in the team’s promotion to Primera División (Peru’s top-flight football league). 

This season, an undisputed starter for the “Llacu”, Valera has begun the national competition on terrific form, scoring goals and providing assists for his club, which has opened the doors of the Peru national team, being called to the Blanquirroja for the first time in the same week. 

Although he could not enjoy any minutes in the 2-2 draw against Paraguay this past Thursday, he dreams with hitting the grass wearing the Peruvian national jersey in the next game, to be played in Lima this coming Wednesday 14 October and against none-other than Neymar’s Brazil. 

We will be watching and wishing him the best of luck from our home, the sand, which will always be his home, too. 

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