Athens Review, Athens, Texas

February 8, 2013

HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER: Fight of his life

Deadly disease hasn’t stopped Athens’ De La Fuente

Joe Elerson
The Athens Review

Athens — The power of belief and determination has brought an Athens Hornets soccer player back from the battle of his life.

Senior Gerardo de la Fuente was diagnosed with aplastic/anemia in November of last year and now has his first varsity goal.

“It means a lot,” de la Fuente said. “After I scored that goal I just looked up and thanked God because I never thought that I would come back here and start playing again. Even though it has been pretty hard I am still proud of myself and thankful for all of the people that have supported me.”

Athens head soccer coach Jonathan Ryal said when he found out about Raul, it came as a surprise to him

“He kind of disappeared on me and I think it was at Meet the Hornets and I texted him and asked if he was going to be there,” Ryal said. “He said he was at the hospital and then I didn’t see him for like three weeks.”

De La Fuente said the journey back to the soccer pitch has been a fight but it definitely paid off last Friday.

“It has been a year and seven months since I have been playing. After scoring that goal, anything is possible through Christ,” de la Fuente said. “This season has been pretty good and I am getting back in shape. I have been working hard everyday to get better and be here for my team.”

With the goal against Crandall, Ryal said at first he didn’t notice it was Gerardo who scored the goal.

“It was nice to see because actually when he scored everybody went nuts and I didn’t realize it was him,” Ryal said. “His brother Raul has been wearing his number while he has been out. It was pretty good and Gerardo had a big smile on his face when he came off the field. I think this may have been his first varsity goal as a Hornet.”

Gerardo work ethic continues to get stronger as he works to get his stamina back following his diagnosis.

Coach Ryal said he has to take a different approach to the amount of playing time he receives throughout the remainder of the season.

“He will not give us 80 minutes a game but he will definitely be used as a filler for us,” Ryal said. “I imagine he could play 25 minutes max for us and could play anywhere on the field.”

Ryal said relying on the power of positive thinking has helped his teammate support him as a player.

“It has definitely been inspirational and it shows them how to have patience and the power of belief,” Ryal said. “Having that belief shows teammates that you can go where you want to go.”

Gerardo said getting back in shape is his major goal for the remainder of the year.

“First of all, I want to get back into shape and help my teammates out,” de la Fuente said. “I want to get back better to how I was. I think Jesus did this for a reason and he wants me to become a better and stronger athlete.”