Home Sports Jaime Santos, the ‘Guaje’ who triumphs in the heights of Bolivia

Jaime Santos, the ‘Guaje’ who triumphs in the heights of Bolivia

Jaime Santos, the ‘Guaje’ who triumphs in the heights of Bolivia

He was trained in the quarry of Sporting, he learned in Mirandés, he was cured of fright in India and now he plays his best football in Bolivia. When his representative spoke to him about signing for Palmaflor, Jaime Santos (Oviedo, 1995) was clear: ‘Don’t even talk to me about that issue.’ But a journalist convinced him and he has already scored eight goals for the Cochabamba club, where not even altitude sickness has been able to stop him. “I don’t want to do my whole career abroad. If I tell my girlfriend that I want to stay, it kills me,” discovers a player who reveals that he has pending accounts with Spain: “I went to Mirandés believing that he was the king of the world, but I came across a professional team and realized that soccer was not how I had learned. “

Was it expected to play in Bolivia? Has South America surprised you?

If five years ago they told me that I was going to play in Bolivia … I would never have imagined it, but the country surprised me and my city, Cochabamba, surprised me. It is similar to Europe and I do not lack anything. I have a good house, I am comfortable, the people are very nice … I expected Bolivia to be like India, which is absolute chaos. There are cities that I like less like Potosí or Oruro, I would have had a bad time there. But I was lucky and I am happy in Cochabamba.

Do they treat you well?

Here people say good morning, thank you, ask how you are, how are you feeling … It seems to me something basic and fundamental and it is something that is being lost in Spain. Here is something that strikes me. You run into someone in the elevator and no silence. He asks you how you are. They are good people and they make me feel very comfortable.

He plays for Palmaflor, which is a very young club.

Yes, it was founded five or six years ago. They are based in Quillacollo and it is a very humble club. They have no experience, but it is seen that it is going to more because they are ambitious. They are already demanding that we get into Libertadores and win the league when there are budgets that are five times higher … They are like that.

Do you have a lot of hobbies?

Palmaflor does not have a hobby. In fact, they hire a music band so that there is atmosphere in the stadium, but very few people go. Cochabamba is a city whose main team is Wilstermann. The city has a million-odd inhabitants and they are all from Wilstermann. Who is going to become a fan of Palmaflor now? Unless you have an amazing season and people get hooked … It’s hard.

In Bolivia they are not very patient …

To tell you that there are 16 teams in the league and more than a dozen have already changed coaches this season … They want super fast results, they don’t give time for work and they are very demanding. They want victory or victory. If there is no victory, they throw you out. There are coaches who have stipulated by contract that if they lose two or three games in a row they will go out. It’s a great thing, but I’ve been lucky with Palmaflor.

Is it difficult to play in Bolivia?

Much. Sadiku had a good season at Malaga, he came here and couldn’t move. It’s not easy more than anything because you go to Santa Cruz, which is on the plain, and you play at 15 in the afternoon with 40 degrees. The following week you are going to play in Potosí, at 4,200 meters high and cold to die for. You have to adjust to totally different conditions every week. In that sense, luckily, I have not had any problems.

Didn’t you suffer from altitude sickness?

In Cochabamba we are 2,800 meters high. When I arrived, I had not played for many months and, as soon as I arrived, the coach put me running. The first week was hard, I had a hard time. And the first time you go to play at height you get scared. The coaching staff and the teammates themselves tell you: ‘Is it your first time at altitude?’ And they give you pills. They gave me viagra for a game. I said, ‘Give me, give me. In order to function playing … He did nothing to me. Do you know what happens? When you measure up, play and leave, it doesn’t show much. You don’t acclimatize to the altitude and it doesn’t show much. But if you stay two or three days your head starts to hurt. That did happen to me. It seems that you are dizzy … Our city is perfect because you are in the middle of everything.

Does the ball also behave differently?

Totally. I usually take the ball from set pieces and I want to put a rope inside it. When I hit it like this at the height, instead of doing the effect that I want, it does the opposite. It goes straight. A game changer, if he bounces you, he eats you, a soft shot turns into a hard shot … At height, the ball flies. How do you train that if you live at 2,000 meters and play 4,800 meters on Sunday? He does not train. They give you advice: ‘Give it softer, the ball is going to fly a lot’. But I sometimes take her off the field. It’s hard. If you get the technique, you have an advantage. That is why the teams of the height in recent years are the dominant ones. They move the ball fast, you don’t see it and they become very strong at home. That’s why Bolívar, The Strongest … Those who have won lately are from La Paz. Those on the plain are losing strength.

Did you expect to score so many goals?

It is not usual for me to be among the top scorers. Sometimes there is talk of streaks, and it is reality. When the goal is closed to me I do not put in three months. I think: ‘What is wrong with me?’ Then you hit him with your ankle and he goes inside. There are inexplicable things, but what you have to do is take advantage of the moments and continue there. And the companions know it. You hear: ‘Give it to Jaime because he is going to put it in’. They are things that you hear and believe it. You think you are going to put it in and you put it in.

Looking for his name on social media after games to see what the fans are saying?

No. I don’t have Twitter or Facebook. And since I’ve been in India, I don’t look at messages from strangers on Instagram because I get 15 or 20 a day simply by saying: ‘Good morning’. In general, I am a mess with the phone. What I do like is seeing my matches repeated. I’m pretty crazy with myself. I correct myself. But no, I do not read criticism or praise. You believe yourself on the crest of the wave and if you miss a penalty they will say that you are terrible. When you are away from home what you have to have is mental strength. Help the team and that’s it. Whoever is talking. In the end, the one who speaks the most is the one who knows the least.

Now they are three points away from the Copa Libertadores, do you see it feasible?

I’ve always had a lot of confidence in the team, but I didn’t expect to be in this position. There are teams with a budget five times greater than ours and we compete with them as equals. I think the board was right with signings. He gathered a group hungry and, with watching a game, you can see it. Nobody has beaten us at home.

Do people recognize you when you go out in Cochabamba?

It is true that they identify you quickly, but because they quickly recognize someone who is not Bolivian. They see me as young and foreign and they think I’m a footballer. And they are right. But they hardly know me for being a Palmaflor player. From time to time I stop a group of kids, but it is not usual.

You came from India and went to Bolivia, didn’t you want to stay in Spain for a while?

In fact, I had decided that I was going to play in Spain when Marcelino Elena – his representative – called me and asked me to play in Bolivia. My first reaction was: ‘No. Don’t even talk to me about it. ‘ He told me to think about it. He called me again, gave me more details … A determining factor was that there is an Asturian journalist who works here in Bolivia. He came home to tell me how all this is. It has bad things, but in the media, for example, it is a First Division with capital letters. He also told me the option of Bolivia serving as a springboard for me. Who knows where I’ll be next year, but I can get a better contract. At the moment things are going well for me, I’m making noise in the league. There is a lot of talk about Palmaflor and I think I was right with the choice. But I could have turned out like other Spaniards who have come here and don’t even play. You have to be lucky and I am having it for the moment.

Would you like to continue playing abroad?

I have my girlfriend in Spain and if I tell her that I want to stay here longer, she kills me. It cuts my neck. I have to tell you that my goal is to return, that it really is. My goal is to play in Spain again. I have a thorn stuck with soccer there. At certain key moments I was either unprepared or unlucky. I would like to go home, to succeed in my country, but at the moment it is not happening that way. At an economic level, more is earned here than in Spain, but not everything is that. I prioritize comfort, being close to my family, my people, my girlfriend … Things sound, rumors come out … You don’t want to see them, but you watch them and you make your movies. You think, ‘How cool would it be to end up playing there. But I would not like to do my entire career abroad.

Why do you have pending accounts with Spanish football?

I have a thorn in it because when I decided to leave Sporting I did not have the intelligence and maturity that I can have now, which is not much either, but more than at that time. I made the decision to leave because I needed a change and I went to Mirandés believing that I was the king of the world, but I got there and found a professional team, people with a journey. I realized that soccer is not how I had learned. He is much more serious, he takes care of everything much more … I ran into a team that was flying. I had to wait for my moment, but there was a player in my position who was doing well and I had to be a substitute. I learned a lot and came out as a better player, but the teams I aspired to did not call me. They called me teams that said: ‘I don’t want to play there.’ He came from playing for Mirandés and from an important quarry like Sporting. I didn’t want to go play for a lower-middle zone team that trained on artificial turf. The opportunity to go abroad came out and what happens, they lose track of you in Spain. The work you do abroad is not valued in Spain. I am aware that if I did return, it would have to be to a team below my pretensions. I left very early and it is difficult to return, but I am a better footballer than when I left. Sure.

Do you regret any decision you made?

I do not regret anything. I could make wrong decisions, but those wrong decisions have led to other good decisions. I value where I am and everything I have experienced. Soccer has allowed me to get to know cultures, meet people, get to know myself … Loneliness makes you more independent. I am a better footballer, but above all I am a better person.

How do you carry the distance?

It’s hard. For example, my girlfriend is studying an opposition and I don’t want to deconcentrate her, otherwise I would tell her to come here with me. Leaving family and friends is hard, but for now I get along well. Technology allows us to be closer, although there are difficult moments. Everybody has bad days. When you feel like giving your mother or father a kiss and you can’t, it becomes complicated. It’s tough, but I have mental strength. I never had a slump or thought about leaving.

Before Bolivia, he was in India. Did you like the experience?

I look back and miss some moments from my time in India. He was an idol for all East Bengal fans, which is like Real Madrid there. They looked at me and literally shook. He said: ‘If I’m nobody!’ But it is that I fell on my feet in the team. I came to play the Mohun Bagan-East Bengal, which is one of the oldest derbies in Asia, and that for me was a Recre-Albacete. He didn’t even know where he was. They told me it was a very important game and I said: ‘Well, imagine, let’s see what happens.’ And when I went out onto the field I found 75,000 spectators in the stands. The field was falling. It was crazy. We won and we ended up having a very good season. There was a lot of talk about me there.

What did you say to Marcelino when he suggested going to play in India?

Well, I don’t remember very well, but I’m sure the nicest thing I did was hang up the phone. I was 23 years old and had only left my house to go to Miranda. I said, ‘India? But, What are you telling me? Impossible. Discarded. I’m never going to end there. ‘ But there was another call, he explained the conditions to me, that the coach was Alejandro Menéndez …. It was four or five months and the club was serious. He paid daily and there were other Spaniards. I said, ‘Come on, I’m in the mood for an adventure.’ The first months I was delighted and I ended up renovating for two years, but there were problems and, since I was the captain, I was the one who had to put on my chest and that wore me out a lot. I did not get to catch a mania, but the last year in India was very hard. So after being in Calcutta everything seems fine to me. Compared to India, Cochabamba is Miami.

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