Millions of children worldwide dream of playing their favorite sport for a professional team, but only few prevail. Soccer, the most popular sport in the world, is a language of its own and no matter where you are on Earth, if you know someone that has passion for playing the game, they’ll tell you that playing professionally is or was a goal of theirs.
How many people try to break into the professional sports world but can’t? How many players are given the opportunity to go on trial with a professional team? Although the numbers are endless, there's a teenager who’s been called upon – Miguel Bustos.
Born in Colombia on May 7, 2000, Miguel Angel Bustos, grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Medellin. His mother, Catalina, immigrated to the United States in 2007 leaving Bustos with his father and grandmother.
“In Colombia I played soccer every day,” Bustos said. “After school, recess, and weekends. We had to play with whatever we found. Cans, water bottles, anything.”
A year and a half after she left, Bustos’ mother decided to bring him to the ‘land of the free’ so they could be together once again and live a better life in the United States.
Catalina said once Bustos arrived in Queens, New York, they were victims of racism at the school he enrolled at. Teachers would often tell her that her son was better off back in Colombia, Catalina said. After some changes were made to the school systems in the area, Bustos was receiving more help with his English and doing well in his classes.
“When it came to gym,” Catalina said, “teachers were impressed by how good Miguel was with a ball at his feet. They would often say that he’s going to grow up and be a soccer player.”
Miguel Bustos soon signed up for a soccer team in Flushing, New York.
“He began to show his abilities and was simply better than everyone else on that team,” Catalina said. “Throughout Miguel’s life, we knocked on many doors and have been to many tryouts.
In 2016, Miguel Bustos went to a tryout with 500 attendees. According to Bustos, out of those 500, the coaches wanted to pick the best one-team-roster to take to Italy to play in games and tournaments.
“After going to Europe for the first time,” Bustos said, “nothing happened, but I felt like I did really well. I told myself that if I keep working hard, I could make it as a professional.”
With the hopes of getting noticed out there, Bustos said he returned to Italy again in 2017 for a tournament.
“I was playing against 20-year-olds at the time,” Bustos said. “After coming back, again, nothing happened. I kept training and decided to try out for the New York Red Bulls.”
Throughout his time at the New York Red Bulls, Bustos said they did not like his style of play.
“Some coaches don’t like the way I perform due to my style of play,” Bustos said. “I’ve always wanted the ball at my feet and that’s something coaches I've had here never liked. They like to play using long balls and I wasn’t that type of player.”
After leaving the New York Red Bulls, Miguel Bustos said he had doubts about his career.
“I would say to myself that I’ll never make it as a professional in the MLS,” Bustos said, “because in order to make it, you need to go to a Division I college and have good grades. At the time, I didn’t care for that. I cared more about making it in Europe, where my style of play is noticed.”
With the help of his mother, Catalina, Miguel Angel Bustos, decided to go to Spain in 2018 and give soccer another try. According to Catalina, tough times were yet to come.
“I was the one who told him about the tryout in Spain,” Catalina said. “They were asking for a lot of money, but I was willing to do everything for Miguel. He went for a month to a team that provided housing and food as long as I paid the amount they were asking for.”
Once in Spain, Bustos and his mother spoke every day. Catalina said her son would talk about how well he was doing on the field but how bad he was doing off the field.
“Miguel Angel would often call me and tell me he hasn’t eaten,” Catalina said. “I felt frustrated, sad, and robbed because the money I was sending was so he could eat and be comfortable.”
“It was tough, but I was still trying to do my thing. It wasn’t easy knowing that my mom was getting robbed,” Bustos said.
After coming back to the U.S., the same team from Spain was calling so Bustos could go back. The young Colombian talent and his family decided to decline.
“I didn’t want to try anymore,” Bustos said. “People weren’t calling, and time was going by, so I told my mom I wanted to stay and play in men’s leagues found around the area. They don’t care about you there. A lot of people get injured, but I just wanted to play.”
In mid 2018, Catalina saw a posting for SoccerViza’s three day Professional Scouting Tour being held in Danbury, Connecticut. She immediately told Bustos about the opportunity.
“I thought it was a joke,” Bustos said. “But once I was there, I noticed the difference between SoccerViza and other companies that I've dealt with. At SoccerViza, the coaches were interested in me from the start. At other combine events, the coaches don’t even pay attention to you.”
Everything the coaches said sounded repetitive from other experiences, said Bustos. However, his life was about to change for the better.
“When I found out about Vitoria F.C.’s interest, I prayed to God and asked him to be on my side for one more day,” Bustos said.
On the third day, Bustos played with something to prove. He rapidly gained attention from the coaches and meeting Giuseppe “Joe” Funicello, director and CEO of SoccerViza, has also had a big influence on his success thus far.
“Joe was different from any other coach and agent I have ever met,” Bustos said. “He’s very real with you. If you have to improve, he will tell you. If you’re not a good player, he will also tell you. Joe mentioned his struggle with soccer and how he’s been in situations like mine where he felt robbed. He told me he wasn’t going to do that to me.”
A week after SoccerViza’s Professional Scouting Tour event, Bustos was offered a trial with Vitoria F.C. in Portugal. The team located in Setúbal, plays in the first division in Portugal called the ‘Primeira Liga’ or ‘Liga NOS’. They play against ‘The Big Three’ in Portugal: Benfica, Sporting CP, and Porto.
“After going to Vitoria’s stadium and seeing everything for myself, I knew this was for real,” Bustos said. “SoccerViza helped me get there and they have changed my life.”
Miguel Angel Bustos has signed for Vitoria F.C. on a two year contract.