Fifa World Cup Special Report: Enner Valencia, from being chased by police to posing a threat to Qatar

The 33-year-old striker is no stranger to the World Cup, having scored all three goals in Ecuador’s campaign at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil



AFP
AFP
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sat 19 Nov 2022, 8:42 PM

Tim Vickery, the eminent British football writer, and broadcaster who has been the voice of South American football on the BBC and ESPN for the past two decades, never misses a chance to highlight the extreme challenges teams face in the continent’s qualifying rounds for the World Cup.

It’s a bare-knuckle fight for the four direct qualifying berths between 10 teams on a home and away basis in some of the toughest conditions where some matches are played at an altitude of over 2,500 metres.

With Brazil and Argentina grabbing two of the four direct places in almost every World Cup, Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia and Venezuela face a nerve-racking battle for the remaining two places as well as the fifth place to get into an inter-continental playoff.

It’s from that gruelling qualifying campaign that Ecuador came away unscathed, with a fourth-place finish, earning the right to kick off the 2022 World Cup with the opening game against hosts Qatar.

When the game starts on Sunday at Al Bayt Stadium, Ecuadorians in the stands will be hugely outnumbered by the Qatari fans who had been waiting for this moment for the past 12 years.

But Enner Valencia, the veteran Ecuador striker, has also been waiting for this moment for a long time.

His reasons have been entirely different, though.

Valencia’s wait has been for redemption.

The 33-year-old striker is no stranger to the World Cup, having scored all three goals in Ecuador’s campaign at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

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But more than his goals at club level as well as at the international level (he is Ecuador’s all-time leading scorer with 35 goals from 74 matches), it’s the personal life of Valencia that grabbed headlines in his home country.

Born to a poor family, Valencia saw poverty from a young age, helping his parents feed his siblings by doing odd jobs.

But his football talent eventually led him to the upper echelons of the game with stints at European clubs earning him money and fame in Ecuador.

Valencia, though, could not find the perfect balance in his personal life which even led to a bizarre incident during a qualifying game for the 2018 World Cup.

The striker was chased by police after being substituted during Ecuador’s game against Chile after his ex-partner leveled legal charges against him for failing to provide her with child maintenance money.

Valencia settled the legal cases, but his form suffered and he was labelled a flop in the British media for his poor returns with West Ham and Everton in the Premier League.

In 2020, Valencia moved to Turkey to play for Fenerbahçe and it was there that he found a second wind.

Valencia will enter the battlefield against Qatar on Sunday on the back of 13 league goals this season.

One of the three surviving members of the 2014 World Cup, Valencia is now the talisman in a young Ecuadorian team that stands between hosts Qatar and their dream start in the World Cup.

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