We caught up with Rayo OKC midfielder, Sebastian Velasquez as he reveals how God has taught him powerfully that there is more to life than merely Soccer.
So Sebastian you moved to the States at a young age, do you think you got a better soccer education compared to the one you would have got back in Colombia?
It’s a very interesting question because the player I am today is because of everything I learned here in the United States. I believe maybe I could of become a professional much younger in Colombia and that could of definitely helped me improve as a professional on and off the field, as far as discipline, eat habits, tactics, and the fundamentals of systems. It definitely would have given me much more experience at a younger age but it’s definitely tougher to make it in Colombia. The opportunities are minimum and its about who you know.
Could you tell us how you came to know God for yourself?
I came to learn about God when I was much younger. I was raised Catholic but it was the type of relationship where I didn’t really know what I was praying about and who I was praying to. My mother would always make me go to church and I honestly had no idea what was going on. Then my mother went back to Colombia and I had to start making decisions for myself. Some of my decisions were good but some were also bad, and those were the ones that took me to a dark place.
I felt empty inside and I wanted to feel whole again. I wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel and I began by going to a different church. I learned about our God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Since then, I’ve wanted to learn more and more about my Father and live through him on this earth with the gift he’s given me as a soccer player.
You got your big MLS break when you were drafted by Real Salt Lake in 2012, did it come as a surprise to you?
It was a huge surprise. It was a dream come true that made me suffer so much to actually live it. I’d wanted to be a professional since I was born. I did many tryouts at a younger age overseas with Barcelona academy and Espanyol and it was the life I wanted for myself. Things didn’t work out on the tryouts, I had dropped out of school, and the doors were closing up really quick. I went to a Junior College and things went well, until the league found out about my tryouts and I had to leave school for losing my eligibility.
Coach Noonan, from Clemson University, reached out to Jason Kreis at Real Salt Lake and they gave me a tryout. I had a flight already booked to move back to Colombia because I had nothing here. One month later, I’m drafted by Real Salt Lake, while i’m with my family in Colombia. I cant describe that moment. I just know I started crying of joy while my family jumped up and down celebrating. It was the biggest relief ever.
What has God taught you about yourself through your soccer career?
God has taught me so many things through my career. He taught me that soccer is temporary but He is eternal. He taught me that He gave me my ability to play for Him on the field, that he blessed me with this amazing talent but He can take it away at any point. He taught me that dreams do exist and that when you believe in Him and don’t lose faith, that you can achieve whatever you want.
He taught me that I can be a follower of Him on the field, and let my futbol and story help others lead to His path. He taught me that even though soccer comes with many extra luxuries, that we should stay humble and focus on what’s important, and that’s taking care of our temple (our body) and to play for Him. Most importantly, He taught me that I have to put Him before soccer and not soccer before Him.
What do you like to do away from the game in your spare time?
I like to hang out with my friends and just joke around and laugh. I also love to cook, workout, and listen to music. But the best is when I FaceTime my son Armani and also speak to my mom who is in Colombia.
Who would you say is the best player that you have ever played against and why?
The best player I have played against is Sebastian Giovinco. He has an incredible center of gravity that allows him to dribble past players and just be creative in any way he likes. His vision of the field, his passing through defensive lines is amazing to watch and his ability to strike the ball. He can hit it on the dribble, on a set piece, with both feet and he is just as short as me.
How did you enjoy your time with New York City, training and playing alongside their star players like Pirlo, Villa and Lampard?
I loved New York City. It was an amazing experience. New York City FC eliminates all the excuses to be successful as a soccer player. They take pride in their city and their players and they definitely take professionalism to another level. As far as Lampard, Villa, and Pirlo go I’m still star-struck. I cant believe I had the blessing to have played with them. They are definitely the best players I ever played with. What amazed me more about them, is that not only were they top-class players, they were even better people.
What convinced you to join NASL side Rayo OKC, was it an easy decision?
I wanted to go somewhere I could express myself as the player I grew up to be. To be honest, I loved playing in the MLS but I felt like I had to play other positions that I wasn’t accustomed to because they had stars playing in my positions, attacking mid or forward. I had Lampard as a attacking mid at NYCFC, and Javier Morales at Real Salt Lake. So obviously coach would find a way to have me on the pitch, either out wide (7) or as an midfield (8) but I always felt like I could give more in my own position.
I miss the MLS and I hope to go back someday as a new professional at my top level. At Rayo OKC, I was offered to be a starter as an attacking-mid and I would be able to roam wherever I wanted to get the ball and be a play-maker. Also behind the offer, it was put in my contract that I would have a chance to train with Rayo Vallecano in Spain and that’s my main goal, to play futbol in Spain. It would be a dream come to play in Spain, and I feel like I have the technical ability to play there.
How do you use the platform that God has given you to show Jesus’ love to people, is it just about setting a good example to others?
That’s simple, since I met God, I’ve learned to love myself. Since I’ve learned to love myself, its easier to love my neighbors and that’s all we need to show God’s love. Love your neighbors, as you love yourself.
How has God seen you through in the tough times of your career?
God lifted me through my toughest points of my career, two in particular. The first is the penalty kick I missed in 2013, to win the MLS Cup. I didn’t realize how bad this affected me and my drinking problem. I tried drinking the memory away of that penalty kick but it just kept sinking me into a deeper hold. Second, as I mentioned, I had an alcoholic addiction that was destroying my life, my career, and my family. I had to go through rehab and I desperately need him, not for my career but for my life. He gave me a light to see at the end of that sinking hole and He dragged me out. Last month, I accomplished my first year as a sober man which is amazing to me and it’s all because I’ve kept myself close to Him; I have faith I will make it to two years and so on.
Are there any players in the world game that you base your own game on, any role models?
Honestly, its funny to say but I love saying it, Lionel Messi. He is short, he is lefted-footed like me, he dribbles in and out of players when marked too close, and always combines if you give him space, and he has the vision of a play-maker. He obviously does it at World-Class level, but I love to watch all his videos and learn from him. A lot of teammates, always joke around and call me the Colombian Messi.