Lens’ defender Facundo Medina: “Football gave me a lot, football saved me.”

There are plenty of players you could name to credit for Lens’ recent success, but the one that may be the highest on the list is Facundo Medina. With his team near the top of the table and life going well for the 23-year-old Argentinian defender, he recently decided to sign a 3-year contract extension with the Ligue 1 club. In an interview with L’Équipe, he sat down to talk about his journey to where he is now. 

“I had a crazy childhood. It was a little difficult but I always tried to bring out the positive things and I always felt the support of my family. I didn’t understand what the world was. And as we grow, we look and we begin to ask ourselves questions. Why do I have to go through this destitution? Why do I have to be hungry? Why do I have to go out to work twenty-four hours a day to have food, not even to have things I want? My family was able to protect me, we fought, we fought. And one day, when you finally have a bit more, it allows you to place a lot more value on simple things, like a dish of food. If today you offer me an alfajor (round cookie often filled with milk jam), I am the happiest man in the world. Because I measure your effort, your time. People might say, “It’s a simple alfajor,” but that says something about the person you are.”

The young defender spoke about how he and his mother still discuss memories of their past in Argentina. He explained how those moments and hardships gave him an appreciation for what he has now. He expressed a deep understanding of gratitude that he learned from his mother and growing up in an environment that gave bad examples to stay away from.

He explained, “Life is made up of times when you have to be aware of what you really want, both for yourself and for those you love. In my case, my mother, who was a fighter, a warrior, who always gave everything, left aside everything she loved to do to give me the best. It is something to be enjoyed. I didn’t want to fall into drugs, I didn’t want to get lost in the night, I knew very well where I had to concentrate my efforts, my energy, my youth: with the ball.”

The Argentinian international, like many footballers from humble beginnings, worked a job before making it in football. “It is, basically, recycling garbage, to put it simply. We collected them and resold them for something to eat. I was very young, between 7 and 10 years old. We were walking in the streets of the capital, in an area of a few blocks. The building guards knew us, the security guys too. We left the house at 4:30 to 5 p.m. and returned around midnight. And the next morning, we got up early to recycle on the patio of the house and go for lunch to sell and have something to eat. And so on, every day. It was hard, there are people who continue to do it… Life is a constant struggle. Sometimes, moreover, people don’t say this kind of thing because they are a little ashamed. I say it with total simplicity.”

Football was much more than a financial opportunity for the Lens defender. He spoke about what he learned at his historic academy, River Plate, stating, “River knew how to offer me refuge. They saw things in me that I had never imagined. I was a bit crazy then, I had been hanging out in the street a lot. Sometimes the street is good but at the same time dangerous because there are temptations… I was very smart in the sense that I never got into bad things. In River, I began to experience what it was like simply to live in the centre of town. We had four meals a day, breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner… At home, I just made dinner… Nothing more, maybe tea in the morning… We lived and we adapted. It was at River that I started to be a little more orderly, to take care of my things, to clean up, to try to communicate with people I didn’t know… I learned to free myself, and not to be a shy person who can’t hold a conversation. And I was able to devote myself 100% to football.”

It becomes simple to see why certain players play and work the way they do. Many of them like Medina have a bigger motivation than football to keep them going. That motivation was apparent to him when he returned home from the academy, “When I came home on weekends to spend time with my family, I saw reality. What a difference! We begin to say to ourselves, but why do I have to go through this? Why can’t I have this, why couldn’t I eat something? Why can’t I give you a gift… I fought, fought, fought. I worked, worked. My relatives accompanied me. I made mistakes, like everyone else. And I devoted myself to football and thanks to God, football gave me a lot, and football saved me.”

For Lens, he has now made 68 appearances for the Ligue 1 club and established himself as one of the league’s best defenders. Already making international appearances at only 23-years-old the sky is the limit for the player who already came a very long way.

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