Hardworking Doorman Pursues Football Dream
By Fernando Alvarez
In the early hours of the morning, at 5:45, the alarm clock rings for Paco Fernández, a 44-year-old doorman from Buol, Valencia. He begins his day 14 hours before his regional category team’s training session, as they prepare to face Real Sociedad in the first round of the Cup. Paco starts his day by signing in at Celevant, a meat production and distribution plant in Torrent, where he works a nine-hour shift with two breaks. After finishing work at 4:00 p.m., he drives back to Buol, where he serves as a school coordinator and a goalkeeping coach. At 8:00 p.m., it’s time for him to put on his gloves and join his team for training. Despite the long and tiring day, Paco remains dedicated to his football dreams.
“I arrive home around a quarter to eleven, it feels like hours,” says Paco. “The journey back seems never-ending. Sometimes you leave work feeling extremely hungry. You come home, touch the bed, and before you know it, you’re already snoring,” jokes the doorman from Buol. However, this doesn’t stop him from imagining a remarkable achievement against Real Sociedad. “You always have to dream. ‘What if we pull off a major upset?’ It would be incredible, but it’s important to stay grounded,” he adds. Despite the upcoming match falling on the All Saints’ Day holiday, Paco doesn’t need to request a day off like he did for the previous trip to Ceuta. Regardless of the outcome on Wednesday, Paco’s alarm clock will ring again before 6:00 a.m.
“You always have to dream. ‘What if we pull off a major upset?’ It would be incredible, but it’s important to stay grounded.”
Paco started working in the meat industry three years ago after a previous job in a school cafeteria. “I used to have a comfortable life. I earned good money from football, allowing me the luxury of not working. But as the years went by and I dropped down a category, I felt the difference,” he explains. The critical turning point came with the pandemic. “In addition to playing, I started my journey as a goalkeeper coach at a technical school. I was trying to find my way. However, when sports suddenly came to a halt, I stopped earning money. That’s when I was forced to look for something to secure my future,” Paco reveals.
From Riding Motorcycles with Vicente Rodríguez to Levante Training
Having been raised in the Valencian neighborhood of Marchalenes, Paco joined Levante as a cadet and had the opportunity to train with Vicente Rodríguez. “We both made it to the first team together, and when I passed by Benicalap, I used to pick him up on my scooter to go train at the stadium. Until they banned us from riding motorcycles,” he recalls with a mischievous smile.
During the pandemic, sports came to a halt, I stopped earning money, and I was forced to look for something to secure my future.
Working at Celevant means entering cutting, packaging, and processing rooms where strict hygiene measures are followed. Paco and his colleagues disinfect their soles, wear protective gear from head to toe, including gloves and masks. The rooms are kept at a temperature between two and three degrees Celsius. “I’ve had knee surgery, and the cold affects it. When you enter the freezer, you feel a tingling sensation in your hands that can be painful,” explains the Buol goalkeeper.
I’ve had knee surgery, and the cold affects it. When you enter the freezer, you feel a tingling sensation in your hands that can be painful.
Shortly after starting his job, Paco faced some setbacks related to his hands. “Using a knife, we only cut the tail, but it requires a lot of force for an extended period, which caused tendon overload problems for me. To cut with a saw, I wear wristbands to reduce the effort,” he explains.
Proud of the Nickname ‘Chinese’
Paco takes pride in his nickname, which he has incorporated into his social media profiles. “They gave me that nickname because of my sister. She was called ‘Chinese,’ and I became known as ‘Chinese.’ Unfortunately, she passed away suddenly when my daughter was about to be born. Angela, who is now fifteen, finds it amusing to have such a unique middle name,” he shares. Paco’s eldest son, Danny, who is nineteen, also plays soccer. “This summer, he joined us for preseason training, and we even faced each other in a friendly match,” Paco proudly reveals. “Just four days ago, you were holding his hand on the way to football practice, or he would yell ‘dad’ when he saw you on TV. Playing against him, even in a friendly match, made me incredibly proud.”
Paco tells his son stories about playing with Mijatovic and Gabi Amato, as well as his encounters with players like Fali and Jaume Domènech, who are still playing in the top division. He doesn’t need to remind his son that football has given him unforgettable moments that he wouldn’t trade for anything. Ten years ago, Paco came close to being promoted to the Second Division with Hurricane Valencia after his heroic performance in a penalty shootout during a crucial match.
Another Remarkable Farewell, in a Grand Fashion
In 2020, Paco already thought he was bidding farewell to his football career when he played against Elche in the first round of the Cup. “I thought that would be my farewell. And now, three years later, here I am. I don’t have the same agility or strength, and I don’t recover