In South America, football is life. I’m not talking about that peculiarly American version of the game with runs, passes and tackles. I’m talking about the world’s game – soccer, as it’s called in the U.S. Footballers are gods in this part of the world. LAPT players were given an object lesson in that regard at LAPT6 Brazil when Ronaldo, one of history’s best strikers, stopped by to sling the cards around. His presence in the room was magnetic.
Ronaldo isn’t here at LAPT6 Colombia, but that doesn’t mean we’re short of footballers. Today Juan Pablo Angel, of the Atlético Nacional club in Medellin, is seated at the feature table, which is being streamed by TVPokerPro.
Atlético Nacional is the famous football club in this part of the world. Historically it has been the Manchester United of Colombia – one of the strongest and most consistent clubs in the country. Nacional produced scorpion-kicking keeper Rene Higuita and, perhaps most famously, Andrés Escobar, the Colombian national team defender whose own-goal in the 1994 World Cup resulted in a loss to the underdog U.S. side and Escobar’s eventual murder.
Angel started his career right around that time. He played with Nacional for five seasons in the 1990s before eventually signing with Aston Villa in the English Premier League. His career took him to the New York Red Bulls of the MLS in 2007, where he met and befriended fellow teammate Thierry Henry, a legendary French footballer. Angel returned to Nacional earlier this year.
Henry has remained with the Red Bulls and caused something of a stir on the MLS scene this week when he departed the U.S. for – you guessed it – Medellin to train with Nacional and his friend Angel. But it seems that not every day is devoted to training, as Angel clearly has marked off today, at the least, as a day for poker.
Henry accompanied Angel to the casino this morning but opted not to play in the tournament. Angel, on the other hand, has his poker face on. At last check Angel had taken his starting stack of about 15,000 up to 18,000. He seems as focused on his cards as anybody else in the field, from first-time qualifiers to LAPT regulars. His presence is only slightly less magnetic than Ronaldo’s was at LAPT6 Brazil.
The world knows how talented Angel is on the soccer pitch. Over the next few hours and possibly days it will find out if his poker talent can match.
That’s the beauty of this game. Nobody in today’s field would ever be able to meet Angel on the soccer pitch, but in poker’s battle of minds, anybody and everybody is fair game.
Dave Behr is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.
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