Dedication, new cultures, and London life in the Colombian community
Goal Click teamed up with adidas to tell stories of real Londoners connected to The Last Stand, a street football tournament created to unite communities and break down social, cultural and religious barriers through sport. Esteban Salgado is an aspiring professional footballer from Elephant & Castle in London, and plays in The Last Stand tournament. His photos for Goal Click revealed his commitment and dedication to training, and life as part of the Colombian community in London - during the England v Colombia World Cup clash.
Who is in the photos and where are they taken?
The street with the flags is in Elephant & Castle, which has a big Colombian community. I went here after training with my two friends. They grew up here with an African background. They like South American culture, but had never experienced South American food, so we went to a Colombian restaurant after training. All those little flags are because of the World Cup and decorating the street. As you can see it was very windy that day! It shows all the countries coming together and everyone coming together to watch the games. The place was packed.
I wanted to show the atmosphere for the England Colombia game. It was in a theatre in Camberwell and completely full. I’ve never seen that many Colombians watching football…in London! It was very impressive. There were only three England fans in the whole theatre. The guy hosting the event asked where the England fans were and only three people shouted! I think the guy in the white vest is English. What is he thinking? “Where am I?” Everyone is so loud, screaming, dancing, and then he’s trying to watch the game!
The couple holding the flag are my friends. He is Colombian. His girlfriend is British and wanted England to win. You can see the frustration on his face because Colombia has lost. And she has just said, “I told you England would win”. We were so close to making it, that face is real disappointment.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
I was born in Colombia, when I was 4 I moved to Spain, so I grew up in Spain. All my friends and people close to me I met through football. When I came to England it was harder because of the language. I couldn’t speak any English, nothing, zero. All my friends and people I met in London were through playing football. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t speak the language or where you come from. There’s something about football that brings people together. When I have a kickabout with my friends, no one asks what you do for a living or your income; they just want you to play. I wanted to take pictures related to different people with different backgrounds and professions.
Why is football so important for the Colombian and South American community in London?
Football is part of our culture. In Colombia when the national team is playing, everything literally stops. It’s such a big thing for us. In the stadium for England Colombia you saw everyone was wearing yellow, screaming, it was an away game for England. In England we are a minority so it’s always nice to see that many Colombians together, it makes you feel at home.
What is your involvement with the Last Stand?
One of my friends invited me to play at the Last Stand event. The first one reminded me of FIFA Street the game. The football is very physical, but there are a lot of technical players. There are a lot of people watching very close to the pitch. It makes the game very competitive. There are people from lots of players from different backgrounds: African backgrounds, Portuguese, Colombian guys. With the music and the dancing, it is a great experience.
How are you giving yourself the best possible chance to make it as a professional?
The picture of me was taken in a Camberwell gym by my personal trainer. Right now I am focusing on my football career. Now is the time to go on trials, it is pre-season. I am trying to be in the best physical shape possible. When I train and go to the gym, I don’t like people taking pictures or recording video. I leave my phone at home. I don’t take my phone when I am training. I give my 100%. The photo shows me working out, trying my best, and trying to get in shape. I have never invested in a personal trainer before, because I know what I’m doing and I’m very committed. However with someone pushing you through your workout, I feel like I’m getting even better results.
The photo with the ball and trainers represents my training routine. Running, training, fitness. Five of us were doing 45 minutes cardio, box-to-box, with lots of running. It was around 1pm, it was very hot.
What has been your football journey?
I used to play for fun from 5 to 15, I didn’t see football as a profession at that time. But it got to a point where I wanted to become professional, as I think I have the talent. I used to play for Malaga and came to London when I was 19. That was a key moment in my football career, because that’s when people make it to the first team in professional football. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem to get into a good team in London because there are so many compared to Malaga. However I didn’t know anyone and couldn’t speak the language. It is hard to get into even a non-league team when you don’t know anyone. So I really struggled from 19 until 22 to get to a good level.
I went to a tryout for Crystal Palace, I had never heard of Crystal Palace at that time! When I got there I saw all these professional players driving big cars, amazing facilities. I was shocked. It has got to a point in my career where I have issues with my age. At 22, 23, 24, they expect a professional background. Now in my career I am trying my best to still make it to a professional level. I want a good season in non-league football and then make the jump to professional football.
What is the future for young footballers in London?
There is so much talent in London, though the distances to travel to play outside London are a problem. There are so many scouts and teams; it’s easier to make it in London than Spain. If you are from Malaga in Spain, there is just one team, Malaga. The other teams are at such a lower level, Malaga win every single game at Academy level by 5 or 6 goals. There is no competition. In London there is so much competition. If you want to become a professional footballer from a young age, it is possible. There are lots of facilities and parks for training in London.