As we arrive to this year’s edition of Father’s Day, one can’t help but think of important Dad – Son/Daughter moments. Few Mexican in sports however, especially in Mexican Football, stand out like the day that Rafael Puente Jr., current Atlas head coach, won promotion with Lobos BUAP back in 2017.
After a bad start to the Apertura 2016 season in Liga de Ascenso, Lobos BUAP decided to change direction with their head coach. Miguel Fuentes was fired with five games to go in the season, making way for Puente Jr.’s first head coaching opportunity. He would close out the season with only one victory, per two draws and two losses, with the team ending up 15th in the league table. With many questions on the table at the start of the Clausura 2017, Puente quickly reverted the situation. Lobos BUAP would go on to turn their year around entirely, winning eight games (double from the previous season), and finishing 6th overall in the league table, only five points behind league leader Zacatecas.
In his first full season as a head coach, Rafa Puente Jr. had put his team through to the playoffs, and the fairy tale wouldn’t end there. After eliminating 3rd seed Alebrijes de Oaxaca in the Quarter-Finals, they would then go on to upset heavily favored 1st seed Mineros de Zacatecas in the Semifinals, putting Lobos BUAP through to the Final where they ultimately took down FC Juarez, who were the favorites. They closed out all three series on the road successfully, becoming that season’s “Cinderella Story.”
Becoming Clausura 2017 champions meant they earned a ticket to the Promotion Final against the Apertura 2016 champs, Dorados de Sinaloa. Puente’s squad once again found a way to come from behind on the road in the second leg yet again and earned the franchise’s first ever promotion to Liga MX because of it. It was a tremendously joyous moment for a young Rafa Puente Jr., who got his team to play so spectacularly to close out that football calendar year in such dramatic fashion.
As every member of the Lobos BUAP squad celebrated their accomplishment on the field, Puente Jr. rushed across the field to celebrate with his father, Rafael Puente, current ESPN analyst and ex-America and Mexican NT keeper, who witnessed the game live from the stands at Estadio Banorte in Culiacan. As they both celebrated together on the field, an ESPN camera caught up to the father-son duo, and the teary-eyed Lobos BUAP head coach had this to say to his proud Dad:
“In the end, I just have to say thanks to my Mom and Dad, because I am what I am thanks to them. I’ve always said it, you know? And of course, it’s something I’ve always said to him, and I take advantage of this space today to repeat it to him; I wouldn’t trade the legacy my Dad has given me in life to play even for Real Madrid, which was my biggest dream when I was little. Why? Because he shows me every day to be humble, work, build a successful family. I’ve always said that a truly successful man is he who is capable of building a solid family, and I have no doubt that mine is that way thanks to the two pillars, who are my Mom and my Dad.”
His uncontainable smiling father was asked to respond, where he went on to describe an “incomparable” feeling that night. Even when comparing it to his debut in Mexican Football some decades ago, slipping on the green Mexican NT jersey, and even after having been recognized as the best keeper in the league for a couple of seasons, nothing compared to the happiness his son had given him that night with his accomplishment. He closed the interview by directing a few words to his son: “You know what son? You’re an ace.”
A clearly emotional and touching moment between a father and son on live TV which you don’t see very often in sports. These are the reasons why we ultimately watch sports. Apart from the winning and celebrating your team’s accomplishments when you’re lucky enough to see them, it’s moments and stories like these that make it all so worthwhile.