Emiliano Tade is not someone who believes in chance. As far he is concerned, life is governed by what he calls a “universal language”, which dictates that unexpected little events occur for a reason.
Proof of that, in his eyes, came in August, when he happened to bump into San Lorenzo coach Edgardo Bauza on a short visit to Rome. As the Auckland City front man explained, it was more, much more, than a chance encounter.
“I was with my sisters at the time and I swear to you I told them it was a sign,” the bright-eyed Argentinian revealed to FIFA.com. “I hadn’t bumped into a single famous face in two years in Buenos Aires and then I go and see El Patón in Rome.”
As it turns out, the chance meeting was a “sign” that Tade and Bauza would come face to face again a few months later in the semi-finals of FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2014, where the semi-professional New Zealanders will take on San Lorenzo, having becoming the first ever Oceania side ever to win through to the last four of the competition.
The encounter came about when Tade went backpacking with his sisters, Agustina and Luciana, around Europe.
Tade, who likes to travel and whose wanderlust led to him joining Auckland back in 2008, had not planned on being in the Italian capital that day, but that is where the three of them wound up. They had only been walking down the Via Veneto for 20 minutes when he spotted Bauza and San Lorenzo vice-president Marcelo Tinelli, a well-known TV presenter in Argentina.
“You can imagine how I felt,” he said, taking up the story. “They made a beeline for Tinelli, and I made straight for Bauza. They asked me: ‘Who’s the other guy?’ We had a really good chat with them and when the subject of football came up I said to him: ‘Maybe I’ll see you in Morocco’.
“He looked a bit surprised and I told him I was playing for Auckland City and that we’d qualified. He wished me good luck and it was then that I told my sisters it was a sign.”
Now 26 and a qualified lawyer, Tade kept the story pretty much to himself, choosing only to tell Spanish team-mate and housemate Angel Berlanga.
Then, on the eve of the quarter-final against ES Setif, he told Auckland’s press officer Gordon Glen Watson about his chance encounter in the Italian capital, though that was not all he revealed to him: “I dreamed that we’d beaten ES Setif 1-0,” said Tade with a broad smile. “(John) Irving wasn’t the scorer, though. If I’d dreamed that, I’d have played the lottery.”
Perhaps overcome by his premonitions and the dizzying events of the last few days, Tade struggled to fight back the tears: “I’m lost for words,” he said. “This is so huge.”
Regaining his composure after a few moments, he added: “There are so many things that go through your mind. We’ve been coming here for years and we’re never the favourites, always the underdogs. We come here and people think we’re just rubbish. This is more than just a dream. It’s a gift of life.”
The search goes on
Desire and focus have been the keys to Auckland’s two surprise wins in Morocco so far, and as Tade went on to say, there is no question of them slacking off now.
“We have to start thinking about San Lorenzo now,” he commented. “We’ve developed a taste for winning and we’re determined to do a job and show the world that New Zealand teams have now got what it takes to compete, even if people say that we’re just amateurs.”
Despite supporting Boca Juniors and being a lifelong fan of Villa Mitre, who hail from his hometown of Santiago del Estero, Tade has not watched an Argentinian league match in some time.
“It’s all because of the time difference,” he explained. “We’ll be taking a close look at San Lorenzo in the next couple of days. We have to keep on helping each other out, and the fact is that there’s no pressure on us whatsoever.”
Whatever happens in Marrakech on Wednesday, Tade has already made his travel arrangements for next summer: “I’ll be making another trip to Europe with my sisters in July. They better get their backpacks ready because we’ll be looking for more signs. That’s what life’s all about.”