Representing one's team at the FIFA Club World Cup is a landmark achievement for any professional, but when the club in question is where you have spent your entire career, then the sense of pride is even greater. One player who falls into this category is Paul Ambrosi, who, 12 years after joining Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito as a wide-eyed teenager, is preparing to fly the flag for Los Albos, Ecuador and all of South America at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2008.
"I was playing schools football at the time and was spotted by some of the club's coaching staff," Ambrosi told FIFA.com. "One thing led to another and I ended up in the youth team. A lot has happened since then, but I'll never forget that. At home my father always used to talk about the club, his idols and how great some of the teams were. It's part of what's passed down from one generation to the next."
Now married with three children, the 28-year-old has established himself as one of the leading lights in the team that earlier this year won the highly coveted Copa Libertadores de America for the first time. With teams from Argentina and Brazil having dominated the continental championship in recent years, it is now finally the turn of an Ecuadorian club to represent South America in Japan.
"We know it will be a little strange for our rivals but the good thing is that we've already shown we can achieve the goals we set ourselves," said the wing-back. "Rest assured we'll fight until the very last breath, as opportunities like these rarely come around."
An established member of the Ecuador team that qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ and are hoping to repeat the feat at South Africa 2010, the player has the determination and attributes to achieve his many goals. A battle-hardened defender, Ambrosi is comfortable in midfield and has a habit of popping up when least expected in attack.
"When I started out I used to play on the left side of midfield, sometimes even up front," he explained, "so I know what that entails. Now, I play further back and have defensive duties, but when I get the chance to go forward I like to inflict as much damage as I can."
In recent months Edgardo Bauza's Liga side have been struggling to reproduce the form that saw them sweep all before them in the Libertadores in early 2008. Though still mathematically in the running for their domestic league, consistency has been a real problem of late.
In spite of this, Ambrosi still has high hopes for his maiden trip to Japan: "Travelling there and seeing such a different culture is an exciting prospect. That aside, I know we'll have to improve on our recent play, as we didn't get far in the Copa Sudamericana. We're working towards regaining our form and triumphing in December. The togetherness of the squad will be key."
And how do they hope to achieve that? "We'll have to be very focused and battle for every ball. The best teams in the world will be there and, if we want to go far, we'll need to call on all our determination regardless of who we're up against."
On a lighter note, Ambrosi finishes up by letting us into a little secret. Despite his delight at the prospect of visiting Japan, he will not be partaking of the country's famous gastronomic offerings. "Knowing me, I could end up bringing fritadita con mote de pillo (an Ecuadorian dish made of fried pork pieces and milled grain) with me. That said, it's going to be a very good experience, and one we can hopefully cap with another title for all Ecuador to enjoy."