Daniel Hernandez belongs to a generation whose parents emigrated from Spain to seek a better life in Latin America. Many of them, after years making a living in the Americas, opted to return to their homeland, their families by then considerably larger.
In recent times, however, some of the offspring of these very émigrés are making the same journey across the Atlantic, only this time seeking to make their names in the professional game.
Daniel Hernandez, just like international colleagues Fernando Amorebieta and Andres Tunez, spent barely a few years in their native Caracas. Yet because of their dual nationality, all three today wear the colours of the Venezuelan national team.
Today, Hernandez is establishing himself in goal for La Vinotinto and also making the No1 jersey his own at Valladolid. The modest Spanish outfit, which only returned to the top flight via the play-offs last June, have had an excellent first half of the season.
“We have achieved nothing yet,” the keeper told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “The main objective continues to be staying up, and mathematically we’re still not assured of that. However, it’s true we’re performing well and working away with humility.”
With 25 points to their name thus far, El Pucela occupy tenth place in the table, comfortably ahead of Celta Vigo and Deportivo La Coruna, who took the automatic promotion berths last year. Above and beyond their points tally, the team coached by former Serbian international Miroslav Djukic have been earning plaudits for their playing style and passing game.
“I think the key to the good results is the atmosphere in the team," said Hernandez. "We work very well together, have wonderful support and all identify with the boss’s philosophy of ‘leaving nothing out on the pitch, controlling the ball well and keeping possession’.”
Blessed with wonderful agility and reflexes, Hernandez is currently shading Jaime Jimenez in the contest to be first-choice keeper at Valladolid, even if the competition keeps him permanently on his toes. “We're just two team-mates battling it out for one position. I don’t consider myself either first-choice or back-up keeper. It’s healthy competition and very beneficial to the team,” said this keen admirer of Spanish goalkeepers.
The 27-year-old explained he learns a great deal studying the likes of “Iker Casillas, Victor Valdes, Diego Lopez” adding that “in Spain clubs work extremely well with their youth academies, carrying out very professional work with the goalkeepers.”
Interestingly, the keeper’s early forays in football were not between the posts: “Like everyone, when I was a kid I wanted to play up front and score goals.
"However, I was disastrous, so bad in fact that in college I was put in goal, where bit by bit I honed my craft,” continued the much-travelled Hernandez, who, before coming to Valladolid, had spells with fellow Spanish clubs CD Guadalajara, Real Madrid C, Rayo Vallecano B, Real Jaen, SD Huesca, Valencia B and Real Murcia, among others.
Making history with Venezuela
The keeper is now putting that extensive education to good use for Venezuela, with whom he has played eight times. He was even a non-playing member of the squad that competed at the 2011 Copa America, where La Vinotinto made history with a memorable fourth place.
“There’s great work being done. We’re producing very good football and have been rewarded with fine results, reflected in our best ever opening half to a World Cup qualifying competition," he said. "We’ve got an excellent generation of players, many of whom are maturing abroad. When we get together to train, that overseas experience combined with the know-how of our veterans gives us a great impetus.
“There’s been a change of mentality there with regard to football – a historical tipping point in my opinion," insisted the keeper. "Nowadays you see a lot of people in the streets wearing the national-team jersey. Football is beginning to make inroads into the hearts of Venezuelans.”
Understandably then, Hernandez feels immense pride every time he pulls on his gloves to defend La Vinotinto, who at the halfway point of the qualifying campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ lie fourth, level on points with Uruguay and Chile.
“I’ve got this tremendous desire to be part of the team and achieve something historic. We’re all very united in our goal of reaching Brazil 2014,” he concluded.