Oscar Perez, Pachuca’s ageless Rabbit
Pachuca face Wydad in their opening game on Saturday
Los Tuzos are playing their fourth FIFA Club World Cup
Oscar Perez: “It’s one of the biggest challenges of my career”
There is not much that Mexican goalkeeper Oscar Perez has failed to achieve in his 24 years between the posts. Yet, having maintained his high standards at the age of 44, the man they call El Conejo “The Rabbit” has the opportunity to chalk up another career objective by playing at the FIFA Club World Cup.
“I’m very happy and excited about playing at the Club World Cup,” he said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “I’ve never been lucky enough to play in one before and now I’ve got the chance. I’m going to try and enjoy it and do my very best.”
Perez’s fact file:
Born on 1 February 1973 in Zapotlan de Juarez, Mexico
Height: 5’8 (1.72m)
Debut: 1993 (Cruz Azul)
*Appearances at major tournaments:
Copa America: 4 (1995, 1999, 2001 and 2004)
FIFA Confederations Cup: 2 (1997 and 1999)
CONCACAF Gold Cup: 4 (1998, 2000, 2003 and 2009)
FIFA World Cup™: 3 (1998, 2002 and 2010)*
The vastly experienced Perez is one of the leaders in the Pachuca dressing room and is always willing to pass advice on to its younger members.
“I tell them that these are very difficult matches and that the standard is really high,” he explained. “We have to be very well prepared, both physically and mentally. The first match is absolutely vital. We’re coming up against the best in the world and we can’t afford to put a foot wrong.”
Ever anxious to improve, Perez is grateful for the chance to play on such a big stage. “It’s an honour to have the opportunity, after all these years that I’ve been playing, to appear in a competition like this. In terms of my career, it’s right up there.”
On motivation: “I’ve spent every day of my career trying to prepare myself, trying to be the best and take on the best. If there’s one thing that motivates me and brings the best out of me, then it’s taking on players of that quality and ability – that’s what makes me grow. I want to play against them because they’re at the pinnacle of world football.”
On his retirement: “My career’s almost at an end, but I’m taking it day by day. I said six months ago that I’d probably pack up after the Club World Cup. But then you get here and you realise that you can still compete and perform to a good standard. It pushes me to keep on going. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I want to see what shape I’m in at the end of the tournament and see how well I can play so I can make a call on what happens next. I feel in great shape right now.”
On the one that got away: “I would have liked to have played at the Olympics but I never got the chance. It’s there in the back of my mind, though it’s not an obsession either. I’m happy with how things have worked out for me and I’m going to keep on enjoying what’s left.”
Did you know?
Should he make an appearance at UAE 2017, the 44-year-old Perez will become the oldest player to play at the FIFA Club World Cup. The current record is held by the late Miguel Calero, who also kept goal for Pachuca and who was 39 when he ran out at the 2010 competition, having also appeared at the 2007 and 2008 tournaments with the Mexican club.
Forever young “I’m grateful to God and to life for allowing me to stay fit. I’ve had team-mates who lived very good lives but who sadly ran out of time. Looking after yourself is absolutely vital. You have to rest well, eat well and do your work, without overdoing it. There are no secrets. I learned all that from a coach who helped me a lot and said to me: ‘You have to live for football and not off football’. I took that home with me and I’ve always tried to live by it. I live for football 100%. I always give my very best.”