At 27, a coach took a team from the 3rd Division to the Premier League. He worked as a mason for the sake of his dream
A touching story from Ecuador. A young man named Joe Armas received internships at Real, Ajax, and other well-known clubs.
An Ecuadorian guy named Joe Armas played in the youth team of Deportivo Quito. He didn't manage to become a professional footballer, but he wanted to stay in the world of football. So, at 17, Armas went to Spain to intern as a coach. It took seven years.
During this time, the Ecuadorians visited many famous clubs. In Spain, he practiced with Real, Leganes, and Athletic, and in the Netherlands, with Ajax, PSV, and AZ Alkmaar. To support himself, he had to earn money in Europe. Alongside learning the game, he worked as a stonemason. In 2021, he decided to return home and try his luck in his native football.
«I sent over 120 resumes all over Ecuador, but no club responded to me,» Armas recounted. After that, he made another attempt. In the new round of applications, he stated that he was willing to work for free. He wanted a chance to join a team and start coaching. Even the second round of applications didn't interest anyone, even though Armas sent 305 letters. As a result, he packed his bags and went to Guatemala. He thought that since the level of football was lower in this country, it would be easier to find work. This turned out to be a misconception. After a month in Guatemala, he returned to Ecuador.
Upon his return home, Armas received the long-awaited call. He was offered a job at one of the clubs he had sent his resume to - a team in the third Ecuadorian league, Imbabura. The aspiring coach said, «Thank God they didn't see the second letter in which I said I was willing to work for free.»
The club's trust in Armas immediately began to pay off. The coach even showed players tactical adjustments on the board during matches. In his first season, he led Imbabura from the third league to the second! The following season also went well: the club finished sixth in the Ecuadorian Serie B. It reached the quarter-finals of the Ecuador Cup. Imbabura eliminated the local top club LDU Quito from the tournament, which had been the country's champion 11 times, and played against Manchester United in the Club World Cup Final in 2008.
In that same season, Imbabura discovered Kevin Rodriguez (born in 2000) for the Ecuadorian national team. Shortly after his debut in the national team, the forward was included in Ecuador's squad for the 2022 World Cup, where he appeared in the late stages of two matches. You might remember Rodriguez by his hairstyle. He now plays for the Belgian club Union.
Armas' third season with Imbabura just concluded. On October 27th, a 4-0 victory over Macara allowed them to secure second place in Serie B and move up to Ecuador's top league! This was achieved despite having one of the most modest budgets in the second division.
Right after the match ended, the coach couldn't hold back his tears and cried on live TV. Soon, the Imbabura players were tossing him into the air. They had done the same two years ago when the team climbed from the third league to Serie B.
«First of all, I want to thank God for daily faith in every training session, every game. I want to thank the most important participants in this success—the guys. Without them, this would have been impossible. Thanks to all the staff, because this is a collective achievement, not that of one person. We have always been true to our football—on any field, against any opponent. We adhere to our values and our playing philosophy. Everything can change, except for our sporting values. 'Imbabura' will always be in my heart because it was the first club that believed in me after all the opportunities I sought,» Armas is quoted by Olé.
Now, 27-year-old Joe Armas will become the youngest coach in the Ecuadorian championship.
Published by Patrick Jane