Carlos Bacca: From selling fish to scoring goals

Looking at Carlos Bacca today, it’s hard to imagine that just ten years ago he was living below the poverty line and working multiple jobs to support his family. In a unique rag-to-riches story, success didn’t come early or easy for the Colombian striker.

It all began on 8th September 1986 in Puerto Colombia where Carlos Bacca was welcomed into the world by his parents, Eloisa Ahumada and Gilberto Bacca. The coastal town in Barranquilla holds a special place in Bacca’s heart; however, his childhood was more difficult than most. Coming from a poor background, his family was forced to keep several jobs at once just to meet their needs. Yet in an interview with Marca, Bacca shared that he wouldn’t change his upbringing: “I think it was very useful for me to grow up [in Puerto Colombia] watching my parents putting in so much effort… You learn those values and apply them day by day”. It’s important to add that Bacca’s father still works to this day, even though the family is economically stable.

Not only did Bacca inherit a strong work ethic, but also a love for football. According to his mother, since he was three, Bacca only wanted to play with the ball: “we bought him cars, but he didn’t want them, he only wanted the ball.” Even his teachers only ever remember Bacca devoting himself to football.

However, when he was old enough, Bacca was willing and ready to support his family. The current athlete previously worked as a bus driver’s assistant and sold fish in the past in order to help his father put food on the table. How did he get through his testing childhood? His Christian faith. After being raised in a religious household, Bacca is very passionate and open about his beliefs. The 32-year-old striker frequently thanks God in his interviews, and when asked about the best moment of his life in an interview with Marca, he responded: “When I accepted God into my heart”. Bacca also professes his Christian faith on his social media accounts by adding to posts ‘from your hand always my God’ and with his current bio reading, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. For Bacca, his faith is fundamental.

Throughout his teenage years he stayed strong and steadfast, always looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. But just when Bacca started to doubt his chance at football, his life underwent a profound transformation. He told Marca: “The doors of football had been closed for a while and at that age it was not something I expected. But that year, I went to trial rehearsals with Junior and thank goodness they took me.”

Deemed a late bloomer, Bacca began his career at Atlético Junior in 2006. The Colombian striker didn’t start at the top, but rather he worked his way up. After three years of competing on loan, Bacca played his first professional season with Junior in 2009 at the age of 23, earning himself a regular first team spot. That same year, in the 2009 Copa Colombia, Bacca was top scorer, a title that would become a recurring habit. The next two years, Bacca did it again! His goalscoring form attracted interest from Europe, with the 2012 campaign leading to a new club and a new title for the striker. In his first year with Club Brugge, not only did Bacca earn the Belgian Pro League’s top scorer title, but he was also named the league’s Player of the Year. After only one full season with the Bears, the Colombian striker was sold to Sevilla for €7m and named the ‘Best Signing of the 2013–14 LaLiga season’ by Marca. Bacca lived up to his reputation perfectly by winning the UEFA Europa League in both of his first two seasons with the club, scoring twice in the 2015 final. That summer, Bacca joined Serie A side Milan for €30m. He later made his competitive debut on 14th August 2015 against Perugia in the third round of Coppa Italia.

Two years later, the renowned goal scorer signed a one-year loan agreement with Villarreal on 16th August 2017. The Yellows №9 expressed his gratitude when signing, declaring: “I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to join a great club like Villarreal… I want to send a special greeting to all the club’s fans.” Bacca did Yellows fans proud as he scored his first goal for the Yellow Submarine on 10th September against Real Betis, less than a month after joining the club. He grew as a player and in an honest interview with Marca, Bacca shared that Villarreal brought back his happiness. The Yellows family was just what Bacca needed to help him overcome his rocky ending in Milan and secure his place on Colombia’s national squad for the 2018 World Cup. With one season for Villarreal in the books, it was clear that the forward wanted to stay, and the club wanted him back too. On 17th August 2018, he joined permanently, with Samu Castillejo heading the other way.

In September 2018, Bacca reached 50 LaLiga goals, making him the second-biggest Colombian scorer ever in Spain’s top flight. They break down as 16 league goals for Villarreal and 34 for Sevilla, it’s no wonder why he’s known as an impeccable goal scorer.

In addition to being a successful athlete, the Yellows player is a family man devoted to his wife, Shayira Santiago, and their two children, Karla Valentina and Carlos Daniel. Surrounded by family and friends, Bacca received a special tribute from his hometown on 22nd July 2017. The street in front of his parents’ house in Puerto Colombia, where he spent playing football as a kid, was named after him in a heart-warming ceremony. He told El Colombiano: “This brings back many memories of when I played every day on this street… I’m grateful for the tribute”. The star striker was happy to be home amongst the people who saw him born and raised. In an enjoyable neighbourhood gathering, Bacca conversed with his friends and fans while celebrating the newly paved road, he also added: “I’m proud of my people. It’s beautiful to share my accomplishments that are also yours. I am filled with happiness, every year or every time that I get the opportunity to feel the warmth of the people who saw me grow up.” Bacca has exceeded his wildest dreams, but he remains humble and grounded, even after his worldwide success.

Our formidable №9 shows us that there is no telling how far you can go if you never forget where you come from and never stop believing in your dreams. Carlos Bacca, an inspiration to us all.

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