In something of a US soccer scheduling snafu, San Jose Earthquakes central defender Victor Bernardez will be unavailable when his current club plays against his old club C.D.S. Vida on Tuesday, October 14, at Buck Shaw Stadium. Bernardez will be with the Honduras national squad that night when they face the USMNT in an international friendly in Boca Ratan, FL.
Three-year MLS veteran Victor Bernardez began his career with Vida in 2003. Vida are currently 8th in the Honduran first division after seven games of the 2014-15 Apertura. Their club won the Honduran league in 1981, 1983 and finished second in 1984 and 1985.
C.D.S. Vida is based in La Ceiba, Bernardez’s hometown, and the club was a lifesaving factor in Victor "Muma" Bernardez’s childhood. Life for kids is not only hard on the streets of La Ceiba, it is also, for many of them, sadly short.
Drug lords lure children to a life of crime with offers of money and threats of violence to both the children and their families. Many of Bernardez’s childhood friends died while still children. But thanks to his family’s love of soccer Bernardez started to follow Vida and in particular attached himself to one of their defenders René Arturo David "Pupa" Martínez. Pupa became a role model and inspiration for young Victor. Indeed, Bernardez followed his idol so closely and became so well known to the team that one of Pupa’s teammates finally gave the child a nickname of his own - Muma.
Martinez, who is now retired from the game and living in Manhattan where he works as a chef, has also said that soccer saved his life as a child.
Victor Bernardez and other Honduran and Colombian players and coaches have been working with the U.S. Agency for International Development, Partners of the Americas, and other development organizations. They are trying to raise awareness through conferences called "The Power of Soccer to Combat Youth Violence in Honduras."
These athletes overcame unimaginable poverty, the worst homicide rates on earth, daily criminal temptations and somehow survived to tell the world about it.
In a recent interview Bernardez said he had many friends who were jailed, who were gang members, and who were killed. They fell victim to what he calls "el camino equivocado" - the wrong path.
The boys Bernardez played with on his childhood beaches are almost all dead, victims of one of the most dangerous nations in the world.
The chances of being murdered in Honduras were nearly 91 in 100,000 in 2012, by far the highest rate in the world, according to a U.N. report.
Bernardez has said he thinks it is more than luck that he escaped, that it is also a blessing from God. He has stated further that it is a dream come true to be able give something back, to show the right path to children who still today live at such terrible risk on the streets of Honduras.
You could say Victor Bernardez’s career as a defender started early when he was forced to defend his life on the streets of La Ceida. On Tuesday his current club will face the club that saved his life in what will surely be an emotional, penultimate Buck Shaw Stadium game for the San Jose Earthquakes. The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday, October 14.