And all that could have been…#1: Iván Kaviedes

The world at his feet: A youthful Kaviedes during his Emelec days, refereed by a man looking suspiciously like the disgraced Byron Moreno.

Talent alone is rarely enough. Football is drenched in tales of disappointment, squandered potential and broken dreams shorn apart by the ravages of injury, indiscipline, expectation and cruel fate. Sadly, it is often those most blessed with the natural capacity to enthral whose careers wither in wilfulness, unable to rein the maverick excesses that paradoxically crown their on-field glories whilst simultaneously charting their indulgent demise. Many are quick to criticise those who allow wayward lifestyles or brittle confidence to gnaw away at their extravagent gifts, bemoaning an inability to compromise with life’s mundanities. Well here at The Mambo, we’re indiepop kids and as such have a pronounced admiration for the unambitious, an appreciation for the underachiever and note the romance in wistful, nostalgia-tinged accounts of all that could have been. Here, in the first of a semi-regular feature, we salute the languid class of troubled Ecuadorian striker, Iván Kaviedes.

Around the turn of the century, South America’s minor leagues were a haven for goalscorers. In Bolivia, Joaquín Botero and José Alfredo Castillo shot to prominence with barely-plausible strike-rates whilst Victor Hugo Antelo continued an unrelenting quest to hit the back of the net and Peruvian Ysrael Zuñiga’s exploits earned him a short-lived stint with Coventry City. None however were quite in the class of Ecuador’s Iván Kaviedes. Shooting to prominence as a 21 year-old following a hugely impressive 43 goals from just 39 games for his first club Emelec in 1998, Kaviedes was touted amongst the continent’s most prodigious talents. A finisher noted as much for the quality as the quantity of his strikes, the Santo Domingo-native was blessed with exquisite technical strength, a fine appreciation of space and a natural creative flair as well as being particularly threatening shooting on the turn. Such qualities combined with a somewhat laconic, nonchalant gait gave Kaviedes a stylistic approach not unlike Manchester United’s underused, brooding Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov and soon attracted European scouts. Early in 1999, Kaviedes signed for Perugia in Italy’s Serie A.

Amongst the first of his countrymen to ply their trade in the illustrious leagues across the pacific, Kaviedes was perhaps indicative of headline-hungry Perugia chairman Luciano Gaucci’s pursuit of an exotic, left-field transfer policy. His willingness to cast his net far and wide garnered notable hits (Hidetoshi Nakata, Milan Rapaic) amidst listless misses (Ali Samereh, Ma Mingyu), with controversy consistently courted through whims such as openly exploring the possibilities of signing a female player and impetuously terminating the contract of South Korean forward Ahn Jung-Hwan’s contract after his golden goal had (albeit contentiously) eliminated Italy for 2002’s World Cup. In truth, Kaviedes was neither outstanding success nor regrettable failure; his 4 goals from 14 appearances represented a solid contribution for a burgeoning South American talent adapting to the notoriously ruthless defences of Italian football.

Still, Kaviedes would soon be leaving the peninsula, with Spain’s Celta Vigo securing his signature for the 1999-2000 season. Celta at the time boasted an impressive squad, bristling with creative talent in Russian internationals Valeriy Karpin and fan favourite Alexander Mostovoi, as well as Israeli winger Haim Revivo, making the move appear an endorsement of the Ecuadorian’s encouraging entrance to the European stage. It was in Galicia however, where things began to fall apart; signalling the start of a nomadic career mired in the indiscipline and inconsistency hinted at by the lurid stories emanating from his native land, where reports that 3 young women were each carrying his child earned him the moniker El Inseminador.  Inevitably for one so gifted, there have been highlights, with a spectacular over-head kick against Barcelona during a sporadically-inspired year with La Liga strugglers Real Valladolid perceptively a stand-out. Otherwise, Kaviedes has drifted through stints in Mexico, Portugal, Argentina and even a brief, inglorious stay under Iain Dowie with England’s Crystal Palace. His enduring ability has guaranteed around a goal every 2 games for a host of clubs back in his domestic top-flight yet despite this, Kaviedes’ baggage was such that he languished unattached between 2008 and 2010 (briefly being admitted into rehab in 2009) before re-emerging to fire 10 goals in 22 games for Macará until the obligatory indiscipline-induced separation. Now 34, Kaviedes  finds himself washed-up in his homeland’s third-tier with SD  Aucas, (alongside another ageing former national team star Wellington Sánchez) with the knowledge that he has failed to do his considerable talent consistent justice ever since that phenomenal campaign of 1998.

Nonetheless, Kaviedes’ international heroics see him remain an enduring favourite. Ecuador’s rise over recent years has been rapid, with qualification for both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups testament to the progress of a nation whose standing was akin to that of Bolivia not so long ago. An integral part of both squads, Kaviedes’ partnership with veteran playmaker Alex Aguinaga in supplying cumbersome yet effective (for Ecuador at least…) Agustín Delgado was fundamental in La Tri’s maiden appearance on the World Stage. With the inspirational Aguinaga departed, the creative burden weighed even heavier on Kaviedes in a more athletic Ecuador’s 2006 campaign, where despite a chaotic club career, he was able to further endear himself to his compatriots with not only a goal against Costa Rica but by opting to mimic Otilino Tenorio’s ‘spiderman’ goal celebration in tribute to his former team-mate, following his tragic death in a car accident the previous year.

Unsurprisingly, Kaviedes now finds himself in the international wilderness. His 55 caps and 17 goals are unlikely to be added to, his legacy as something as a trailblazer for Ecuadorians in Europe shall forever endure. Edison Méndez, Felipe Caicedo, Christian Noboa and most conspicuously Antonio Valencia have all impressed in recent years with scouts from the continent now seemingly gaining increased willingness to scour the nation’s flourishing talent.  Tellingly, Ecuador’s advancement has stalled somewhat of late, with the country seemingly incapable of replacing Aguinaga, cultured defensive lynchpin Iván Hurtado and of course, the mercurial Kaviedes, whose role in his country’s successes was fundamental even if his vast potential was only fleetingly fulfilled.

DC

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