In many ways, the second act is the most important of the three. The first sets you on a path, the third provides a satisfactory and logical conclusion, but the middle is the journey. For many athletes, the second act is when their lives get interesting, pursuing paths that were germinated through 30 years of athletic achievement. After a stellar career, a 44-year-old Juan Pablo Ángel finds himself on a similar path six years into retirement, perhaps one necessitating and creating even grander results befitting his on field accomplishments.
The Red Bulls legend retired in 2014 after closing out his playing career with boyhood club Atlético Nacional. He’s pursuing the traditional dual-path of former athletes, with one foot in the business world and another in the sporting realm. One of his ventures involves a soccer school based in Envigado, Colombia that was unfortunately affected by coronavirus and is waiting to reopen.
“In La Jaula del Ángel we have been very affected throughout this pandemic, like many other companies in this country,” Ángel told Noticias Caracol in July. “We have expressed our concern to the different authorities and we have presented the opening protocols to them more than seven times, all with a negative response. We believe that the authorities should take care and a specific review of each of these businesses to see if they comply with the protocols for a possible opening.”
La Jaula del Ángel started in 2010 as a part of Centro Mayor, one of the largest malls in Colombia. The school promised a strict protocol involving masks, physical distancing, and regular thermometer deployment. The facility reopened, and it appears care and precaution has been taken. The school will son return to full functionality, offering personalized and semi-personalized training to anyone from 18 to 60.
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In addition to his business, Ángel is a part of the FIFA Legends Programme. Since its inception in 2016, it has served “as a platform to reconnect the world governing body of football with the game’s central figures” allowing the game’s greats to “directly interact with fans from around the world.” Through the program, Ángel traveled to New Zealand to open a new turf facility allowing for year-round use, meet with youth players, and engage in an interview with his former Red Bull teammate Andrew Boyens. His visit helped to raise funds allowing underprivileged children to play organized soccer.
“We could see the positive impact it had on the football community,” Ángel told FIFA.com. “This facility opens up football to have even more people involved and exposed to the sport, and that is obviously a good thing… New Zealand is a spectacular country, absolutely beautiful from top to bottom, and the people are very friendly.”
Ángel’s most prominent role within the professional game has been working as a technical consultant for Los Angeles FC. This isn’t some cushy garden position given as a handout to a former player. When he said he was going to build the club and help identify South American talent, it was a promise that would be carried out with his standard dedication and precision.
Along with scout Victor de los Santos, the two “identify potential LAFC recruits” and refer them to the staff lead by former MetroStars and U.S. national team manager Bob Bradley. The former Colombian international was instrumental in signing Uruguayan star Diego Rossi from Peñarol, convincing the talented attacker to join MLS and move to Southern California. Ángel was also a key figure in the signings of Eduard Atuesta and Francisco Ginella, with Executive VP of Soccer Operations describing him as “a powerful asset” whose work is “critical” to the club’s transfer success.
Of course, it would be preferable if Ángel was performing these miracle acts of player acquisition at the team for which he starred. However, he can only take the jobs that he’s offered. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned by the Red Bulls on the nature of alumni outreach and being judicious with positions given to club legends. Surely, New York could have used the estimated tens of millions of dollars Rossi will command in an eventual transfer fee. Maybe the club will have a future opportunity to secure his expertise because he’s not content with scouting and brokering.
What is that next step for Ángel? It’s coaching, of course, a temptation few former players can resist. He already has his A-License and was invited to by the Welsh FA to pursue his UEFA Pro License alongside classmate Tim Cahill. Unfortunately, the courses are on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, likely until November. The Red Bulls already missed out on benefitting from their former star striker’s production as a scout. Hopefully the mistake isn’t compounded once he’s molded into a certified and experienced manager.
And if you think Ángel has been too busy with post-playing career activities to stay in shape, think again and check out his social media. It’s as if he never stopped playing and could step right onto the field. “Hard work does not have to be witnessed, time exposes everything,” reads the caption on one post. With commitment to hard work and demonstrated history of excellence, one cannot imagine how much Ángel will accomplish in ten, let alone twenty years. At some point, his incredible on-field career may someday be a mere footnote, paling in comparison to all that he’s done.
Well, maybe all of it except for this goal.