Venezuela is well known for its soccer heritage.
In fact, as the country faces hardships in nearly every other aspect — from political unrest to economic collapse and shortages of basic goods — soccer is becoming the one thing that has helped Venezuelans unite across the political divide.
According to the New York Times, Venezuela’s stunning 1-0 victory over Colombia in June’s Copa América invigorated the nation’s weary population, offering a glimpse of hope for the future.
For Venezuelan semi-pro soccer player Jose Garcia, however, things aren’t quite as hopeful.
Garcia, who has been visiting Vancouver, British Columbia since January, is now facing mounting medical bills of more than $100,000 after being badly injured in a soccer game.
The CBC reports that Garcia, 22, traveled to Canada to play in a friend’s recreational soccer team, Colombia FC. In a July 16 match, Garcia suffered a crushed kidney while playing goal.
“When I was going to catch the ball, the other team striker jumped and he hit me with his knee in my stomach,” Garcia said from a wheelchair outside of Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.
Garcia, who was an accomplished athlete — even young soccer players can run up to seven miles in a typical game — collapsed on the soccer field and was rushed to the hospital. Since the incident, he has contracted pneumonia and undergone three surgeries.
Because he didn’t renew his travel insurance when it expired in April, Garcia now has to foot the entirety of his hospital bills. To help cover the cost of his care, members of Colombia FC have started a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe.com. So far, a little more than $2,000 has been raised.
“He is here alone from Venezuela,” said Jaquie Marin, the mother of one of his teammates. “He’s got no family. We have become his family because he plays on the soccer team that our sons play on.”