Paralympic soccer bronze means pension for former homeless player


Argentina’s Froilan Padilla said his future was at stake in a Paralympic 5-a-side soccer bronze-medal match.

“It will be the match of my life,” Padilla said, according to Rio 2016.

It was not hyperbole.

Argentines who earn medals also receive pensions after the age of 40.

This fact is especially significant for the 37-year-old Padilla, who struggled for many years without basic shelter.

“I was unemployed and I slept in churches, in different houses,” said Padilla, who has congenital visual impairment.

So Padilla knew the importance of Argentina’s semifinal against Iran on Thursday. A victory would ensure a medal and the financial security of a pension.

The Argentines lost, heartbreakingly, in a shootout. That meant Padilla was left with one more shot in the bronze-medal match Saturday.

Argentina prevailed in its second chance, beating China 1-0 in a shootout. It marked the culmination of a life-changing experience at his second Paralympics. Padilla and Argentina lost the bronze-medal match at London 2012.

“I traveled by plane, which I had never imagined, but I am the same person who walked the dirt roads in my village,” Padilla said, according to Rio 2016. “My present and my future are built by my past, and my past made me grow.”

Rio Paralympics coverage on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app continues Sunday at 12 a.m. ET.

MORE: Paralympics broadcast schedule