Gaston’s Strange Path

From a carnicería to the Fire

Uruguayan striker Gaston Puerari is a man with many
nicknames, nevermind the unique nature of his first name here in the United

The man they call “Ryan Gosling”, “Ratatouillie” and “Chucky”
can likely add another moniker to his nickname repertoire. You can now also
call him “The Butcher” or “Carnicero” after it was revealed Sunday night during
a team building exercise that Puerari rose from working in a Paysandu
slaughterhouse to become a professional player with Rampla Juniors.

Before you get a gruesome image in your head, read his

“About four years ago I worked like a normal person in the
vapor generator of a slaughter house,” Puerari said through a translator

“I threw logs in the fire to generate the vapor. Because of
the fire involved in the job, it was my priority to come and play for the
Chicago Fire,” the 25-year-old striker joked.

Working 12 hour days at the slaughterhouse, Puerari played
as an amateur with local club Seleccion de Paysandu. Soccer was secondary to
the necessities of his job until a few of his matches with the amateur side
were televised, leading to his break with Rampla Juniors.

“When I played for Paysandu, some games were transmitted on
TV and I had a great streak there in 2007 where I scored five goals in three
matches. Rampla saw and offered me the chance to just train with them for six
months to see how I would do in their system.”

Ten days after his arrival, he was playing matches with the
first team.

Over two years with Rampla, the speedy, dynamic striker would go on
to appear in 30 matches, scoring six goals and setting up many more as he
helped the small Montevideo side punch above its weight, finishing third in the
Uruguayan Primera during the 2007 Apertura tournament.

His play with Rampla also earned him a two month loan to
Ecuadoran giants Emelec in 2008 before moving across the Uruguayan capital to a
much bigger club in Montevideo Wanderers.

While with Wanderers, he appeared in 35 matches, scoring
eight goals, while helping the side to a fourth place finish during the 2009
Apertura tournament, eventually impressing enough to earn interest from outside of Uruguay.

“I never thought about leaving Uruguay for soccer but
after I achieved some of the things at home, as any other Uruguayan, you dream
of moving out of the country and making a difference in other places. I had
this opportunity and I took it.”

Puerari’s arrival in Chicago last month marked his first
trip to the United States and though his grasp of English isn’t strong, he’s
had no trouble becoming one of the most animated personalities in the team.

“Since I was a kid I could never sit still, I couldn’t stay
quiet. The evolution for me hasn’t been great. I’m married and a father and I’m
the same little guy that grew up in Paysandu, joking around all the time.”

Another first for him last month was the sight of snow, coming in just after
two feet was dumped on the Windy City.

“When I arrived it was a white city, something I’ve never
seen before in my life. I’d never felt, touched or seen the snow, so as the
little kid from Paysandu, one of the first things I did was to taste the snow
because I wanted to know what it was like. Joking aside, I think Chicago is a
beautiful city despite the snow.”

Making the transition even easier for Puerari was the
arrival of a second Uruguayan in Fire camp. Striker Diego Chaves, who played
briefly with Puerari while the two were at Wanderers, joined the team last
month during camp in Ave Maria, FL.

“It was a great relief to know that Diego was coming because
the first time I really went outside Uruguay, I was at Emelec for
two months and its not always easy. To have another Uruguayan fellow with you
in another part of the world its very useful. We’re the same age, we like a lot
of the same things and we’ve known each other before. We’re getting along

Chaves, who's English is pretty good, served as the translator for this interview.

Both Uruguayans will be looked to for help in producing more
goals for what was at times an anemic Fire attack in 2010, but for now, “el
carnicero” is pleased with the personal progress he’s made from a 12-hour work
day in Paysandu to doing what he loves on a daily basis.

“I never thought about making a living from soccer as a life
choice. It’s a huge change from stuffing wood into a fire and doing factory
work, to training 2-3 hours a day. Doing what you love for a living is

Jeff Crandall is the
Team Writer for the Chicago Fire and will be calling Wednesday's Carolina Challenge Cup match vs. DC United beginning at 4pm CT here at