Uruguayan striker Gaston Puerari is a man with many nicknames, nevermind the unique nature of his first name here in the United States.
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 quote…
“About four years ago I worked like a normal person in the vapor generator of a slaughter house,” Puerari said through a translator Monday.
“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 great.”
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 amazing.”
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 Chicago-Fire.com.