“I have a baby picture. I see myself sitting, and I have a ball with me. That is my first memory of football ”. Telephone communication barely allows one to imagine the face of the person saying the phrase, while saying it. One is left with the face of Juan Manuel Herbella with an emoticon smile that is seen on his Instagram account. He is happy, and so proud of his brand new book, that it hardly seems to fit on his body. He is a rare bird in this environment of sweat, tears, effort, success, pressure and passion. First, a soccer player and high school student at Lasalle school. Later, he was a doctor specializing in sports medicine and public health and a professor at the UBA. Then journalist and writer. A chain of activities that were concatenated and that converged in “Don’t cut my foot”, edited by Planeta, a compendium of 11 “medical stories of overcoming and pain of footballers”, as the cover says, just below the title.
– Why the title?
– It is born from the phrase that says Patricio toranzo to the doctor at the door of the operating room after the accident that the Huracán campus had in Venezuela, in 2016. I thought about it because it plays with the phrase “they cut my legs” from Diego Maradona. For the footballer, the foot is his life. In that case, it is a one-sentence quote. A very powerful title remained, with the image of the boots. Being stories of overcoming and pain, the title fits with the book.
– What background does this book have?
– It is actually born from a story I wrote for another book, “Paper Ball I”, which was a fictional story. That book has stories written by footballers. I wrote about a player suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He is sitting in the waiting room of an office, waiting for the doctor to see him and give him the diagnosis of what is happening to him.
– What impetus did you get to make it possible?
– When in Planeta they read “Paper Ball I”, and my story, in which I mix sport with health and science -something I did in the columns-, they suggested that I do something like that, but about real footballers. I started to think about it from a collaborative perspective, because I couldn’t sit with the players and ask them to tell me stories from their illness, and I would make a book and earn money from it. That triggers the logic that this is a solidarity book. All that corresponds to the royalties go to the Flexer Foundation, children’s oncology.
Herbella, a tough defender who was nicknamed “The Doctor”, ended his career as a footballer in 2011. Unique case: he played for 11 clubs, the same number of stories contained in his book. An only child, he entered the world of reading at home. “There were always many books. My mother reads a lot. As a child I used to write some things, but I never imagined reaching the age I am, with four published books. The other facets of my life were planned; the one to write was taking me, I didn’t have a plan for this ”, he assures.
– How’s that for planning?
– I was not thinking of turning the game into a job. Because of the circumstances, because of the conditions, being a teenager and studying in high school, I began to wonder what I was going to do. At that time he already said that he loved football. My parents told me that I was fine, but that I should study. I told them yes, I wanted to be a campus doctor, and that’s how I started studying medicine. He was already playing in Vélez. He had traveled. I related to the club’s doctors, they seemed cool to me. I knew his world.
– What idea mobilized the 11 stories?
– I was building them with the idea that they were complementary. Each one has a trigger, they are not the same or the same injuries or components that it treats. The choice comes in relation to that and how I saw that it amalgamated everything.
“This book was built in the same way that the writer was built,” says Juan Manuel almost about farewell, while responding about his future. “I see it linked to writing, medicine and football, as it is now. Since I retired, I knew that neither of the first two can be 100 percent comparable to playing ball. Today I try to generate diverse activities. I try not to get bored ”, he assures. Quite a definition.
A story, about one that is not known
Juan Manuel Herbella He was very happy and satisfied with the book. “I think he achieved his goal, which was the most important thing for me. I wanted to put together a four-legged piece: solidarity, construction with medical reports, sports chronicles and the reference to helping and motivating those who suffer an injury ”, he assures. He also says that the story that hit him the most was that of Mirko Saric, because it was the only one that is not of improvement. That the last one, that of Marcelo bravo (He overcomes his problem but from another function since he does not play again) leaves the message of being able to transcend the injury, reconverting yourself into something else.
“I did not go through an extreme situation in my career. Anyway, in the history of Sebastián Battaglia I play a bit with a personal story. He suffers from pubalgia at the same time that I suffered the same while playing for Godoy Cruz ”, he says.
Herbella builds a story on the story that is not known. Had to leave out stories, like the one about the knee of Gabriel Batistuta. With which, he envisions the possibility of a “Do not cut my foot II”.
“When I was writing the book, I tried not to do it only for the doctor who is clear about what each injury is. I tried to reach a wider audience ”, he says.
One by one
Gustavo Campagnuolo: champion archer with Racing and with San Lorenzo. He suffered a skull fracture while playing in Mexico in 2004
Fernando Gago: Central midfielder, he shone at Boca and played for Real Madrid and Rome. He had numerous Achilles tendon injuries.
Luciano Galetti: Forward. A bacterium affected his kidneys in 1997, playing for the National Team, in Mexico. He received a transplant from his dad.
Patricio Toranzo: hitch. He traveled with Huracán in 2016 for the Libertadores. The bus to the campus overturned and suffered abrasive trauma.
Sebastián Battaglia: midfielder, he shone in Boca (today he is DT). From the beginning he suffered from osteochondritis, which shortened his career.
Jonás Gutiérrez: midfielder. Trained in Vélez, he excelled in English football. While in Newcastle he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Nery Pumpido: aquero, world champion in 1986. In 1987, in practice with River, he accused the scrapping of the left annular phalanx.
Sergio Batista: midfielder, world champion in 1986. Playing for Argentinos, in 1987 he suffered head trauma during a match.
Ezequiel Lavezzi Forward and steering wheel. In 2016, playing for the US National Team, he suffered a dislocated elbow due to a fall.
Marcelo bravo: Velez midfielder. In 2005, when he was only 20 years old, he was diagnosed with heart problems.
Mirko Saric: central midfielder, he took his own life in 2000, when he was a player for San Lorenzo.
Juan Manuel Herbella was born in Caballito, Buenos Aires, on May 3, 1978. He has three children.
He played soccer in Vélez, Unión Maracaibo from Venezuela, Gimnasia de Jujuy, Godoy Cruz, Argentinos, Barcelona from Ecuador, Internacional from Brazil, Quilmes, Colón and Chicago. He said goodbye in Ferro, in June 2011.
He is a university professor at the UBA, a doctor (he graduated while he was still playing), a journalist and a writer.
He is the author of the books “Futboloscopía” (tells the experiences of a soccer player during a tournament; “The last pass” (shows a very intimate view of Argentine soccer today) and “Between cyborgs, smoked and crazy.” part of the collective movement of “Pelota de Papel”.