The Bilingual Reporter program is designed to encourage youth to be proud of their heritage and language. Students are nominated by their teachers and then apply to have the opportunity to interview a Timbers player or a member of the coaching staff. Following the interview, the selected students are required to write a report about the experience in English and Spanish. With a professional interview, the students are able to further develop their bilingual speaking and writing skills while exhibiting a passion for the sport.
Jorge Villafaña, recently arrived to Oregon as a promising player in the Portland Timbers squad. Villafaña has gained recognition after being selected to the United States U-20 national team. Many know him for his success in being the first winner of the Sueño MLS competition. Throughout his amazing career as a distinguished soccer player, Villafaña has not slowed in his quest to be the best and continues to be humble. That's why the day I had the opportunity to interview Villafaña, I recognized his worth as a player but more than anything, his worth as a person.
Being able to interview Jorge Villafaña, and learning from his life and career taught me that the professional soccer players are ordinary people that not only possess extraordinary abilities with the ball, but also have the determination to fulfill their dreams, and that's what makes them excellent role models for the community. For me, soccer has been ingrained in my lifestyle since childhood because soccer is fun and educational.
I’m also grateful for the opportunity to observe the atmosphere behind a professional team because it has shown me the efforts and sacrifices that go behind the organization of this team. The most significant thing I learned from this experience is that Latinos, either as players, fans, or community members, significantly contribute to soccer. To see many Timbers players, who identify with being Latinos, and seeing how many players have overcome challenges and succeeded, left me very pleased and encouraged to achieve my dreams in a country that appreciates everyone’s culture and contributions.
Lopez: What do you like the most about soccer?
Villafaña: What I like about soccer is how fun it is. I think it's something you love to do and you live for that. To wake up every morning and knowing that you’re going to play soccer, that you're going to touch the ball, and train with your teammates has no comparison. It’s priceless and that’s what I like the most about soccer.
What is the most important thing you've learned in your career?
Villafaña: You learn a lot, and something I've learned is that nothing is easy; you have to earn it, and every day you have to give one hundred percent.
You just came from Chivas USA, how have you been able to adapt to the environment in the city and the team?
Villafaña: As you have said, I just came to California from another MLS team and I’ve been adapting. I think it’s different, there’s a lot of rain, and it's something I have not been accustomed to. Adapting to the city and the team was a quick adaptation because I already knew Caleb and everyone has treated me very well.
What are your goals for this season and in the future?
Villafaña: My goals are to help the team in all that I can and win championships and tournaments. In the future I want to keep on playing soccer and become a contributing player in the team.
Can you describe what you felt when you won the Sueño MLS?
Villafaña: I was very excited. I think it was a very tough competition, a competition where there were many players and I was much younger at that time. I was 17 years old, but I was very happy because I got the chance to join an MLS club.
During that time, your last name was Flores and changed it to honor your mom. Can you describe how she was able to support you? Did she teach you how to play soccer?
Villafaña: I always had the support of my family, my uncles, my mom, and everyone else. I think more than anything to have the family name I grew up with is important. Due to the separation of my father and my mother, I grew up with my mom’s last name, and it’s important to have that name. I learned soccer in the street, playing with my friends. Mexico was where I started playing soccer.
What do you do when you're not playing soccer?
Villafaña: When I'm not playing soccer, I enjoy my time at home, relaxing, and playing with my daughter.
If you were not a soccer player, what would you be?
Villafaña: It’s difficult because you don’t know what would’ve happened if I hadn’t been a soccer player. I don’t know, I think I'd be working or studying. But thanks to God, I became a soccer player and I am enjoying what I like to do.
Can you describe the most memorable experience of your soccer career?
Villafaña: Memorable experiences like when you make your first appearance, when you score a goal, going to the U-20 world cup, and being called up to the U-23 Olympics are some of the memories that I have in my soccer career.
What is your favorite food?
Villafaña: Mexican food; I grew up in a Mexican family and I'm used to Mexican food and I think it’s my favorite food. I like all dishes but mostly the general ones like chilaquiles.
How has being bilingual helped you in soccer?
Villafaña: It does help to be bilingual. I think soccer is a language; it wouldn’t matter if you spoke Russian or anything because you don’t need to talk to play soccer. It helps to be bilingual because you can help your teammates who don’t speak a language. Being bilingual has helped me translate, and help and teach my teammates a little of what I know.
At what age did you know you wanted to play professional soccer and what did you do to get this far?
Villafaña: I knew since I was a kid. I started playing at the age of six and I knew I liked soccer. To be honest, I wanted to become a professional soccer player, but I never knew it would happen. Now that I am, I'm enjoying it.
What advice would you give to boys and girls who want to play professional soccer?
Villafaña: To fight for it and to not give up if you want to be a professional soccer player, but the priority is education. Studying, that's what’s most important. Right now, they should take soccer as a fun activity and when they decide to become professional, then that’s where they have to give it their maximum effort.
The Timbers have very loud fans. What do you do in order to concentrate on the game?
Villafaña: The Timbers fans are some of the best in the league. They’re always singing. They’re always supporting the team. I think when you're on the field you don’t hear them. I think you're more focused on the game and don’t concentrate on what’s going outside.
Somos Timbers Bilingual Reporter program is presented by Providence Health & Services—Oregon, Don Pancho Authentic Mexican Foods and Coca-Cola