Rooted in community: Juan Mosquera uses soccer to connect, inspire

Defender gives back to hometown with special charity match in Colombia

Since his arrival in the Rose City, Portland Timbers defender Juan Mosquera has emerged as one of the best young players in Major League Soccer.

A Colombian National Team debut in January set the pathway for Mosquera’s breakout campaign in 2023, in which he was named to the MLS 22 Under 22 and a nominee for 2023 MLS Young Player of the Year.

While just 21 years old, Mosquera is living out his dream. A dream rooted in the San Marino neighborhood of Colombia’s bustling city of Cali. The sense of community was instilled in Mosquera from a young age, and his path in soccer was supported by his family and community.

“My barrio used to be very dangerous, it was a difficult community [to grow up in],” said Mosquera. “To be able to get ahead, whether it be in sports or in school, was complex to achieve.

“Soccer was very enticing at a young age,” he said. “I met a teacher-coach at my neighborhood school, who helped me realize that soccer could not only change mine or my family’s life, but that it could also turn me into an example for San Marino.”

And now the game is providing him the opportunity to give back. During the month of December, Mosquera plays host to a charity soccer match in San Marino. The charity match is a time to join families and neighbors, an opportunity to support and inspire.

“It fills me with great pride during holidays to be able to spend them with San Marino. Every year, I help host a charity soccer match and we integrate more and more of the neighborhood at this event. What motivates me most is to be able to do this while I’m still young, as I’m not sure what the future may hold.

“This year I have invited some special guests to participate in the match: the Chara brothers [Diego and Yimmi] and Santi \[Moreno\] as well,” Mosquera says with a grin.

He thanks his parents for instilling in him the importance of community, and he is motivated to pursue opportunities to give back to his neighborhood and inspire others – as those coaches and teachers did for him.

“I now have the means to give gifts and food to my people during the holidays. This is something I am very proud of. That through my work, I can give to others," said Mosquera.

“I don’t want it to stop with me. It doesn’t need to be only in soccer or sport. Kids in San Marino should be able to pursue education as well,” he says. “For there to be more professionals coming out of San Marino in many different professions would be an indication that my neighborhood has great things coming.”