Close to the age of 26 as a prop for Atlético Nacional, Luis Fernando Muñoz is one of the important ‘assets’ that the Antioquia club has. Since October 6, 1994, when he entered the Minor Divisions, where he was for four years and from 1998, he ascended to the professional team where he has been in 19 titles, 16 local and three international, the Copa Libertadores being the most important.
‘Gusa’, as he was nicknamed at home, spoke exclusively with FUTBOLRED about that memory of July 27, 2016, four years after the conquest of America.
Luis, how much does that Copa Libertadores weigh?
At the normal weight of the Cup, I could not tell you. But in the sentimental it is a crazy thing, that is rarely won, I have been in Nacional for 26 years and it was the first time that we won the Copa Libertadores. I played in 1989 as a fan, but being within the team was not easy.
About that Copa Libertadores, did you think you had everything to win it?
It was very difficult, Nacional had a great team, but we had very tough rivals. With very good players. We raffled very brave games, against Rosario Central there it was like a victory, knowing that we lost 1-0. (Franco) Armani’s triple save for me that day was the title one.
The groups passed, the eighth against Huracán, the fourth against Central, Sao Paulo in the semifinals, but the Grand Final was against Independiente del Valle de Ecuador, what did they think of that rival?
Against Independiente del Valle, he was a careful rival, but on paper he thought it was easier. Due to the fact that he did not have as much cartel as a Boca, a River, a Peñarol, a Sao Paulo. We were fortunate that this rival was close to Colombia and made us feel like locals in that first leg. I imagined that many people were going to accompany us, not like going to Argentina, which are very long trips, we feel very supported.
What was the secret to seeing a team as aggressive as it is local? Being a team that only let out a draw from Atanasio.
Each local game was a final, the fans and the players knew that in Atanasio we could not give advantages and we needed to finish ‘the job’ in each series.
July 27 is coming and what feelings, what memories do Luis generate on that date?
I still feel like it’s time for that Cup. Time hasn’t passed for me, I have very fresh memories. I feel very happy, it is not easy to win the Copa Libertadores. We go a long time without winning it and for it to happen, you need to keep a team. For me, it is very difficult to maintain such a winning team, because most of the players leave for other countries.
As a prop, do you have any treasures from that night in your house?
I have the ball that was played in the final of the Copa Libertadores and the jersey they gave us as champions, they are a great treasure.
Do you still have contact with players from that time?
I’m still talking to several players, with (Daniel) Bocanegra who until recently was on the team. I speak with Alex (Mejía), with Professor (Bernardo) Redín, he is a good man, very noble, very friendly.
For fans, how is that role of prop, beyond being an aid to the coaching staff and the players?
People don’t know everything that happens before and after every game, in training. I am an important part of the team, being aware of the players, that they do not lack anything for the games, in training. It is a very dedicated job, but very rewarding.
Now in this new ‘normality’, how have you felt in these training sessions with the team?
There are many differences in workouts. Working in a group is not the same as working individually. There are many groups, at different times, with all the care. The start of the championship will not be easy, the players will find it difficult to pick up their technique again. Hopefully the competition will return soon, because they need it.
And personally, what did this pandemic and quarantine leave you with?
Quarantining was difficult, but that’s when you value family. I was in my house, taking care of myself. No one expected us to have this hard time.
With the sense of belonging he had when he was a fan of the team and later as an employee, Luis Fernando feels and vibrates for Atlético Nacional, he loves the club, he loves his job and he feels football in the care of the players and the coaching staff, always with the desire to take another Olympic round and have the satisfaction of a duty fulfilled.
Juan Camilo Álvarez Serrano
En twitter: @juanchoserran8