PHOENIX– Never underestimate the power of sports. Not the first time the phrase has been used, and far from the last, but the only collection of words that can possibly explain Victor Ocando’s drive to play soccer.
In Venezuela, soccer is considered the second most popular sport behind baseball, but the first love for Victor in his home country.
“I always think about myself as a soccer player,” said Victor, even though he could never play at a competitive level.
Victor was born with cerebral palsy, a congenital disorder that “affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture,” according to the CDC. In 2008, 58 percent of children with cerebral palsy could walk independently. Victor relies on crutches to walk, however, most of the time he uses a wheelchair.
Despite his diagnosis, Victor has always been determined. He pursued higher education and was awarded a scholarship to the Higher Institute of Law and Economics in Madrid, Spain where he earned a Master of Sports Law Degree.
About a year ago, Victor came to Arizona to visit his family and ended up staying. He quickly became a loyal fan of Phoenix Rising FC, meeting midfielder Jose Aguinaga during an interview for Telemundo.
Aguinaga invited Victor to practice, but just watching from the sideline would never satisfy.
“I don’t believe in the word ‘limitation.’ It’s my first statement,” said Victor. “I have a condition that I call adversity. If I don’t put all my determination to move forward, my cerebral palsy will tear me down.”
Victor has always been driven by sports, and the desire to play any sport, not just soccer.
He posted on Twitter a one-armed golf swing while at Top Golf in Scottsdale, Ariz. However, golf takes a back seat with all other sports that aren’t soccer.
“My passion for soccer taught me how to recognize and overcome adversity,” tweeted Victor with a video of himself kicking a soccer ball at the gym, a testament to his hard work.
“I was told that I wouldn’t be able to play if I walk, and the fact that I am challenging myself to change that is a goal I accomplish every day,” said Victor.
After hearing his story, Phoenix Rising FC and Your Phoenix CW invited him out to a Phoenix Rising practice, where he could put his skills to the test.
Victor passed back and forth with Rising players Jon Bakero and Jose Aguinaga, another step in his dream to play soccer.
“It’s amazing,” said Aguinaga, midfielder for Phoenix Rising FC. “He’s an example for all of us. He’s very motivated like you see all that he has been through and he keeps going, he’s joking about it. He’s an amazing human being and I like [being] around him.”
“I want to share my experience in soccer to help the team and soccer here in Arizona and the United States,” said Victor.
You will probably find Victor at the next Phoenix Rising FC home match on Oct. 10 when the team takes on Real Monarchs SLC.