Oscar Pareja is back in his hometown this week, visiting his former club and taking part in a special reunion.
The Colorado Rapids' head coach is among a special group of ‘historic’ former Deportivo Independiente Medellín (DIM) players invited to play in the Colombian side’s “Centenario” match to celebrate the club’s 100th birthday.
The match, which will also feature former MLS stars Carlos ‘El Pibe’ Valderrama and John Wilmer ‘Pelusa’ Pérez, as well as a number of other DIM legends from throughout South America, will be played on November 14 at a sold out Estadio Atanasio Giardot in Medellin.
“It is very special for me, a real honor, and I’m very happy for the invitation,” Pareja told ColoradoRapids.com. “Medellin is one of the most iconic teams in Colombia, and the club’s supporters are one of the best in the country. The club is very well liked and is a symbol. The Centenario is a major celebration, one that is very important for the city and for the people that love that team so much.”
Born in Medellin, Pareja lived the dream of many youngsters when he made his professional debut with his hometown club in 1987. He helped DIM to a second place finish in 1993 and a quarterfinal appearance in the 1994 Copa Libertadores during his nine seasons. It was during this era that Pareja also debuted for Colombia’s National Team.
“It will be an honor to put the Medellin jersey on again,” Pareja said. “And it will be very special to see the guys again, my former teammates, run out into that stadium one more time.”
Pareja joked that he has some bruised ribs which could limit him to “five minutes,” noting that there will be some players who are older but others who are younger than the 45-year-old. However as a coach who regularly plays in small-sided training sessions, the fit Pareja would not miss the chance to take the field for the special occasion.
“The most important thing for me, is that my son Diego is coming with me,” Pareja said of his 13-year-old son. “He was born here (USA) but is a fan of Medellin, and this will be his first time that he’ll see his dad play in that stadium wearing the Medellin jersey. That will be a special moment.”
Pareja arrived in Colombia last weekend in order to watch a couple of potential targets in person in the Liga Postobon. He is also scheduled to scout other players in action before returning to Colorado next week.