The Uruguayan is in the Guinness Book of Records
Sir Stanley Matthews retired at 50 years old and remains the epitome and go-to example of longevity in football history, because he was an elite player. The same can be said of former Japan international Kazuyoshi Miura, another consummate professional, who at 55 is still playing in the lower tiers of Japanese football. However, over in Uruguay, Robert Carmona can boast being the oldest player in football history.
Next month, Carmona will turn 60 years old and he’s still playing official matches. The Guinness Book of Records have officially validated this, which is no mean feat, given the amount of documentation involved in being included on their lists. It took Carmona four years to gain this recognition. Not having been a top-level player didn’t help him in his task.
The process began back in 2010 when, encouraged by his daughter, Carmona began to send documents such as his birth certificate, photographs and match details to Guinness‘ team. Eventually, their ambassadors visited Uruguay to present him with his certificate.
His career clocks in at an impressive 45 active years, with 30 clubs on his CV and around 2,200 official games played. Perhaps most impressively of all, he’s never stopped playing, but even he’s not sure how he’s managed it.
“In football history, there have been maybe 10 or 15 old players, but most of them stopped playing and then joined some club years later,” said Carmona.
“In my case, I’ve been playing without interruption since I began my professional career in 1976.
“I can’t give an easy answer as to the secret for my longevity. There are several factors: a good diet, discipline in training, avoiding being lazy, alcohol and drugs, and, despite having had a difficult life since childhood, I have always maintained a very positive attitude.
“You need a strong conviction, to believe that dreams come true if you aim for something. In my life there’s no such thing as ‘can’t’. I feel like I’ve been given a gift and I haven’t wasted it. I feel very alive and have the energy of a youngster.”
Carmona is passionate about sport and dedicated too, not missing a day’s training except when injured.
“Even if I’m not under contract, I always train six or seven times a week,” said Carmona.
“If I’m injured, I try to recover as quick as possible to get back to my best, to meet my objectives and not let anyone down. Unfortunately, I’ve had a several injuries and operations since 1980, I’ve had a total of eight operations.
“I remember one day a surgeon said to me that I’d have to give up playing football. I looked at him and said ‘you don’t know who you’re talking to, as no operation, not this one, nor any one, will make me retire from football’. I think he was wrong. Here I am 40 years later playing and stronger than ever, thank God.”
Carmona takes his career seriously, and always has, with such longevity only being possible thanks to supreme commitment to his trade. He says he hasn’t gone out partying since he was 16, but he’s proud to be different from many other players.
At 59 years old, the Uruguayan is now at the stage of his career where he is not only older than all of his teammates but also many of his coaches. Retiring is not on the horizon, however, and he doesn’t much like even talking about the possibility.
“When they ask me about [retiring], it annoys me a bit… I say, what would I retire for?” explained Carmona.
“I’m a chosen one, a living legend. I became the oldest active player in the world and I’ll keep going. I feel like a 25-year-old. Retirement isn’t on my mind.
“I want my career to be a message to people. You only get one life and we have to show we can live better, have a quality life. Carmona‘s going nowhere!”
Carmona spent most of his career as a midfield playmaker, but since passing the milestone of 40 he has moved back into the centre of defence. After 45 years playing, you might think he’d achieved all his dreams, but he still has ambitions.
“I’ve been recognised and praised in Uruguay and even on the world stage, but I’d like FIFA to take notice of my achievements and record since I’m considered a shining example of health, sport, education, commitment, values and professionalism, all thanks to the most popular sport in the world,” he said.
Carmona still counts the days until Sunday comes and he plays the next game in his career for his team Hacele Un Gol A La Vida, which is also a social project in the fourth tier of Uruguayan football. It’s a club where Robert Carmona uses talent as a footballer to help those less fortunate. And that, 45 seasons on, feels pretty special.
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