A close-knit family keeps this player motivated

Miguel Calero Montiel kicks the ball outside his modest apartment building in La Granja, a working class neighborhood in the Madrid suburb of Parla. His girlfriendRebecca tries to steal the ball away, as nieces, Natalia (4) and Lucía (3), chase after them.

The Calero Montiels are a close knit family—supportive and affectionate. Miguel, 19, lives with his parents Miguel Calero, 60, and Josefa Montiel, 51. His two sisters, Blanca, 30, and Marifé, 35, live nearby with their families. Health scares and financial strain have kept the family bonds tight—everyone works to support each other, emotionally and financially, and no one lacks the basics.

It has been 27 years since Miguel Calero underwent emergency heart surgery, and he continues to suffer from severe cardiac disease. A one-time engine operator, his illness has left him unable to work so the family lives off his modest retirement pension. Miguel has lived his entire life with worries about his father’s health, which has naturally shaped his world.

This obvious financial—and emotional—strain has only been amplified by the ongoing financial crisis in Spain. With the highest unemployment rates in recent history many are struggling, including the Calero Montiels. Miguel’s sisters have both lost their jobs and their government subsidies have run out. Their husbands’ work is sporadic as well—leaving the entire family of 10 almost completely dependent upon the father’s pension.

Miguel thinks about it often and it keeps him motivated. “My biggest worry is that my family is well: my parents, my two sisters and my three nieces and nephews. Since we are going through hard economic times, something we’ve been dealing with for a long time due to my father’s heart condition and the crisis, I have to believe in myself and concentrate on working hard.”

And he gets support from his friends and teammates. Miguel’s team acts as a second family and Miguel acts as a natural leader within. Many of his other friends are university students or are still finishing high school, and in spite of what that implies—a lack of time—his friends and loved ones form an armed fort around him, something for which the young soccer player of course shows deep gratitude. And there is his girlfriend Rebecca.

Rebecca and Miguel have known each other their entire lives, but only recently started to date. She lives in nearby Pinto—where Miguel’s team is based—and is in university. They are like any other young happy couple, playfully teasing each other, especially about soccer. An Atletico de Madrid fan, she and Real Madrid fan Miguel, joke about their rivalry. But most importantly she acts as a rock for him to hold onto. "Rebecca is for me an unconditional support, an escape valve that makes me completely happy. I trust her and she trusts me."