It's difficult to look past Alejandro 'Alex' Sanchez Lopez. The 34-year-old from Spain recently scripted history by becoming the first physically disabled player to play in a professional football league in India, when he took the field for Gokulam Kerala FC in Durand Cup. He has had a good start, assisting Sreekuttan in the first match against Indian Air Force, and scoring one himself in the next match against Kerala Blasters.
Though born with a deformed right hand due to a congenital condition, Alex Sanchez did not let the disability hamper him, as he rose up the ranks and finally played in the La Liga. In 15 years, till now, the striker has played 381 matches and scored 177 goals.
Alex Sanchez was bullied and discriminated against in his childhood because of his deformity, but found his calling and refuge in football. His coach realised his potential and helped him earn a place in the Real Zaragoza ‘C’ team. Before his professional debut, Alex Sanchez had scored 12 goals in 10 games for Zaragoza’s reserve team. In 2009, he made his professional debut against Valencia in the La Liga, as an 86th minute substitute for Angel Lafita, becoming the first physically disabled individual to be part of a professional football match.
A season after his professional debut, Alex Sanchez began playing in Segunda Division B for CD Teruel and CD Tudelano, featuring in over 100 matches for the latter. In 2015, he signed a two-year deal with CA Osasuna. If 127 Spanish third-tier matches, he scored 42 goals.
He then joined Sydney Olympic FC in Australia's National Premier Leagues NSW. It was a defining moment in his career, as he led the team to victory in 2018, scoring 34 goals in 44 games.
Alex Sanchez is an inspiration to many, both on and off the football field. He values the privileges and fame he got because of the game, he says, and he hopes to use it to inspire young people with disabilities to achieve their dreams. He said in an interview that several mothers with disabled children have thanked him for inspiring them. He also plans to set up a foundation to help people with disabilities through sports.
His exploits are not limited to the football field. Alex Sanchez has a law degree, a PhD in law and a master’s degree in politics. He has also written a book on human rights in sports.
The words of V.C. Praveen, Gokulam FC president, sum up what Alex Sanchez means to the club. “He was born without a hand but that’s fine with us. He plays football and he has two legs to kick the ball. That’s all what matters. Sanchez is an incredibly talented player, As long as he performs well for the team, there is no need to worry about his deformity.”
One couldn't agree more.