The spectacle of the young phenomenon entering the pitch against players 10 or 20 years their senior is one of football’s most fascinating subplots. As the physical will take you into the game, the quality will always take you further, giving rise to the mantra that “there are no young and old players, only good and bad”.
Some of the sport’s greatest stories and legends involve these historic beginnings. There is supreme logic in the fact that Pelé, at the age of 16 years and 259 days, is both Brazil’s youngest player and goalscorer. The story of a 14-year-old Freddy Adu who received a standing ovation at RFK Stadium is a good one.
Even the Nations League offers some form of little entertainment when you watch Gavi make his Spain debut at 17 years and 61 days old, eclipsing an 85-year-old record held by Athletic Club’s Ángel Zubieta.
But all of these examples are overshadowed by the true measure holder of the ultimate golden boy – the youngest professional soccer player of all time – and that is 12-year-old Bolivian Mauricio Baldivieso.
Mauricio was the son of Julio César Baldivieso, who was a legend of the Bolivian national team before becoming manager of the Cochabamba-based Club Aurora in 2008.
In a 2009 league game against La Paz FC, the manager sent his preteen son for the last 10 minutes of the game. Shortly after entering the pitch, a player from La Paz issued a ‘welcome to the league’ challenge from behind. By my calculations Mauricio executed nine rolls after receiving the kick.
A bench cleaning fight then ensues.
“I am the happiest man in the world” said Mauricio after the game despite the need for treatment, the medical cart and not yet reaching adulthood.
“I want to clarify that I did not cry when I was the victim of a fault”, he added later. “Some people said I cried, but that’s a lie and they’re just jealous.”
This happiness would not last long. Five days later, his father’s contract was terminated after Aurora’s board forced him to choose between his job and his son.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t like my son’s debut. I won’t be told if I’m playing someone from my family or not ”, Julio César Baldivieso said. “The country and the world should know that in Bolivia talented young people are having their legs cut off, to make room for foreign players, no doubt, or because of personal grudges. That’s why I decided to move away from Aurora. (Mauricio) is at a good level, there are television images that give credence to what I’m saying; I’m not inventing anything.
Mauricio’s later career didn’t give much credit to his debut. He rebounded at six Bolivian clubs between 2011 and 2018, while he made an appearance for the Bolivian Under-20 team in 2015.