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Cerro Porteño

Who is Fernando Ovelar? The 14-year-old sensation who scored in Paraguayan Clasico

02:00 GMT+3 07/11/2018
Fernando Ovelar
The youngest player ever to score in professional South American football, Ovelar has become an instant favourite with the Cerro Porteno faithful

When it comes to making an impact in the notoriously chaotic world of South American football as a young hopeful, a stellar performance in a derby game cannot be beaten.

Across the continent, plenty of wonderkids have announced themselves to fans in just this way, with displays and goals that later go down in club folklore.

One famous example is Sergio Aguero. Long before he was pilfering goals for Manchester City, the Argentine was making his name at the tender age of 16 with boyhood idols Independiente, hitting a goal against arch-rivals Racing in a 4-0 rout for the Rojo.

Less than 12 months later Kun had sealed a record move to Atletico Madrid and the rest, as they say, is history.

But Aguero has nothing on the latest gem to come out of neighbouring Paraguay. Fernando Ovelar opened the scoring in Cerro Porteno's Superclasico clash against Olimpia on Sunday, fulfilling the dream of any budding star with a goal in just his second professional game.

But what made Ovelar's strike even more impressive was his age: at 14 years, nine months and 27 days, he is the youngest scorer in the history of the fixture and quite possibly in the history of South American football as a whole.

"I'm delighted for him, proud of him," the player's mother Marlene Martinez beamed to ABC after the game, holding aloft the shirt worn by Ovelar and given to his family as a keepsake. "We were shouting and crying like crazy in the stadium, me and my daughter." 

The grandson of former Paraguay defender Geronimo Ovelar, a Copa America winner with the Guarani in 1979, little is known about Fernando aside from his memorable goalscoring turn in the Superclasico.

Cerro jealously guard the teenage forward's privacy, refusing all requests for comments following his heroics. It is understandable. A matter of weeks ago Ovelar was still playing in the Asuncion side's Under-15 division, where in March he had also scored against Olimpia in a 3-1 victory for the Ciclon.

On October 28, however, Ovelar received a shock call-up to the first team to play against 3 de Febrero, starting in a 1-1 draw before being substituted on the hour. A week later he retained his place in the first XI, and rewarded the faith of Spanish coach Fernando Jubero, a former collaborator at Barcelona who has carved out a strong reputation for his work in Paraguay.

Sent clean through just 16 minutes into the Superclasico, Ovelar showed brilliant presence of mind to chip the ball over the incoming Alfredo Aguilar and into the net. It was a memorable strike, worthy of the occasion as Cerro looked for three points against their rivals that would keep the title race in Paraguay alive.

Unfortunately for the visitors and their teenage gem, Sunday's match proved a bittersweet occasion. Olimpia fought back with a goal from Nestor Camacho – at 31, 17 years Ovelar's senior – before the derby ended in typically chaotic fashion.

Marcos Acosta restored Cerro's lead with a 95th minute penalty, but there was still more to come. The referee's watch finally showed 103 minutes when Jorge Ortega netted his own spot-kick to seal a 2-2 draw, which also included two red cards deep into that interminable injury time.

Cerro needed a win to cut a seven-point deficit behind the leaders, who with just five games remaining in the season now look set to add the 2018 Clausura title to the Apertura crown lifted in the first half of the year. Those late shenanigans meant Ovelar was left with only a partial celebration; but he can still reflect on a very special game that has set several records tumbling.

While he may be Paraguay's youngest-ever player, he did not quite reach the world record. That honour belongs to a prodigy from neighbouring Bolivia, who unlike other early starters – Freddy Adu, anyone? - continues to flourish on the pitch.

Mauricio Baldiviezo was just 12 when, under the direction of coach and father Juan Carlos, he was thrown onto the pitch for a Primera Division game in the colours of Aurora. The furore caused by the premature debut saw Baldiviezo banned from playing again by the concerned board, a decision that in turn led to both father and son walking out of the club.

The midfielder got another chance as a comparative veteran of 15 for Real Potosi, once more playing under his father, before returning to Aurora and breaking another record, this time for his appearance in the 2012 Copa Sudamericana which made him the youngest player ever to star in continental competition.

He is now at San Jose, helping the Oruro club in their battle for the Clausura title and still only 22 years old.

Ovelar, meanwhile, knows that the real challenge is still to come: consolidating his place in the Cerro team and converting his early promise into a strong, consistent career. Only a handful make the grade, but there is no doubt that the prodigy has made a perfect start to life in professional football.