The 64-year-old man from Antioquia with a green heart is going for the League: he has already won the Cup. This is his story.

The 64-year-old man from Antioquia with a green heart is going for the League: he has already won the Cup. This is his story.

After 16 and a half years, Hernán Darío Herrera returns to play in a Colombian soccer final. In 2005 he achieved it with a club to which he gave many things, Real Cartagena, to which, in addition, he was promoted twice.

He already has a long experience as a coach, always with a low profile, far from the spotlight and from the controversies . He took refuge in the minor divisions of his soul team, Atlético Nacional, and on a couple of occasions he has had to assume the management of the professional team in an emergency.

Herrera seeks, against Tolima, the elusive League title, both for him, who has never been able to achieve it as a coach, and for the club, which has not obtained it since the first half of 2017, under the command of Reinaldo Rueda.

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At 64, Herrera is willing to give everything for Nacional: “As coach of Nacional I think I'm the cheapest of all and it's not all money. If I see that stadium like yesterday, I direct for free.Against Millionaires I was not going to direct, I was going to go to a clinic but at night the Nacional fans arrived and, seeing those people singing in the hotel, everything was taken away from me, ”he told Blu Radio after getting the pass to the final.

This is how Herrera's relationship with Nacional began

Herrera has a relationship of almost 50 years with the greens. Born in Angelópolis (Antioquia) on October 28, 1957, he grew up in another municipality in that department, Caldas, where he was discovered one day when the Antioquia National Team went to play a friendly match. That day, Herrera unstitched her. and he never left the team again. A few years before, he followed the Nacional matches on the radio, behind the exploits of Argentines Jorge Hugo Fernández and Tito Gómez.

In those first years at Nacional, the nickname that marked him forever appeared, the 'Arriero'. The narrator Jorge Eliécer Campuzano put it on. In addition to the talent, the quality to handle the ball, he also sacrificed himself to help in scoring. In fact, Osvaldo Juan Zubeldía, his coach, applied reverse psychology to motivate other players.

“Herrera ran a lot and helped. And at Nacional, César Cueto played, who was an extraordinarily talented player, who had just played in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, but who didn't score as much. One day, Zubeldía came to the dressing room at intermission, called Herrera and told him “Hernancito, son, do what Cueto does, run, score.” His companions looked at each other. Then, when they were already returning to the court, Zubeldía put a hand on Herrera's shoulder and told him 'That's to motivate Cueto, let him help,'” Campuzano told EL TIEMPO.

During his time at Nacional, until 1984, he played 354 games, scored 73 goals and won a title, that of 1981,
the year in which he was also a fundamental player in the Colombia National Team led by Carlos Salvador Bilardo, which failed to qualify to the World Cup in Spain, despite a great contribution from Herrera, who scored goals in three of the four games.

The 64-year-old man from Antioquia with a green heart is going for the League: he has already won the Cup. This is his story.

América bought it in 1985 and was part of the squad that reached three Copa Libertadores finals and won three League titles. In 1992 he hung up his shoes and began to forge himself as a coach.

After passing through Real Cartagena, América, Bucaramanga and Pasto, Herrera began working in the minor divisions of Nacional in 2013. He had to take over as an emergency in 2018, when Jorge Almirón, who had arrived at Nacional with great expectations, left with the empty handed: they lost the Superliga against Millonarios, the Liga-I final against Tolima and were left out of the Libertadores in the round of 16, eliminated by Atlético Tucumán.

He managed 20 games and, in addition to winning the final of the Colombia Cup against Once Caldas, he left the team close to qualifying. But, inexplicably, the managers changed coaches near the end of the round robin phase. Paulo Autuori arrived and Nacional was eliminated on the last date, after drawing with the already relegated Leones.

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Herrera, coach commissioner to finalist

Herrera went to study in Europe after that change and returned to his position in the minor divisions, until another emergency arose this year: eliminated in the Libertadores in the preliminary phase by Olimpia and with problems in the League, Alejandro Restrepo, the head coach, he was fired.

In this new stage at the helm of Nacional, Herrera is determined to speak tough. As he did when Juan Cruz Real, Junior's coach, referred him as “the coach of the other team”.

The 64-year-old man from Antioquia with a green heart is going for the League: he has already won the Cup. This is his story.

“For Professor Juan Cruz Real, this one here is the coach of Nacional. My name is Hernán Darío Herrera, I am Colombian and purebred from Antioquia, so this one has a name. Professor Juan Cruz Real, we must also respect “, he said then.

Herrera does not forget his origin, nor his nickname. In fact, he has directed a couple of games wearing a black shirt with the Nacional shield and the legend 'Arriero soy'. Or with another in which he shows the end of the anthem of Antioquia, modified by the tribune: 'Oh Libertad, Oh Nacional.'

He lives the matches with such intensity today that he puts plaster on his Palms of the hands. “I wear it because I feel stress in the locker room,” he explained.

And he had no qualms about easing tensions and uncovering a bottle of liquor, one of those used as publicity at press conferences, and handing it out, after beating Bucaramanga, in one of the key games to reach at the end. Herrera is authentic, he never denies his origin and wants to be champion next Sunday.

José Orlando Ascencio
Deputy Sports Editor

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