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Raúl Jiménez

Raúl Jiménez

The Mexican who risked his head for soccer

The Mexican goalscorer had a meteoric career until, five minutes into a Wolves game against Arsenal, he suffered a blow that put his life and career as a footballer in danger. Since then, he has fought daily to become a star again.

Raúl Jiménez
Raúl Jiménez
Raúl Jiménez
Raúl Jiménez
Raúl Jiménez
Raúl Jiménez
Raúl Jiménez
Raúl Jiménez
Raúl Jiménez
Raúl Jiménez

Raúl Jiménez, striker for Wolverhampton Wanderers, was born on May 5, 1991, in Tepeji del Río, Mexico. Soccer was about to cost him his life, but instead, it made him the protagonist of a story of overcoming adversity with a happy ending.

In 2020, he was the most in form player for el Tri: scorer and idol of 'Wolves,' an undisputed member of the Mexican National Team, coveted by the giants of the Premier League. With a resume already quite extensive: gold medalist in London 2012, World Cup in 2014 and 2018. Goals in America, Atlético de Madrid and Benfica. Until November 29, 2020, arrived.

That night, Wolves visited the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal. Only five minutes into the game the heads of Jiménez and David Luiz, defender of the 'Gunners,' collided when disputing a ball from a corner kick. Jiménez fell to the grass and lay unconscious on it. He didn't move. Raúl was bleeding from the nose. He gave no signs of life.

The medical services of both teams entered the field to attend to the player. After eight minutes, the Mexican attacker was removed on a stretcher, immobilized, with assisted ventilation, surrounded by the worried faces of his teammates and rivals. "I knew immediately it was a serious injury," Wolves doctor Matt Perry told the BBC.

From the stadium, Jiménez was taken to a hospital, where his worst fears were confirmed: a skull fracture. He underwent emergency surgery. Not just his career but his life was at risk. The striker regained consciousness in the hospital and managed to communicate with his wife, Daniela. He didn't remember anything that had happened.

Jiménez spent that night and five more in the hospital. The rapid intervention of the medical services and the protocols for concussion of the Premier League worked. "They saved his life," Wolves coach Nuno Espírito Santo said at the time. On December 4, 2020, Raúl was already back home. And two weeks later, he visited his teammates during training. "The first thing he told me when he saw me was that he was ready to come back," Nuno recalled.

But there was still a long way to go. Raúl's mother, Martha, traveled to England to help him during his rehabilitation. She got him knitting and reading as part of his neurological recovery. It was clear that the return would be gradual and slow. First, back to the gym; later, to training alone; later, with the team, but with an inviolable rule: nobody touches Raúl. And one month went by. And then two. Three. One after another.

Until July 17, 2021, arrived. 230 days later, Raúl Jiménez returned to a soccer field. The match: Wolverhampton vs. Crewe Alexandra, League Two team (Third Division). Wolves lost 1-0, but the result was anecdotal; 'El Lobo de Tepeji' started and played the first 34 minutes. He wore a protective helmet similar to the one worn by Czech goalkeeper Peter Cech for years. He will have to wear it for the rest of his career.

Jiménez made his debut in the 2021-2022 Premier League on matchday 1, August 14, against Leicester. He fought balls in the air for ninety minutes against all medical odds. It wasn't until Game 6 that the anxiety was finally behind him. Against Southampton, at St. Mary's Stadium, on September 26, 2021, Raúl derailed a defender, stole the ball over the wing, headed into the box, cut back on the opponent he had swiped, and finished with his left foot. A goal. A cry of rage and redemption that lasted 301 days. A goal worth a life.

"Leaving soccer never crossed my mind, but obviously the doctors told me the risks that could exist," said Raúl. A scar runs across the right side of his head, perfectly visible when the cranial protection does not cover it. But, 'El Lobo' does not give up. He continues without doing so. A groin injury put his participation in Qatar 2022 at risk until the last moment. And Raúl Jiménez did not give up.

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Mariano Tovar.
Art direction:
Francisco Expósito.
Darío González.
Rodrigo Ludgero.
Texts writing:
Eduardo López.