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The Boca Juniors fan who likes to entertain the crowd - an interview with Mauri Soto

As lockdown continues here in Czech Republic we took some time to talk to attacking midfielder/winger, Mauri Soto, about his life at the Raptors and ambitions for the future.

Tell us about you, where you are from and what you are like?

I'm from Bolivia, the city is called Cochabamba but I lived most of my life in Santa Cruz, so I call that home as well.

I am a really calm guy, I am social but not a big party guy.

I've lived in Prague for 4 years now. I came here for studies and I have graduated already, now I am working and plan to stay here for a couple more years at least.

When did you start playing football?

I have played football since I remember, even when I look back at photos of when I first started walking, I always had a ball.

I started playing for a team in Cochabamba from 4 to 9 years old, then I moved to Santa Cruz and I was playing in a couple more teams where I went through the different age groups...I then stopped for a while to concentrate on school. Thankfully I am now playing again at the Raptors.

What type of player are you?

I consider myself as an offensive midfielder - I like playing as a winger too...I am a leftie so I like cutting in and looking for the shot or assist.

Actually I also can play as a goalkeeper too, I spent most of my younger career as a goalkeeper but my vision did not help me so I decided to try outfield and it worked out really it helped me lose a lot of weight.

What do you like best about your position?

I really enjoy assists. I look up to players like Juan Román Riquelme & Zidane - I focus on trying to make unexpected plays and passes...sometimes it does not work but that's part of it. I like trying to build offensive plays for the team.

Tell us about the players that inspire you?

I like looking at the players of the past...there was one Argentinian called Bochini - my Grandpa used to always talk about him and how he played at Independiente...I found some videos of him and I love his play. It is part of a style in South America called Gambetta - where you go into difficult situations and get out in a fast style, like Maradona or Ronaldo.

You talk more about Argentinian football than Bolivian - why is that?

In Bolivia we don't have so much iconic players, and the institutions do not support so much - so we often look to other teams and players in South America.

And Argentina, because I follow Boca Juniors, so for me it is players like Riquelme & Maradona. Argentinian football just has a slightly different type of flair you don't get anywhere else.

My father was always supporting Boca Juniors, so it is something he taught me. I was born in the golden days of Boca so that helped. I actually still have a shirt my Father gave me on the day I was born - signed by all of the players...and I take the shirt with me wherever I go.

How does Czech football compare to South America?

There are some similarities, like the physicality. In South America the atmosphere is very tough, and that feeds into the game, meaning players must be physical.

At the Raptors we play different to many other teams at our level though, we are less physical, more technical...which sometimes can work well and sometimes can hurt us not to have that same physicality.

How do you think the Raptors are doing this season?

I think we have improved, we have come a long way in a short time. I have seen a lot of changes since I joined. I see a good future - hopefully one day my kids are watching the Raptors on the TV & wearing a Raptors shirt.

In South America we don't really have structured teams in the lower leagues so for me it is a great oppportunity to be at the Raptors as I feel like it is something to be really proud of.

Who in the team do you gel with the best?

Actually I get on with everyone really well - but I would say the ones I am most close with are Callum, GP, Alex & Mattia, but really everyone. It is always good to see them all.

Do you ever get to watch the Women's games?

Of course, I try to watch as much as possbile, and always share what they are doing on my social media. They are very focussed on improving and really take the games seriously...they have a really good level and I think they will reach their goal this season. It is something I am really happy about, not just with the Raptors but more teams putting bigger focus on Women's football. I often say maybe Women can do things better than Men.

What is your aim for this season?

My personal aim is to get a place in the starting 11 - so I can contribute more...but even if I end up on the sidelines I will be there supporting and shouting (in a good way of course). I think I have a lot more potential to show, especially after my eye surgery - I will feel more comfortable.

I always think of Jamie Vardy, he shows that if you keep going then there is always potential to go further.

And your Dad played football too? Yeah, my Dad and Grandfather both played. My Dad was a goalkeeper, my Grandfather a midfielder. My Grandma would say that they would always try to do something nice for the fans, like a nutmeg or some cool trick, and I like to do that it runs in the family.

What do you do outside football?

I studied business & administration and now I am working in sales at Crown Relocations - helping people and business all around the world on moving. I like it - I see myself staying in this industry. I am also working on a project with my partner to launch a clothing brand so that is exciting.

What about away from football and work?

I really enjoy listening to music, I sit and listen to music a lot, understanding the lyrics & concepts - I like all kinds of music but I listen most to hip-hop & rap. I am also a big fan of wine, so I am often trying different wines. Other than that just spending time with friends and hanging out.

Quick fire questions:

Santa Cruz or Prague?

It's tough, but Santa is a more relaxed family-orientated lifestyle. Sometimes too relaxed though, like if you need to work and focus.

Beach or Ski holidays?

Beach for sure. In Bolivia we don't have the sea so it's a big one to wish for.

Messi or Ronaldo?

Ronaldo, every day of the week. I admire his work ethic so much. Imagine a mixture of them both.

Follower or Leader?

I would consider myself a leader - even though I am sometimes kind of shy at the start, I study the environment so I can see the best way to lead.

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