Wuilker Farinez had only been a goalkeeper for four years when he made his full international debut for Venezuela.
He is 18.
The friendly with Panama on May 25, 2016 was Farinez first official international appearance. He was in the Venezuela squad for the 2015 Copa America and is the youngest goalkeeper at the Copa America Centenario in the USA.
This is remarkable given that until he was 14 it was not clear whether he would be scoring goals or saving them.
As a youngster he showed potential as a striker but since dedicating himself to a life between the sticks his progress has been rapid.
Farinez was training with the first team at his club, Venezuelan Primera side Caracas FC, when he was 15, had made his league debut at 16 and two years later was a full international.
Not bad for a novice keeper who stands just 175cm tall.
This places him at the lower extreme of the goalkeeper spectrum – there are not many shorter keepers anywhere in the world. But such is Farinez’ raw ability that hisheight has not been a hindrance in his short career.Wuilker Farinez is the youngest and shortest goalkeeper at #CopaAmerica #Venezuela #Copa100 Click To Tweet
A prodigious spring and phenomenal reflexes mean that Farinez has little trouble covering his goal with authority. His positional sense and ability to read the game are excellent.
And his confidence with the ball at his feet is that of a striker.
A move to Europe has been mooted and his progress has certainly been noted by several big clubs.
He has already turned down some tempting offers.
Farinez was a member of a squad of prospects from Venezuela who visited Real Madrid in 2013 on a tour sponsored by a corn flour company. His performances caught the eye of the Real youth coaches and he was invited to stay in Madrid for a further week of training alongside current Venezuela teammate Adalberto Peñaranda.
Real were keen to keep Farinez and discreet offers were made to sign him. But Farinez was reluctant to move abroad and leave his family at such a young age.
He has said that playing for a European club is an ambition but one that he is prepared to wait to fulfil.
One dream that he has seen become reality was achieved when he made his international debut.
Farinez was initially called up by Noel Sanvicente but current Venezuela coach Rafael Dudamel is a keen admirer and has quietly championed his young keeper’s ability.
Dudamel was a goalkeeper himself and scored over twenty goals in his career. Farinez has a coach who understands the pressures placed on a young keeper.
Venezuelan football is undergoing a difficult period with disputes and power struggles at the top of the Football Association and among leading players and officials.
They are struggling in World Cup qualifying and are currently bottom of the South America group.
Several promising players have been pushed up the Venezuela football system. A young squad will surely benefit from this exposure in future years.
Farinez is one of the most interesting young keepers in South America. In terms of raw ability he is an intriguing prospect.
If he can convince conservative scouts of his potential then it would not be a surprise to see him make a move to Europe. Regardless of his height his shot-stopping and reading of the game is prodigious.
Farinez is only 18 if, and it is a big if, he can make it a major European club he will challenge one of football’s fundamental truths– you have to be tall to be a keeper. Perhaps it is time that this universal orthodoxy was questioned.
For now however, Farinez will go on proving that ability is more important than size. A point that he reinforces with every flying save he makes.