CHARLOTTE – As Charlotte FC’s first-ever signing, Sergio Ruiz has waited longer than any other player or coach for this moment. When he first stepped on the pitch at Bank of America Stadium for preseason training, all he could do was smile and take in the moment he had waited over a year and a half for.
However, things weren’t as cheerful two months ago for Ruiz. He had been playing soccer on loan at Las Palmas but, near the end of the year, he took a break from the sport he loves to focus on his mental health.
“The last few months were difficult for me because I had injured my foot and had been suffering with anxiety. But now I’m feeling good, I’m [feeling] strong. [I’m] really looking forward to starting the season and feel super proud to be here.
“I feel very motivated now. Seeing my family happy here [in Charlotte] has really helped me. Now I'm just incredibly excited to get started."
That first preseason training session Ruiz took part in was also a special moment because it was a reunion with Charlotte FC Head Coach Miguel Ramírez, who he first met in-person in Spain’s Canary Islands during his time playing there.
At the first sight of Ruiz on the pitch, Ramírez excitingly rushed over and embraced Ruiz with a hug you’d expect to see between two lifelong friends.
“I’ve known Miguel since I was playing at Las Palmas, because he’s from there. I have a good relationship with him, he supports me a lot and I’m really happy to be with him.
“I think he is a great head coach for the team because he wants to play good soccer.
“Players love this attacking style because players love to have the ball... I think for us and for the fans it will be attractive soccer. That’s the most important thing, that people are happy and enjoying the soccer style and enjoying going to the stadium.”
On top of moving to a new country and playing in a new league, Ruiz is also preparing for perhaps the biggest challenge of his life... fatherhood. Almost as if coming to Charlotte was meant to be, his child is expected to be born around the same date as the Club’s inaugural home match.
“It [fatherhood] is the most important thing in my life. The baby is expected to be born on the same day that we start here [in Charlotte], when we play Los Angeles, around the 4th or 5th of March.
“We are new are here in the city. Within one month, I will be a father and play the first match here. It will be crazy and amazing.
“First, I play the game and then, I will go to see my baby!” Sergio laughingly responded to the very real possibility of his baby being born around the same time as the inaugural match.
Despite all the things that have been going on in Ruiz’s life, including past reports of first division Spanish teams interested in signing him when he was at Las Palmas, he stresses that he has always been fixated on Charlotte FC.
“My focus was always on Charlotte FC. I feel a special part of this project. I’ve only wanted to come here and play for Charlotte FC.”