Fresno FC star Juan Pablo Caffa doesn’t care much for his nickname.
Especially since it has followed him for years and is one of the first facts that pop up when searching the Internet about the pro soccer player.
But he does like Fresno, even if he’d never heard of the city prior to signing with the Foxes.
The Bee caught up with the native of Argentina leading into Fresno FC’s crucial game against the Phoenix Rising FC at 7 p.m. Saturday at Chukchansi Park — partly to find out if the Foxes really can make the playoffs in the franchise’s inaugural season, and partly to learn what’s his secret to scoring on his crafty free kicks.
The Bee: Fresno FC currently is 6-7-7 overall and ninth in the USL’s Western Conference standings (top eight make the playoffs) with about two months of the season left. Even though it’s the first season of professional soccer in Fresno, can the Foxes make the playoffs?
JPC: We came into the year with the goal of making the playoffs. It’s going to be hard. But we have the team to do it, and the club’s behind us. We’ve been playing well the past two games. So let’s keep it up, stay focused and make it really happen. There are still a lot of games.
What has this first season in Fresno been like off the field so far?
JPC: I didn’t know where Fresno was before. I’ve gotten to learn a little more about the city living here. I like it. Fresno is a nice, quiet city. The people are friendly here. I don’t need much more than that. We like to eat Poki bowls sometimes and go to “Butterfish.”
What I’ve really enjoyed is getting to know the people who are involved with the club. They are nice. The Fresno FC staff wants to do something important here. You can feel that vibe from them. Fresno is a soccer city. They are helping everyone realize that.
How did you get the nickname “The Violinist?” Did you play the violin when you were younger or just really enjoy listening to the violin?
JPC: No. No. No. I don’t really like that nickname. What happened was the night before one of my first games, and this was years ago, my friend and I were playing soccer on PlayStation. I scored with an Italian guy who celebrated by pretending to play the violin. I thought it was funny. I told my friend if I score the next day, I’ll celebrate like that. Well, I scored. I did the violin. Then I find out they gave me this nickname.
I don’t even do it all the time. But I still have this nickname from when I was 20. I’m too old to celebrate like that now. Seems silly. But people like it.
So you don’t celebrate like that anymore?
JPC: No. Some guys found out about it when I was in Tulsa. So I did it for them last year. But I haven’t done it this season.
You have a team-high six goals on the season. But what’s been amazing is how you’ve scored some of these goals — from long distances, over defenders and just out of reach of goalies who sometimes don’t even bother to jump to try to block the shot. How did you learn to kick like that?
JPC: I’ve always liked free kicks. When I was a kid, I used a bicycle in my backyard as a wall and I’d practice kicking at it. While I was playing for La Liga, I had a Brazilian teammate who showed me how to kick harder and get the ball to go just up and then down in time. And I just kept practicing, aiming high at the goal.
How different is American life compared to living in Argentina?
JPC: It’s pretty big. Argentina is always home. But I’ve played soccer in Europe and other cities in America for years. And we’ve traveled a lot. So I’ve gotten used to being away. In Argentina, we would eat steak every time. Here in America, you can eat many things. But when I cook at home (in Fresno), it can feel like home (in Argentina). Cook a steak — a rib eye — with empanadas, pasta, rice.