- Wilter Ayovi one of eight Independiente del Valle graduates called up to Ecuador's U-20 side
- The 20-year-old has scored three times in the Ecuadorian league
- Exudes confidence ahead of the U-20 World Cup: "We're going to be world champions"
Ecuador are currently finalising their preparations in Quito ahead of travelling to Korea Republic to participate at their third FIFA U-20 World Cup – and first in six years. They have a squad of players dreaming of glory, and none more so than Wilter Ayovi, who will be tasked with striking fear into opposition defences.
"We're convinced we're going to be world champions," he told FIFA.com at his team's base. "That's why we're all here and why we look out for each other. It won't be easy, but that's the reason we're going there – not to just try to get past the first round."
Ayovi is one of the latest in a series of talented players with the same surname to emerge in Ecuadorian football. "I'm always asked if I'm related to them, but I'm not," he said. "However, it does motivate me to try to get to that level."
His roots in the game set him apart from his namesakes: he is part of the youth system at Independiente del Valle, the club contributing most players to Ecuador's trip to Korea Republic. Six of the 21 players in the squad ply their trade there, while two more - Bryan Cabezas and Joao Rojas – came through the ranks at the club before being transferred.
"Everyone wants to be there because they do things that big teams here don't do," Ayovi said of Independiente, who reached the final of the most recent Copa Libertadores with a squad full of homegrown players. "They give a lot of support to youngsters. We've got good pitches, education, food and accommodation. And they've always kept faith in fielding young players, which is something that's helped us a lot."
— Independiente Valle (@IDV_EC) May 4, 2017
(Congratulations boys! Six Independiente del Valle players were selected to the Ecuador U-20 team that will play in the World Cup in Korea Republic)
Independiente del Valle are currently second in the Ecuadorian league and can count 14 of the 28 members of the first team squad as graduates from their own youth academy. Ayovi, who made his debut at the end of 2015 at the age of 18, is one of them. He did not feature regularly until this year, however, after having developed his ability as an "inside-out winger on the left or as a playmaker".
"My mentality when I'm on the ball has improved a lot," he continued. "I used to be a little bit scared and be worried about bigger players hitting me. I learned that if I didn't get hit I wouldn't be a footballer at all. There's always going to be contact in football."
Ayovi has also added more variety to his play and now describes himself as "a skilful dribbler with a good shot from distance". Ecuador U-20 coach Javier Rodriguez fields him in right midfield, although Ayovi himself prefers to play more centrally "because that way the ball always goes through me, which is what I like".
At the South American U-20 Championship, where Ecuador finished runners-up to Uruguay, Ayovi learned that international football is very different to the domestic game: "You have to run a lot and you have to be in great shape physically in order to last the 90 minutes. It's more tiring because you're playing for your country and you have to give everything Ecuador expects of us."
Indeed, he does not believe the fact that several players in Ecuador's U-20 World Cup squad have experience in the domestic top flight back home will be particularly advantageous: "It's not the same. Here, the players don't press as much, as they do at international level. At the World Cup, there'll be more pressure, it'll go back and forth and it'll be pretty physical."
At Korea Republic 2017, they will face USA, Senegal and Saudi Arabia in Group F, but prior to the team's departure on Sunday 14 May, the youngsters are keeping themselves entertained by playing as Neymar and Lionel Messi on FIFA 17. "I always play with Barcelona," Ayovi said. "Neymar's my favourite because he's got so much skill, but I also like Messi because he dribbles as if the ball was stuck to his foot with glue.
"I'm good [at FIFA 17] but I'm better at the real thing," Ayovi joked. If he is able to achieve his dream and make a name for himself at the U-20 World Cup, he will be easily identifiable in spite of his familiar surname: "I've never heard of anybody called Wilter, except my dad. It's a unique name and I like it."
— FEF Ecuador (@FEFecuador) May 10, 2017
(Today, our warriors received the visit of two Ecuadorian soccer greats! Edison Mendez and Ivan Hurtado)