NCFC INSIDER: Manny Perez's Animal Farm
Updated: Jun 17
If he is not running up and down the right flank of WakeMed Soccer Park, North Carolina FC winger Manny Perez can be found at his family farm in Garner, where he tends 200 chickens, seven horses, and a new baby goat that he plans to name “Messi.”
When his family moved to Garner, NC in 2010, a young Perez had no choice but to quickly learn how to help his parents run the 20-acre farmland. The duties at the farm, he explains, are simple:
1 – Please feed your animals. 2 – Please clean your animals.
Equipped with a shovel and a rack, Perez begins his day collecting the waste dropped overnight by the horses and chickens.
“They poop a lot, man,” Perez said with a smile.
His expertise on poultry farming tells him which eggs he should pick up from the nesting boxes and which ones he should leave intact for the hens to brood.
“You evaluate how the hens act,” he explained. “If they get nervous when you get close to the egg, it means that they want to hatch it.”
The highlight of Perez’s day at the farm comes around 4 p.m., when he can finally enjoy some outdoor activity with the horses. There is one black-and-white leather saddle that Perez especially likes to sit in.
“My favorite horse to take on trail rides is Principe, or ‘Prince,’ in English,” he said.
An all-black gelding except for his white hooves, Prince is six years old and the biggest of seven horses on the farm. From the ground to the highest point on his withers, he measures 16 hands, or 5 feet and 4 inches, and weighs about a ton.
“He is a beast,” said a proud Perez.
When the sun is about to set, Perez feeds the animals one final time. He drops cracked corn in the chicken coops and hay in the horse barns, before shutting the farm down until the following morning.
Last week, the farm welcomed a new member, as Perez’s uncle, Alejandro, surprised everyone by showing up with an 11-month-old white goat.
“(The goat) doesn’t have a name yet,” Perez said.
He then added that he is seriously thinking of calling it “Messi,” whom he considers the greatest footballer of all time.
The farm played a key role in forming Perez during his teenage years. It particularly taught him the importance of being disciplined, a value that he deems essential for his current job as a professional footballer.
“Feeding the horses every day at the same time is like arriving on time for training every morning,” he said.
The day before an NCFC game, Perez enjoys sitting on a wooden bench that overlooks the farm’s large pond. There, he stares into the water and reflects on the upcoming game, carefully visualizing the movements that he will make on the right side of WakeMed Soccer Park.
“As a right-winger, I think about how the opponent left-back or left-winger plays, and what I can do to beat him in a 1v1 (situation),” he said.
He lists scissors and body faints as his top-two dribbling moves. These skills often allow him to get to the end line, a position from which his service proved lethal throughout the 2019 USL campaign.
“Once I pick out a guy in the box, I focus on my delivery having good form and power,” he said.
Perez does not know what the summer has in store for him. Celtic FC, the Glasgow-based club that signed him in January 2019, will invite him to their Scottish Premiership preseason camp in July. After the camp, they will either keep him on their roster or send him back to Raleigh to complete his season with NCFC.
Should Perez go play football in Scotland, he admits that he will miss home and the unique sense of peacefulness that he gets from spending time at his farm.
“The farm is the only place other than the soccer field where I can be in my own thoughts,” he said.
He is afraid that he will not be able to replicate that special feeling overseas. On the other hand, he recognizes that Celtic FC represents his best chance to pursue his lifetime dream of playing in the Champions League, the tournament that features the best footballers in the world, including Messi.
Perez shivered at the thought that he might find himself face-to-face with the football “GOAT.”