How an Argentine bird came to define Pity Martinez's playing style

Gonzalo Martínez is a name that may not turn heads around the world, but if you say the name “Pity,” people from all over will know who you’re talking about. His electric, exciting attacking play has made him the South American Player of the Year, and he's now a household name for soccer fans from all over. So where does the name “Pity” come from?

Pity –– pronounced “PEE-tee”, not like the English word “pity” –– says he was given the nickname by his mother when he was still just a child, who likened his energy to that of the “Pititorra,” a small bird similar to a sparrow that is native to Argentina. Its wings buzz like a hummingbird, flitting around the trees with an energy that’s famous among the locals where Pity grew up. It’s gotten to be so common that Pity says he rarely hears the name “Gonzalo” –– and if he does, he jokes, that’s just when he’s in trouble at home.

The nickname may have come well before he became an international star, but it’s come to define his style of play. Pity bounces around the field with an energy reminiscent of his namesake, always available for the ball, always pressuring off of it, and always eager to contribute to the game. It’s that kind of relentless enthusiasm to dominate a game that caught the eye of the Atlanta United technical staff.

“He’s good on the ball, fit, mobile, and technical,” said Technical Director and VP Carlos Bocanegra. “He’ll get around the pitch, bring people into the game, can beat opponents one-on-one, make people miss and he combines really well. We like to dominate possession, we like to have an attacking style of play, commit numbers forward and he’ll fit in well.”

Pity says his biggest strength is his ability in one-on-one situations. His technical ability will make jaws drop, and he has a quickness and unpredictability that keeps defenders off balance –– almost like a pity bird, who can dart toward its prey with one strong flap of its wings. But its not just aimless running, or, to borrow another bird analogy, like a chicken with its head cut off. It’s an energy that’s focused, effective and that’s always trying to unlock the opposing defense.

“The thing that stood out to me the most was his soccer IQ,” Bocanegra continued. “He’s such an intelligent player and so aware of spaces, players, runs; the speed of thought he has that you can see on the field, that was one of the things that impressed me the most.”

So that’s what Atlanta United fans can look forward to in 2019: a player with a relentless energy and a fierce desire to change the game. And if he can reach the highest highs of his time at River Plate, they could have yet another player who can take the league by storm.