Feature

Heroes: Eduardo Maruri by Nils Leonard

The man who revived creativity in Ecuador is proof that being a hero isn't about winning a fight or recovering from a failure - it's about the whole process and finding a way to continue.

Eduardo Maruri and Nils Leonard
Eduardo Maruri and Nils Leonard

"Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy" – F Scott Fitzgerald.

There is a lot of talk of failure.

Fail harder. Fail better. Failure is good.

But failure isn’t a bad ad. Or losing a pitch. 

Failure is 100,000 people wanting you to die.

My friend Eduardo Maruri is special.

He runs our Ecuador office.

I don’t know him well.

I was introduced to a man that has the calm music of achievement.

A warm handshake. The sting of a mojito and we’re off.

He is about people. And made his name in politics.

Emotional intelligence, energy, ambition and a jawline you could cut cheese with took him far – fast.

Mostly brilliant, and very rare, Ed is one of those people that you can literally watch learning.

The flickering eyes drink experience, and you can feel every time you’re with him that he’s imbibing new tricks, codes and insights through his very pores.

So he learnt. And rose.

And was received by the ones with power.

Celebrated by his people, Ed landed the job of his dreams.

President of Barcelona Sporting Football Club.

This club is a big deal. The biggest deal in Ecuador.

In a country where football is god, this club is the flaming chariot our higher power takes her selfies from.

Eduardo entering the club was a fanfare of joy and fireworks. A glimmer of white teeth and, with his family at his side, a golden future for the club was all but certain with the insightful duke at its helm.

The club’s new leader pushed with all his trademark energy and tenacity.

It started well. But golden it wasn’t.

Goals were scored. Gloved fingers saved goals and face at the last minute. Stadiums exhaled.

But sometimes it just doesn’t work. 

In fact, it all went a bit shit.

Fans are fragile.

There is a reason the family of the murdered are always prime suspects. In the cruellest of truths, the ones that love you most are the quickest to become your worst enemy.

The same ones that chant your name, as you stand alongside your son at every match, turn.

And stare.

And yell.

And pelt you with beer cans.

And the club turned on him.

There is no social distance here.

No comments page to hide behind.

Thousands of people singing is the darkest and oldest magic.

It can win games. It can raise hairs on arms.

And it can change lives.

Eduardo was there.

At the centre of this hot mess.

One hundred thousand looking to him.

No. Looking straight at him.

One hundred thousand chanting: "MARURI OUT!"

And it snaps.

Tears on his cheeks. Cameras. Flags. Seven microphones at his lips. Eduardo resigned.

It was his son on stage that got me.

I mentioned Ed’s family briefly.

The bit that held me most inside Eduardo’s story is a film clip of his resignation.

It wasn’t his eyes or the tears falling down his cheeks on national television.

It was the slightly out-of-focus face of his son in the background.

The only member of his family I could see.

The small figure of a boy that had stood with him on stage at rallies in his political career.

The same son that had held his hand to mass applause as he had taken the job as the president of the biggest football club in the country.

And the same son, now, lips tight, solid behind his father.

There was a man behind him now.

This isn’t a story with a sad ending.

There is the finest line between a failure and a hero because the two are so closely linked.

A hero is no braver than any other person, but they are braver five minutes longer.

Eduardo went on to help Ecuador’s most powerful creative company win the country its first Cannes Lion.

Poaching 28 since then and countless other creative accolades. Recalibrating the country’s creative reputation globally.

But, for me, it’s not what he has become now that makes him a hero.

It’s that he stood with the people whose opinion he cared the most about and faced the worst.

Being a parent is hard as fuck.

All you can really hope to leave is a spirit in your kids.

A kind of educated energy for when stuff gets bad.

Eduardo didn’t stop. Or face the little death and hide.

He just found a way. 

At the darkest point, Eduardo wasn’t lost in his career.

Because this wasn’t about his career at all. 

Politics. Sport. Creativity.

The word "career" is a curse. It is a word from the same lexicon trying to box and define potential. 

The same place that invented the word "middleweight" and it implies a waiting line that doesn’t exist.

It is a shit, tired word for what you can achieve in a period of time. 

And, in the time our lives allow us, we can have as many careers as we like. 

Eduardo was left with one lesson.

An understanding that he just wasn’t done.

And he still isn’t.

My fantasy of a hero is also the key ingredient in Pixar’s secret sauce. A tragedy.

I need my heroes to fall.

Superman is at his least inspiring when he’s super.

I want him on his knees, kryptonite in hand, with places to go.

Like all the best:

Ripley.

Po.

Valmont.

Fantastic Mr Fox.

Maguire.

Celia.

It’s not the flight or the victory.

It’s the shame, then the fight, then the rise that causes the hair on our arms to dance.

Someone else may know a different Eduardo than I do.

And that’s OK. Because the truth is that heroes don’t exist.

Heroes are the stories you decide to see in people.

And the story I see in Eduardo moves me.

Well done, mate.

Nils Leonard is the chairman and chief creative officer at Grey London

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