Unfortunately for Ted Lasso and former real life fútbol star Cristo Fernández, knee injuries aren’t as easy to fix as, say, lifting a century-old curse at the local pitch. (Sure, the team’s physio helped Dani Rojas overcome his debut-threatening injury in Season 1, but we’re pretty sure it was all about the team-building curse-lifting.) Appearing live with Jimmy Kimmel Live guest host and fellow football fanatic Niall Horan, everybody’s favorite super-positive striker explained that his path to fictional football success ran right through the actual professional ranks of his native Mexico, right up until persistent knee problems ended his dreams.
Well, his fútbol dreams anyway, as the breakout member of Ted Lasso’s plucky AFC Richmond’s squad has transitioned nimbly into the not-at-all shabby backup dream job of professional actor. After confiding in Horan that, yes, he does get miffed at Americans’ mulish refusal to call fútbol by its proper name (or even “football”). “It’s fútbol, you wanker!,” Fernández imagined himself finally snapping, should the Ted Lasso writers ever try to make Dani switch up his catchphrase to a a Yank-friendly “Soccer is life!” (Even Horan called it soccer in his introduction, in deference to his American audience.) The real Fernández does indeed come across nearly as unshakeably positive as Dani Rojas, but there are limits.
Still, the transition from full-time fútbol star to invaluable TV team player wasn’t the easiest, as Fernández told Horan that his childhood spent watching Ted Lasso star and co-creator Jason Sudeikis on Saturday Night Live made for a less-than-graceful crossover. “Oh, nice to meet you, Jason Sudeikis,” is how Fernández initially greeted his costar and onscreen coach, only managing to shorten it up to Sudeikis’ preferred “just Jason” after some time spent in front of the cameras. Fernández has built up an impressive IMDb résumé as an actor, director, and producer in his homeland, but, like Dani Rojas’ ebullient emergence into the Premiere League, this is the big time, and that comes with a few miss-hits. Like not recognizing the boss of all your your bosses at the premiere of the series he’s bankrolling.
To be fair, not everybody can pick Apple CEO Tim Cook out of the crowd on a star-studded Los Angeles red carpet. Plus, Fernández explained that he’d just flown in from Mexico for the big day, was wearing some studio-loaned finery, and was busy catching up with his costars, and Fernández was at least pleasant to the nice, nondescript guy who kept telling him what a big fan he was. Asking his aghast publicist, “Who was that lovely man?,” just got a desperate shushing, as Fernández only later found out that he’d just glad-handed “Mr. Apple Man” himself. Eh, live and learn. Football is life, not Hollywood schmoozing, and Horan ultimately broke out a ball for the pair (and Kimmel sidekick and fellow Mexico native Guillermo Rodriguez) to show off their—in Fernández’s case, barefoot—skills.