THE COLONY — Cue the record scratch.
Eddie Koton is sitting in a North Texas tattoo parlor on a Thursday evening, getting an interesting FC Dallas piece on his left arm.
You’re probably wondering how he got there. Well, to say the least, he’s a man of his word.
Koton is FC Dallas’ social media coordinator. Back in July, he promised the club’s Twitter followers that he’d get a Ricardo Pepi hype train tattoo if Pepi was selected to the 2021 MLS All-Star Game.
“Pepi is life,” Koton said, referencing the comedy series Ted Lasso.
Sure enough, Pepi was named to the All-Star roster on Wednesday. By Thursday, Koton was in Mando Aguilar’s chair, one of the tattoo artists at La Gallery TCTX, getting inked. He chose his left arm, because his right arm is his tweeting arm.
The tattoo feature’s Pepi’s face on the front of a train with smoke flowing out the top. The Pepi hype train is special to the club. They even have T-shirts made. It’s kind of like if Thomas the Tank Engine had a more expressive face, except a tank engine can’t score goals.
“I’m first on the train,” Koton said. “When that kid’s 23 and the face of the world, there will be more Pepi tattoos.”
La Gallery TCTX is where many FC Dallas players get their tattoos which is why Koton knew he’d be in good hands there. Aguilar has a personal relationship with Pepi, so he thought the idea was awesome rather than crazy because he watched Pepi grow up and become the footballer he is now.
“This is obviously very special,” Aguilar said. “I’ve known him forever.”
Once the tattoo was finished, Gina Miller, FC Dallas’ vice president of media and communications, FaceTimed Pepi and told him to close his eyes before seeing the final product.
Once Pepi opened his eyes, he burst out laughing. He knew Koton was getting the tattoo, but didn’t think he would go through with it.
“Hey, I’m taking you everywhere I go, Eddie,” Pepi said.
Pepi, an 18-year-old forward, will make his All-Star debut on Aug. 25 in Los Angeles. He signed with FC Dallas in 2019 at the age of 16, becoming the club’s 26th Homegrown player.
So far this season, Pepi leads the club with eight goals and one assist through 16 appearances. On July 24, in a 4-0 win against LA Galaxy, he became the youngest player in MLS and FC Dallas history to score a hat trick. Pepi, who was 18 years and 196 days at the time, beat the previous record set in 2013 by Kekuta Manneh at 18 years and 283 days.
A total of 28 players were named to the roster, which was determined through a combination of fan, player and media voting (13 players), designations by All-Star Head Coach Bob Bradley (13 players) and a pair of selections by MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
While Koton was getting tattooed, Pepi was texting Miller in disbelief.
“Tell him he doesn’t have to do this.”
“He is a clown. I told him myself that he didn’t have to do this.”
“He is the SHORT KING,” Pepi said in reference to Koton’s most recent tattoo, a crown in the middle of the words “short king.”
At first, Koton said he wasn’t sure if Pepi would make the All-Star game. Then, over a week after he tweeted about the tattoo, Pepi scored the hat trick.
Still, the thought of getting someone’s face permanently tattooed on his body hadn’t registered with Koton. Actually, it didn’t register until he was sitting in Aguilar’s chair. Koton was calm and confident while Agular was working on his arm. No regrets.
“All of my tattos are dumb, but they have a semblance of meaning,” Koton said. “I want to be 80 years old and tell my kids, or anybody, “Yeah, Pepi was a beast. He was potentially one of the best strikers in the world.’”
One of the FC Dallas fans joked on Twitter that Koton’s tattoo was the biggest news in the football world Thursday. Just earlier in the day, it was announced that Lionel Messi would not be returning to FC Barcelona after nearly two decades with the club and many have speculated where he’ll end up next.
“That’s why [FC Dallas] would never sign Messi,” Koton said. “He would be under Pepi’s shadow.”
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