Ulises Dávila on love, loss and the ‘day that started the nightmare for our family’

There’s an altar made of stone in Guadalajara, surrounded by a ring of plants, and illuminated in the night by a handful of solar powered lamps. 

A clay vase sits at its base filled with flowers. Inside the altar is a photo of Ulises Dávila, his son Ulises Junior, and his late wife Lily Pacheco. 

It was here, in his hometown in Mexico, where Dávila helped his two-year-old son to understand his mother had passed on to another place.

“After all that process, Uli was heavy,” Dávila says. “I think he was thinking, like: ‘Maybe mum leave us’. We had to do something to make sure the kid understands that his mum is in one place. So in Mexico, I build a small altar. I take Uli there. 

“Mum doesn’t go away, doesn’t leave us,” he told his son. “Mum is here.”

“Straight away he start to cry: ‘Mummy no, mummy no, oh mummy’. Obviously after that I said: ‘Every day, we’ll come and give a kiss to mummy, we will bring some flowers, you will bring some flowers to mummy so she will be happy’. 

“A couple of days after, he was a different kid again. Like, happy, playing. Every morning (he said): ‘Mummy!’ And put one flower, two or three flowers. Take Lily’s picture (and say): ‘Mummy!’.” Dávila imitates the blow of a kiss from his son to Lily. 

Every morning (we said): ‘Buenos dias’. You could see he understand the big picture. So yeah, he’s a strong boy.


Lily Pacheco tragically passed away in May of 2022, at 31 years of age. At that stage, Dávila admits he “didn’t care about football.”

“It was the last thing in my head,” says Dávila. He’s the captain of Isuzu UTE A-League side Macarthur FC and former captain of Wellington Phoenix, who in three seasons had become a fan favourite league-wide, and one of the competition’s best players, winning the Johnny Warren Medal in 2021 as testament to that fact. 

But midway through 2022, while grieving his wife’s passing, a return to Australia was nothing but a remote thought, and a slim chance. 

Four months later, Dávila was in Parramatta, lifting silverware as a goalscorer in Macarthur’s Australia Cup final win over Sydney United 58.

At the full-time whistle he changed into a specially-made Macarthur kit, with “Lily” in place of his surname, walking the perimeter of the Commbank Stadium pitch with Ulises Junior stuck to his hip. 

Davila earned the Mark Viduka Medal as best afield in the final. At the conclusion of the trophy lift he swiftly handed that medal to Macarthur chairman Gino Marra, in a gesture of his gratitude to the club for sending several staff members to Mexico to support him through the most difficult of times.

That special bond between Dávila and the Bulls was just one of a number of reasons for his unlikely return to Australia – and they all come to the surface in this week’s emotional episode of A-Leagues All Access titled Be Kind. Be Brave. Be Happy

READ MORE: Bulls physio makes ‘absolutely nuts’ pledge to support ‘superhuman’ Dávila & his late wife who ‘lit up the room’

The episode begins detailing how fate brought Dávila and Pacheco together in the first place; they met in their teens, but the couple separated for three years when Ulises departed home for Europe, signing a long-term contract with Premier League giants Chelsea.

After a series of loan moves around Europe, he returned to Mexico signing for Santos Laguna; Dávila and Pacheco would reunite, and soon after be married. 

Dávila retells the story to A-Leagues All Access with audible warmth behind his voice, and a tear welling in his eye. 

“She want to (get married) on the beach,” he says. “She always was obsessed with the ocean, with the beach.”

Not long after the couple’s arrival in Wellington came the birth of Ulises Junior, who Dávila saw for the very first time on FaceTime, remaining with the Phoenix in Australia whilst Pacheco returned to Mexico for the end of her pregnancy.

Dávila would soon after return to Mexico for what he describes as “the best moment of my life”, spending the very first days together as a family of three. 

It’s heart-wrenching to know that just over two years later, Dávila was forced “to make the hardest decision in my life.”

It began with some seizures, Davila explains to All Access. The seizures led to Pacheco’s diagnosis of Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), a Cerebrovascular disease which affects blood flow and blood vessels in the brain. 

AVM occurs when blood vessels in the brain tangle, meaning blood flows with less oxygen from the brain to the heart. In most cases, it’s present at birth.

Davila details how diagnosis led to the surgery back home in Mexico, which they were told had “50 to 60% chance of success.”

The family of three landed in Mexico with their faith instilled in that percentage. 

“She said: ‘Do everything please. Find someone to help me, to fix my problem. I don’t want to live like this’,” Davila says. “Then, we find some doctor in Mexico. He said: ‘Look, it’s a big risk. A big, big risk. We can have 50-60% of success, but the other 40% – I don’t know what can happen.

“She had a lot of faith that she would be fine. And a couple of days after, she went to the hospital.

“That week, the hospital and home, I (was) there like: ‘I’ll give you my life. Take my life, no problem. Take whatever you want, my legs, my life. But just keep her alive. My kid want (his) mum. I don’t care, like, take my life. I don’t give a f*** (about) my life. Just keep her alive, she is so good’.

The doctor called me around five in the morning saying, like: ‘I need to make another surgery’. Three days after, they determined she had a dead brain. I had to decide what to do. What to do with Lily. What to do with her life. 

“I have to make the hardest decision in my life. Then we decide that she cannot live with that.”

Ulises Junior turns three in March. Together, father and son spent those cathartic days together in Guadalajara following Pacheco’s passing, visiting her altar each morning.

Then, Davila’s parents convinced him of a return to Australia. 

“I said: ‘You’re crazy man, I can’t go back’,” Davila recalls. “I cannot take care of the kid and play football. I cannot go to training.”

In his parents eyes, that decision had already been made.

“‘We already talked last night,” they told their son. “Just to let you know, mum is here 24 hours for you. If you want to go back, she will go with you and take care of Uli.”

Davila’s father tells All Access: “Uli needs his mum and dad for support. And in this situation, we do it with a lot of joy.

“To not have Lily with us, she wasn’t my daughter. But I loved her like she was.”

The episode begins with two generations of Ulises Davila, hand in hand, playing on the beach. Like those crucial days spent laying flowers by her altar, the sand and the waves provide another place, far away from home, where they can be with Lily once again.