Panama – All In Mind
The days of Julio Cesar Dely Valdcs being the only famous Panamanian footballer with experience of playing abroad are long gone. Today, you can find professional footballers from Panama in Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Bulgaria and Poland.
”You can’t compare football in Panama today to that of 15 years ago,” insists Panama captain and centre-half Felipe Baloy, who plays his club football tor Rayados de Monterrey in Mexico. “We used to be happy with an honourable defeat, but now we command respect in the entire region and our national team only thinks about winning.”
Successful qualifying campaigns for the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2005 and the UNCAF Cup 2007 have instilled new confidence in Panamanian football and there is no hint of arrogance when Baloy says, “Panama’s goal now has to be to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. I am convinced that we can make that dream come true. We have a good team and a coach who knows how to lead a ream to a World Cup.”
The man in question is Alexandre Guimaraes, a coach with dual Brazilian-Costa Rican nationality who has already taken part in three World Cups — as a player with Costa Rica in 1990 and twice as Costa Rica coach in 2002 and 2006. After being appointed as Panama coach in late 2006, the 48-year-old promptly led his new charges to UNCAF Cup glory in El Salvador just a few months later.