Panama – New Hope For The Whipping Boys
Panama have suffered their fair share of defeats and disappointments over the years, but in recent times no other CONCACAF team has made as much progress as this Central American country that is now daring to dream about the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
There were times when people in CONCACAF football circles would have a good laugh about Panamanian football. The Panamanian football association (FEPAFUT), founded in 1937 and a member of FIFA since 1938, went through a long, tortuous period of defeat after defeat, often failing to qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, die prestigious continental championship for the North, Central America and Caribbean zone, never mind a FIFA tournament. Defeats such as an embarrassing 11-0 thrashing ar home by neighbouring Costa Rica in 1938 were not exactly uncommon.
How rimes have changed, for rhe former “whipping boys” now have new hope. Today, nobody need be ashamed ro admit that they support Panama. By June 2007, the national team had clambered to 52-nd in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and today they sit in 64-th place, just behind Peru, a nation with a rich footballing tradition. By way of comparison: in 1995, Panama were still in 150-th place.
That so much progress has been achieved so quickly can be put down to FEPAFUT and its determination to improve domestic football structures and create more efficiency and professionalism at all levels, not least in youth development work. Indeed, Panama did not have to wait long to reap the benefits as their U-20 team has now qualified for the last three FIFA U-20 World Cups.