- Panama can be making their FIFA World Cup™ debut at Russia 2018
- Julio Cesar Dely Valdes was coach when facet simply missed out on Brazil 2014
- “There’s a lot to do but right now we need to enjoy this,” he mentioned
When the ultimate whistle sounded on the finish of Panama’s 2-1 defeat of Costa Rica on the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City final month, the jubilant house gamers had been joined on the pitch by the equally ecstatic teaching workers and the followers, who had been barely in a position to comprise themselves now that their lengthy wait was lastly over.
After so many failed makes an attempt, the individuals of Panama got here collectively as one to have a good time the nationwide crew’s qualification for the FIFA World Cup™ for the primary time of their historical past. And they marked the event with a chant, sung on the prime of their voices: “We’re going to the World Cup”.
One proud Panamanian wanting on from a distance was Julio Cesar Dely Valdes. The finest participant the nation has ever produced, he was within the dugout when Panama agonisingly missed out on qualification for Brazil 2014.
Just a few weeks on from that long-awaited night time of pleasure, Dely Valdes sat down with FIFA.com to speak about Panama’s lengthy journey from distress to happiness. In doing so, the previous nationwide crew coach picked out six key phases.
The early days
“Panamanian football was still amateur when I began playing. It was the country’s third or fourth sport. Baseball, basketball and boxing were always ahead of it. I didn’t even begin my professional career in the country. I started out in Uruguay. My brother had won a scholarship to go and play in Argentina and he had his career there, at Argentinos Juniors. He told me to come and have a look and after a spell in the Argentinian fourth division, I moved to Nacional of Montevideo in 1989. I was 22.”
Flying the flag for Panama in Europe
“After four and a half years in Uruguay, I went to Italy, to Genoa and Cagliari. That’s when they started to follow me back home. After that I played in France (Paris Saint-Germain) and Spain (Oviedo and Malaga). There were a few more of us abroad and we were the representatives of Panama in Europe. I think we helped the future of football in our country with the way that we played.”
The World Cup, a distant dream
“Back in these days the World Cup was so much additional away than it’s right this moment. We had been nonetheless enthusiastic about it although. There had been three or 4 of us who performed outdoors Panama: my brother Jorge, two or three in El Salvador and one other one in Mexico. We’d solely simply began to make ourselves recognized outdoors the nation. Then, once we managed to achieve the Hexagonal (the ultimate six-team spherical of qualifying within the CONCACAF Zone) in 2006, Jorge and I made a decision to retire from worldwide soccer. We felt it was the appropriate time, and although issues didn’t go that properly for the crew, that was when the seeds had been sown.”
Heartbreak on the highway to Brazil 2014
“We’d never been so close to qualification. We had to beat USA at home to go into the play-off and we let the game slip in the closing minutes. I was the head coach and my brother was the assistant. It was really tough. We were so near and yet so far from achieving something unique. At the end of the qualifiers we decided to step aside because we wanted to look for something different. The appointment of Hernan Dario Gomez ensured there was continuity though, as did the fact that the core of the team stayed the same.”
“I used to be actually nervous earlier than the Costa Rica sport in October. When Roman Torres scored the aim I realised that the time had come, that we weren’t going to let it slip this time. It was a disgrace I couldn’t shout and scream as a result of it was early within the morning the place I used to be and the neighbours wouldn’t have been very pleased with me (laughs). We lastly achieved what we’d all the time dreamed of! And that’s while you begin wanting again and also you realise all of the issues that you simply’ve been by and have skilled, that it was price it.”
Russia and a promising future
“We want to organize properly. That’s the important thing in a significant match. The gamers must arrive in the very best bodily and psychological form, although an important factor is that the individuals of Panama all must get pleasure from it as a result of it’s the primary time. It’s going to make us so comfortable to listen to our nationwide anthem on the World Cup. Football is now the most important sport within the nation, no query. People have develop into very enthusiastic about it. When Barça and Madrid play you see the shirts all over the place. At a neighborhood degree, although, there’s nonetheless so much that must be achieved to make the sport skilled. There’s nonetheless so much to do. But what we’ve got to do proper now’s get pleasure from it.”