“Oh, how beautiful is Panama”: The little bear and the little tiger set off for Panama, their land of yearning. The book by Janosch tells one of the most famous children’s stories ever. It takes a fantasy as big as Tiger tale history to understand what happened on that October 10, 2017 in Panama. At that time, the small, narrow country in Central America celebrated the biggest success in its football history: qualifying for a World Cup. The people celebrated for days, President Juan Carlos Varela declared the next day of the game, the 11th of October, for the National Day and tweeted: «Celebrate this historic day! This is your day! Long live the team! Long live Panama! »
Everything would have been different, Walter Lopez would be less imaginative. He, the referee from Guatemala, had scored a goal in the 53rd minute of the crucial match between Panama and Costa Rica. After a Panamanian corner, there was a confusing scene, somehow the former Lausanne striker Gabriel Torres steered the ball towards the goal. He was later celebrated as scorer to 1: 1. However, the television pictures clearly showed that the ball never crossed the line. And because center-back Roman Torres hit the net with a volley in the 88th minute, Panama overtook the USA at the last moment and qualified for a World Cup for the first time. A happy day for «the land of yearning».
Panama’s team wants to use Europe travel twice
Panama will face Belgium, England and Tunisia at its first FIFA World Cup this summer. On Thursday they tested in preparation for the big highlight against Denmark (0: 1), today stands for the team of national coach Hernán Gómez the test against Switzerland. The two opponents are to simulate the European championship opponents Panama, ie England and Belgium. At Panama, most players play in the US MLS, Mexico or Chile. Central American football is completely different from the European side, coach Gómez said yesterday at a press conference in Lucerne. “We want to get to know European football here.”
Too much but then you do not want to adapt to European football. “European players may be more powerful and faster, but we Central Americans also have our strengths, especially our morale and the fact that we always want the ball. At Panama, we have a good tactical training. “In fact, Panama’s national team is not just as strong as a team of southern teams, but also a tactical and combative team. The Panamanians were sometimes overcame against Denmark, striker Blas Pérez even got a red card. “We did not like that either,” says the national coach. “Our goal is to show good football and still hold against the Europeans.”
Incidentally, the people of Central America use the European trip not only as a football education, but also as a cultural tour. In preparation for the game against Switzerland, the Panamanians made a detour to the Bürgenstock. “We also want to get to know the culture of the countries in which we are allowed to travel as football professionals. That’s part of the team’s maturing process, and we’ve got a fantastic impression of Switzerland and the city of Lucerne, “says Gómez.
After qualifying for the World Cup for the first time, the football euphoria in the small country is huge. “Everyone is looking forward to the first World Cup. We are very proud, “says Gómez, who remains realistic despite all the euphoria:” We go to the World Cup as a great outsider. For us it’s all about gaining experience. “But, who knows, maybe even more is possible for Panama at the World Cup. The imagination should not be missed.