Costa Rica’s Angel Flores impressed at the 2019 IBSA Blind Football Central American Championships in Guatemala City, Guatemala, in 2019.
So much so that the young player was awarded Player of the Tournament and took home the Top Scorer accolade with 15 goals.
Flores’ stunning performance helped Costa Rica retain the title.
“It is the greatest achievement that I have obtained in my football career,” said Flores. “Being awarded as the best player in the tournament is an incredible satisfaction because it is the dream of any athlete, and I personally prepared myself with great care to be rewarded for my performance throughout the tournament.”
Caption: Flores poses with his trophies.
As a team, Flores reported that Costa Rica underwent psychological training to ensure they were mentally strong enough to reach the top.
The country is investing in its blind football side, even at competitions which do not offer a bigger prize.
Flores explained: “The absence of a ticket for the [Paralympic] Games in Tokyo 2020 was a general discouragement on the part of the players and coaching staff, but it was not an impediment to show our best football in the Central American tournament. We had a clear goal that was to win the tournament, with obvious strength to show that Costa Rica can be among the best teams worldwide.”
At birth Flores was affected by a disease that caused a detached retina, before completely losing his sight at the age of 12. Hailing from a family with a love of football, Flores started to practise the sport when he was 14.
In 2014 Costa Rica began to develop their blind football team, which was near-perfect timing for the up-and-coming star. Three years later Flores was named to the national team for the first time.
His debut came at a tournament held in Santander, Colombia, against Chile. Despite being beaten, it gave Flores the chance to show his potential.
“It was a long trip, with daily training both in my home and in the sports centre where we train with set-backs, frustrations, afflictions, but always with a clear goal and always fighting to fulfill our dreams,” Flores said of gaining his first cap.
Caption: Flores (No 12) lines up with his Costa Rica teammates and Guatemala before the final of the 2019 IBSA Blind Football Central American Championships.
Costa Rica is currently riding high on a wave of success. As well as the Central American title, they also made their World Championships debut in 2018 in Madrid, Spain, where they finished 14th overall.
Flores is now looking forward to ticking items off his bucket list:
“I have many personal and collective goals in my future football career. One of them is to qualify for the [blind football] World Cup in 2022 with Costa Rica. Another of my collective goals is to be among the best three teams in America, either in an IBSA American Championships or at the Para-Pan American Games.
“Individually, my goal is to get to participate in a regional tournament in the country of Brazil and gradually climb the league to be among the best participating teams.”
By Sarah Nasir for IBSA