It has been both an arduous and miraculous journey to the 2010 FIFA World Cup for former Toronto FC midfielder Amado Guevara and his Honduras teammates.
In the process, the Los Catrachos team captain has become the inspirational leader for a national team making their first appearance in a World Cup finals since 1982.
“I want to go and write my own history,” Guevara told the BBC before the tournament began. “And at the end, something beautiful could happen that my family and people in Honduras will remember forever.”
But after Wednesday’s 1-0 Group H opening loss to Chile, the Honduras team captain and his designs on international glory took a major setback.
Despite some brilliant play by goalkeeper Noel Valladares and a key block by Guevara on Chile midfielder Valdiva in the Honduras penalty area, a 34th minute strike by Chile’s Jean Beausejour has turned the pressure up a notch.
Now Honduras and their fans need to dig deeper and dream even bigger, in need of a win or a tie against Euro 2008 darlings Spain on Monday’s to give them a realistic hope of advancing.
“Things are definitely going to be different against Spain because the team will have more confidence, regardless of who the rival is,” Guevara told Reuters after Wednesday’s loss to Chile. “It’s all down to state of mind. We need total concentration and can’t make any mistakes.”
Already a huge long shot in the tournament, the latest setback is yet another obstacle which “El Lobo” and the squad might be more capable of handling than some.
They have already overcome the turmoil and uncertainty caused by the ousting of President Manuel Zelaya, who was overthrown and sent into exile in June 2009 at the height of World Cup qualifying.
But the coup d’etat served as a motivating factor and seemed to make their resolve even stronger, according to Guevara.
“Every time Honduras was playing, everybody, the whole country would try to forget the problems and united to support the national team,” Guevara said.
The despair turned to joy by October, as Honduras booked their tickets to South Africa on the final day of qualifying thanks with a 1-0 road win against El Salvador and a late equalizer by the United States in their 2-2 against Costa Rica.
“I feel very grateful to god because this was a great event when it happened,” Guevara said.
When news of a 2-2 draw between the USA and Costa Rica reached field level in San Salvador, Guevara, his teammates and the entire nation erupted into pandemonium.
“It was a graduation for us - we fought so hard for so many years and thanks to God we got it,” Guevara told Canadian broadcaster CBC in a recent interview.
When he entered the field of play at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit against Chile on Wednesday Guevara earned his 137th cap and also ended an 18-year quest to make the tournament.
El Lobo spent seven seasons in Major League Soccer and won the golden boot race and Most Valuable Player award while with the New York Metrostars in 2004.
A lone bright spot in difficult 2008 and 2009 seasons in Toronto, the 34-year-old native of Tegucigalpa returned home in the offseason, eventually signing a deal with his old Honduran National League club Motagua.
A skillful set piece specialist and clinical playmaker, he scored nine goals in 49 matches with Toronto and quickly became a fan favorite as he was one of few bright spots as the young expansion club took its first baby steps in MLS.
Regardless of what happens with Honduras in its remaining Group H games, Reds fans will get to see Guevara in action again after the World Cup is complete.
Guevara’s strong play for Motagua helped the club finish as runners-up in this year’s Honduran Clausura season and qualify for the preliminary round of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament.
He’ll line up on the opposite side on July 27th when Motagua face Toronto FC at BMO Field in the first game of a two-legged aggregate series.
“Toronto was a very special place for me, it was two years that really meant a lot because of the affection that I had to my teammates, the team, and to the fans that are very noble,” Guevara said.