- With 12 goals, Mexico’s Ramon Maldonado was the top goalscorer in the CONCACAF qualifiers for Bahamas 2017
- “The main things we have going for us are that we’re a tight-knit group and we keep our feet on the ground."
- “To me, Ramon is an example to young people of what can be achieved in beach soccer,” Mexico coach Ramon Raya
Mexico’s national beach soccer team’s leading goalscorer, Ramon Maldonado had hoped that his side would travel to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017 as reigning two-time CONCACAF champions.
Things did not quite turn out that way for him and his team-mates, however. Following a five-game unbeaten run to the final, they lost their CONCACAF crown to Panama.
“We wanted to retain the title, but Panama did what they had to do,” said Maldonado, reflecting on the defeat. “We have to learn from everything, from our mistakes and from the things we got right. It was a tough match.”
Looking on the bright side, Maldonado also drew some positive conclusions from his side’s loss in the final: “It’s good that bad things happen to you at times like this because you can learn from them for the World Cup, which is the biggest competition there is. You can’t afford to make them there.”
After helping himself to 12 goals, the 28-year-old Maldonado at least had the satisfaction of being the top scorer of the CONCACAF qualifying competition. “It’s a source of happiness and a gift that you get from working hard,” he said. “And, of course, I’d like to thank my team-mates, because I couldn’t have scored the goals that earned me that award without them.”
Maldonado has come a long way in the two years since he took up beach soccer, as he explained: “I was playing in the second division, for Alebrijes de Oaxaca. When my contract came to an end, I was invited to play for the national beach soccer team. It was something new and I said to myself: ‘Why not give it a try?’ I thought it was similar to football, but there is a difference. I started to work and work and work, and I got the hang of it. I began to learn the technique, and the fact is that I absolutely love beach soccer now. At the end of the day, it’s still football. You still have two goals and a ball.”
One man who appreciates his wholehearted commitment is Mexico’s national team coach Ramon Raya: “Two years ago we came back from the World Cup having lost our three matches in the group phase, and the Mexican press asked me what I thought about such a big failure. And I asked them if they could call someone like Ramon Maldonado a failure when he hadn’t even played beach soccer four months before the World Cup, when he’d worked really hard for several weeks, when he’d gone to the qualifiers without even having played before and when he’d ended up with a broken nose, won the MVP trophy and then gone to the World Cup. To my mind, Ramon’s an example for younger people.”
Focus turns to Nassau
Maldonado’s thoughts are now very firmly on Bahamas 2017, where Mexico hope to continue their development in the sport. “Ever since the draw was made we’ve been working on trying to beat the teams we’re up against. The key will be putting into practice all the things we’ve been working on in training. In this sport the team that makes fewer mistakes is the one that ends up winning, so we need to be focused and make sure we don’t make any errors. We need to give as good as we get against the big teams and try to come away with a result.”
Maldonado’s biggest wish at this moment in time is for the World Cup to get under way: “I feel great. I feel very happy and I can’t wait for the tournament to start. We’re going to take things step by step. In the short term that means winning each game, in the medium term it’s about getting through the group phase and being in the last eight, and in the long term the dream is – like everyone else – to be world champions.”
Did you know?
- The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017 will take place from 27 April to 7 May. Mexico have been drawn in Group B
- Mexico scored the most goals in the CONCACAF qualifiers with 37, 32 per cent of them coming from Maldonado
- His biggest superhero? His father, who went to every length to help him succeed: “I’ve got where I am because of him”