Bolaños: This was for my father
The ball came to him on the edge of the Sydney area. As he chested it down, he turned and struck a sweetly timed shot into the back of the net. Tears rolled down the young goalscorer's face as he wheeled away to celebrate with his team-mates.
"It's the most important goal of my career, and I dedicate it to my father, who passed away a month ago, my mother and my brothers and sisters," said Deportivo Saprissa's matchwinner Christian Bolaños, moments after the final whistle had blown on an emotional night for him and his side.
The goal that gave the "Purple Monster" victory over Sydney FC in their FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005 quarter-final clash was no fluke. The two men at the heart of the stunning move, Randal Azofeifa and Bolaños, know each others' games inside out, having crafted similar goals together for Costa Rica's youth sides.
"I told him at half-time to put one behind their defence. Luckily I was able to bring it down and put it away. It was a huge relief, I can tell you," commented Bolaños.
Ever loyal to the philosophy of his coach Hernán Medford, a staunch advocate of teamwork over individual flair, the Saprissa playmaker pointed to the importance of communication in his team's success: "You have to talk to your team-mates and discuss how to put moves together."
As well as careful planning, a touch of star quality is also needed to guarantee success. With five seasons already under his belt in Costa Rica's top flight, that is something this 21-year-old attacking midfielder has in abundance: "You can't hesitate for a second at this level. You've got to picture the move very clearly in your mind. The idea came to me in a split second and I knew I'd have to put it across the keeper."
The superbly executed strike came just two minutes after the restart. Following a sluggish first-half performance from the CONCACAF champions, whatever was said in the dressing room at half-time certainly seemed to work. "To be honest we weren't at our best in the first half. Hernán told us to get at them a little more, to go out and look for the goal because a draw is not much good in this type of competition. Sydney made it hard for us because they were obviously looking to win as well."
"You can't afford to lose your opening game in these tournaments. Everyone knew that. Our first task was to get off to a good start, which we've done, and now we're going to take it step by step. We have to get back down to earth and carry on working," he added.
Despite firing Saprissa into the semi-finals and a meeting with Liverpool, Bolaños was somewhat disappointed with his overall performance: "I think I played okay, nothing more," he said frankly. The young midfielder nonetheless acknowledged it as the most important goal of his burgeoning career and smilingly promised there was more on the way.
Skilful, fleet of foot, and comfortable on both flanks, Bolaños usually supplies the bullets for his team-mates. Today, however, it was his turn to display his sharp-shooting skills: "This goal means a lot, of course, and I couldn't control myself out there. Everything just came to the surface and I burst into tears of happiness," added the youngster.
Despite being in the spotlight at the world's premier club competition, Costa Rica's rising star has both feet firmly planted on the ground. "I'm just trying to take it in my stride. It's an important step for the team and I, and that's what keeps me working hard."
Before signing off, Bolaños stressed once more the importance of teamwork in football: "We didn't win just because of me. The whole team ran their socks off for ninety minutes. That goal is everyone's reward." With that the young maestro made his way out of the Toyota Stadium, his thoughts no doubt turning to a semi-final clash against one of the giants of world football, Liverpool.