It is often said that you should not compare players as no two individuals are ever the same. But one of the standout successes from the first two games of the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 seems to be the genuine article: the closest thing imaginable to former Brazil star Roberto Carlos.
Honduras have played two games to date, the first against tournament hosts UAE and the second against Slovakia. Anyone who watched those games closely will have noticed something rather peculiar: what looks to be the doppelganger of the South American maestro who lifted the FIFA World Cup™ at Korea/Japan 2002 and terrorized defences the length and breadth of Europe with Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Fenerbahce, before ending his career in Russia with Anzhi Makhachkala.
Not only does Honduras left-back Alvaro Romero play in the same position as the Seleção legend, he wears the very same No3 shirt Roberto Carlos donned for Brazil and Real Madrid. At 5’2, he has a comparable physique too, and a powerful left foot that he deploys to great effect when taking free-kicks.
Speaking to FIFA.com the young Romero confessed that this was not the first time he had been likened to the former world champion: “The first time I was compared with Roberto Carlos was earlier this year at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Panama. I’m delighted with the comparison and it’s a great source of pride to me, because he was a superb left-back, and a star for Brazil and Real Madrid.”
The defender, who plays domestically for Honduran side Real Espana, then cracked a smile and added: “I’d like to thank everyone for the compliment and I’ll work hard to become like Roberto Carlos or even better. Since I was young, I’ve been practicing free-kicks and I hope to perfect them like Carlos managed to do.”
Not only is Romero acclaimed by his side’s supporters, he has drawn praise from opponents as well. Slovakia midfielder Nikolas Spalek, who played against him on Sunday in their Group A game, said: “He’s got all the attributes of Roberto Carlos. When we came up against each other it was like a mini-war, but I think I came off best.”
Spalek might believe he had the better of Romero in their head-to-head, but Honduras emerged with a valuable point from the encounter, after striker Jorge Bodden’s goal in the second minute of extra time levelled the score at 2-2. This result came hard on the heels of their historic 2-1 defeat of UAE, their first U-17 World Cup win after two disappointing outings at Korea Republic 2007 and Nigeria 2009, where they lost all their matches and departed after the first round.
The victory clearly delighted Romero: “We were all so happy after such a great performance. It was our first ever win at an U-17 World Cup. Another great thing is that we did it beating the hosts!”
Now, the young defender and his team-mates are just one game away from another milestone, making it through the group stage for the first time in Honduras’ history. For Romero, gaining a draw against Slovakia was crucial: “It was a tough game and we were headed for defeat before Jorge stepped up in the second-half and nicked an equaliser.” But now his mind is firmly on the final Group A game: “It will be another tricky one, and we have to perform well and win.”
It might appear that Romero is being over-optimistic. His side’s next opponents are Brazil, who have coasted through the early stages of the competition with a brace of wins. But the youngster can draw inspiration from the exploits of the Honduras senior national team, who secured a spot at the 2014 FIFA World Cup just days ago.
Indeed, he sees it as his duty to add to his country’s recent footballing achievements, saying by way of conclusion: “The senior team have given us a huge boost. They gave their all in every game during the qualifiers and we have to be at our best if we’re to get good results and continue our progress in UAE.”