Information about young Guatemalan midfielder Marvin Ceballos was once hard to come by, but no sooner had the final whistle blown in the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2011 Group D game between Guatemala and Croatia last Saturday than the 19-year-old’s name, face and career stats were on news sites the world over.
This instant stardom will come as no surprise to those who witnessed the player’s 81st-minute goal, a strike that not only proved the difference between the sides on the night, but which secured tournament debutants Guatemala a berth in the Round of 16, where they will face Portugal tomorrow.
It was a moment that clearly meant a lot to Cabellos, who broke down in tears after the game and sat by himself in a corner of the dressing room while his teammates danced for joy. Shortly afterwards, FIFA.com caught up with the diminutive No7 and asked him about the significance of that goal for himself and his side.
“It was a very important goal for us all,” he said emotionally, “because it and our victory might bring a little peace to our country. When the national team plays, the Guatemalan people put their differences aside and come together to watch.”
“It’s not the first time I’ve scored for my country,” he added, “though it’s certainly my most important goal.” For all that, he refused to take sole credit for his achievement: “I was the one who found the target today, but without a shadow of a doubt the effort that led to it came from the whole team, playing as a single unit.”
The strike itself provides ample evidence of the young Guatemalans’ ability to anticipate and pick out each other, with goalkeeper Roberto Padilla’s long ball being read perfectly by the midfielder, who fired home from barely eight yards. “That’s how we always play,” Cabellos explained. “The guys always try to get the ball to me as directly as possible. It was a great game for me, of course, and I’m happy for the whole team.”
He also had words for shot-stopper Padilla, his teammate at Guatemala club Comunicaciones. “Roberto played fantastically and put in a great performance, but the same goes for all the other players. What matters is that we’re all wearing the same shirt, the Guatemala shirt; what club you come from doesn’t mean a thing.”
Our victory might bring a little peace to our country. When the national team plays, the Guatemalan people put their differences aside.
At 164cm, Ceballos faced a considerable challenge getting past a lofty Croatian back line, but despite giving away over 20cm in height to the smallest of the opposition defenders, the Guatemala City native was unfazed. “It wasn’t easy playing against them,” he said, “but for me the real challenge is to play good football. You can have a great game no matter what height you are. The point is to give everything you have on the pitch.”
Unsurprisingly, coach Ever Almeida was full of praise for the newly-anointed national hero, saying: “His performance was amazing. He put in tremendous effort and his goal has lifted a huge weight off our shoulders.”
“We’ve had a problem scoring,” Almeida added, “because we haven’t been converting the chances we’ve been creating. Marvin has scored our first goal of the tournament and he’s given us a real fillip as we take our campaign to the next stage.”
On the road to international football Marvin was supported every step of the way by his father, a former professional himself who shares a name with his son. With the encouragement of his parents and siblings, the young Ceballos always believed that he could realise his boyhood dream of representing his country at a FIFA World Cup.
“I thank God that my father was a pro footballer and that my family supported my ambition to play top flight football. When I was little I used to dream of playing in a World Cup, and now the dream’s come true. I’m just so lucky to be one of those players to score at a World Cup.”
With one spectacular achievement to his name, Ceballos has turned his sights on further FIFA U-20 World Cup glory, and looks to the career of his hero Lionel Messi for inspiration. “My immediate goal is to help the team go as far as we can in this tournament, and as for the future, I hope one day to get the chance to play my football outside Guatemala,” he said.
With our interview at an end, the teenager turned to board his team bus, from which triumphant Guatemalan tunes were emanating, and said: “Today I’m just going to savour that moment on the field… and enjoy this music!”