Moises Munoz has had quite a year. Just 12 months ago the goalkeeper was in critical condition following a serious road accident, which both he and his family survived. Forced to put his career and the No1 jersey for Club America to one side during his recovery, nobody could have imagined the extraordinary turn of events that would later make the custodian one of the most important figures in the club’s history.
In the 93rd minute of the Mexican Clausura 2013 final, his side needed a goal against Cruz Azul to take the match into extra time. When a corner was awarded, Munoz charged towards the opposition penalty area and grabbed the equaliser with a diving header. Yet more drama soon followed, as the custodian saved the first effort in the ensuing penalty shootout, which was crucial in America ending a six-year championship drought. Still savouring the victory, Munoz spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about his astonishing journey.
Seize the day
"I'm well aware of how fortunate I am to be able to experience something like this after everything that's happened," said the 33-year-old, who is still trying to make sense of the roller coaster ride in recent months. "It's the biggest achievement of my career. I keep reliving the goal and the moment we won the title and it still makes my hair stand on end."
Munoz's tearful celebrations will remain as one of the enduring images of the championship triumph. "Of course I cried, I'd never cried as much before in my life," the shot-stopper said. "I remembered everything I'd been through, the accident and what I said after recovering: That I don't believe what happened was a coincidence and that I'm here for a reason, one of which was to become champion."
Having fought back from the brink personally, it is only fitting that Munoz should have inspired America's own incredible comeback. With just three minutes left on the clock, the Eagles needed two goals to take the game to extra time. Team captain Aquivaldo Mosquera scored to set them on the way, before Munoz's historic moment arrived. "When I saw they'd given a corner I didn't even think about it, I just ran forward," he recalled. "When I was half way there I turned to look at the dugout to see if they were going to stop me, but the coach was making gestures that I should keep going."
It was the start of an unforgettable sequence of events for the veteran, who donned his gloves for Morelia and Atlante before joining his present employers. "Fortunately Oswaldo Martinez saw me and decided to play the ball towards me at the back post," Munoz continued. "I've gone up to attack in the final minutes of lots of games before, but the crosses have always fallen short and were cleared by the defence, leaving me to sprint back to my goal [laughs]. It was the first time the ball actually came towards me and it couldn't have happened at a better time!"
Despite having done his homework for the penalty shootout, Munoz once again let his survival instinct take over. "I went with my gut feeling," he said. "Generally I can tell where someone is going to place their spot kick from the look in their eye and I'm usually correct. I went the right way for all of them except one. I went to my right for the penalty I saved, but I felt that I should delay my dive a little bit, which helped me block it with my feet."
The keeper's heroics catapulted him into the pantheon of America greats idolised by the side's supporters. "I still can't believe it's happened. I know people will look at me differently now and I want to live up to their expectations. However, even though I was in the spotlight the whole team deserves credit, as none of us could have done this on our own. We won the championship together."
With journalists and fans alike clambering for his attention, Munoz's next appointment beckons. Before departing however, he reveals one final insight into an unforgettable occasion. "Before the penalties got underway I approached [Cruz Azul goalkeeper] Jesus Corona and I congratulated him on his performance in the match and on his fantastic form. I also told him to do his best between the sticks for the national team in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. After that I hugged him and wished him all the best for the shootout and said that whatever the result, I was just happy to be there."