When Carlos Alberto Pavon Plummer made his debut for Honduras the Berlin Wall had only just come down and the internet was still a mystery to many. 15 years on from his first taste of national service the seasoned striker is still going strong. And just like fine wine, Pavon is getting better with age, inspired by the opportunity to fulfil his one remaining dream in the game, to take part in the FIFA World Cup™ finals.
A glance at Pavon's international record reveals just how important he is to Los Catrachos' hopes of making it to South Africa next year. In 85 appearances for his country, the free-scoring forward has struck 50 goals, a hugely impressive average of over half a goal per game.
In reaching his half century the peerless Pavon has helped Honduras to no fewer than 43 wins, some of the most memorable of them coming against his favourite victims Mexico, against whom he scored his first and his most recent goals, not to mention a famous hat-trick in 2001.
I'm very optimistic. We know it's going to be a difficult game but we've got faith in ourselves.
Somewhat ironically, the striker has spent most of his club career in Mexico. After starting out in style with Real Espana of Honduras, Pavon moved to Toluca where he failed to win a long-term contract despite scoring seven goals in 15 appearances.
After a spell with second division side San Luis the Honduran hitman tried his luck with Valladolid of Spain. The stay proved to be a brief one but Pavon learned from the experience and has not stopped scoring since. Returning to Mexico, he hit the back of the net 14 times in 20 games with Correcaminos before earning the adulation of the fans during subsequent stints at Necaxa, Celaya and Morelia.
His performances along the way helped him fulfil his ambition of playing in Europe. His destination was Italy but his spells with Udinese and Napoli proved to be fruitless, and with that Pavon returned once more to Mexico, going on to make further stops in Guatemala, his native Honduras, Colombia and USA. And last season he travelled down Mexico way yet again, turning out in the colours of Necaxa for the second time in his career.
In a decade and half of wandering the much travelled striker has played for 14 clubs in all, though there is no question that his beloved Honduras is the team closest to his heart. What better way then for Pavon to show his devotion than by helping his country clinch a ticket to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™?
As far as he is concerned, he has every chance of doing that. "Profesor Rueda (national coach Reynaldo Rueda) has done a great job," says Pavon with genuine optimism in his voice. "He's built a team that combines youth and experience and that's been a positive factor. We're a very ambitious team."
A long road
Previous FIFA World Cup qualifying campaigns have all ended in disappointment for Pavon, in spite of his immense contribution up front. Perhaps the most painful failure of all came on the road to Korea/Japan 2002 when the Hondurans went within 90 minutes of qualifying only to go down 3-0 to sworn enemies Mexico at the Estadio Azteca.
Currently lying third in the final six-team group in the CONCACAF Zone, Honduras face a vital game away to USA on Saturday. And despite a troublesome injury that has forced him to take it easy in training in recent days, the man they call La Sombra (The Shadow) is raring to go.
"I'm very optimistic. We know it's going to be a difficult game but we've got faith in ourselves. We're up against a very competitive team, but I think we can beat them if we produce the right performance. I scored against them the last time we played and I hope I can do that again."
Pavon's haul of 50 international goals means it is unlikely that US defenders will be giving him much space when the sides meet in Chicago. If they do, though, the veteran goalgetter can be relied upon to make them pay.