Between 1982 and 1988, Zbigniew Boniek charmed football fans the world over with his outstanding dribbling skills. Sitting in front of his television in Tegucigalpa, Oscar Garcia could not help but express his admiration.
A fellow footballer, on the books of Olimpia, one of Honduras’ biggest clubs, he was so impressed that he decided to bestow his Polish idol’s first name upon his own son. Twenty-eight years later, Oscar Boniek Garcia bears it with pride for his club, MLS side Houston Dynamo, and country.
Having exported his skills to the USA in June 2012, the lively and incisive Honduran winger quickly established himself with the 2011 MLS Cup runners-up, inspiring the Texans to their second consecutive final with five goals and seven assists in 17 matches, a record of which both his father and his namesake would have been proud.
“By giving me that name, my dad, who also played the game professionally, wanted to pay tribute to a player that he absolutely loved,” he explained to FIFA.com.
Rivaldo role model
Growing up in the Garcia family, football was sacred. “My uncle and my three brothers were professional players too; all my childhood memories are linked in some way to football,” the Catrachos wide man said.
“We played non-stop in the streets – I remember annoying our neighbours because sometimes the ball would bounce of the their walls," he continued. "I even got told off a few times because I was making too much noise.”
The young Honduran had been bitten by the bug, however, and his pastime would soon become a passion. Like his father, Garcia Jr watched as much football as he could on the family's television, choosing his own favourites. “Since I was a little boy, I’ve always loved playing on the wing, because you can run, feint and support the attack," Garcia said.
"I love setting up my team-mates for goals,” he said, adding that his icons back then were Rivaldo and Luis Figo. “Figo when he was at Barcelona,” he specified. “I loved Rivaldo because he was just a spectacular player, and I admired Figo because he played the same position as me. He was an amazing winger, and there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. He could dribble, score goals and use his feints to go past defenders as if they weren’t there.”
In 2004, a year after initially impressing with Real Patepluma, Garcia followed in the footsteps of his father by signing for Tegucigalpa-based Olimpia, where he would remain for seven seasons, during which time he developed into a key player.
In just his second campaign, he was called up to the Honduran national side for a friendly with Canada in 2005, and has been a regular member of the squad ever since. However, despite proving himself with club and country, he has never managed to export his qualities in Europe.
“My club was always waiting on a big offer for me, but it never really came,” he said. ”But when I turned 28, management said that it was time to sell me, and that’s when Houston came into the picture,” he continued, adding that playing in Europe “remains a dream” of his.
It could well have become reality, though, as in July 2008 the Central American was invited by Paris Saint-Germain to take part in a trial.
“I played in two matches, against Benfica and Guimaraes, and I thought I’d done pretty well," recalled Garcia, who also came close to joining Wigan Athletic, then in the English Premier League. "But the coach was looking for a more defensive player.”
In the end, nothing came of it, and he spent another three terms with El Viejo León. “Clubs tend to prioritise players who hold a European passport,” stated Garcia. “That’s a shame, because the few Honduran players who have pursued their careers in Europe have done brilliantly, like David Suazo, Maynor Figueroa and Emilio Izaguirre, for example. And that might motivate scouts to come and have a look at what’s happening in Honduras.”
Garcia is aware that he still needs to improve his finishing, but he is intent on reliving the experience of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. To reach Brazil, the Hondurans may need to win every remaining match in the CONCACAF hexagonal qualifying section. “Making it to the 2010 World Cup led to a change in mentality," the former Marathon player said. "We were all so involved, and we realised that our team had the potential to qualify, after a 30-year absence."
"The team has become more solid and has gained in confidence. Now, we’re all focused on that goal, because everyone still talks about 2010 and the positive impact that it had on Honduran football.”
A second successive appearance at FIFA’s flagship tournament would only confirm this upward trend. Garcia would at that point likely become a hero for thousands of Honduran football fans, who might well be inspired to choose his name for their own offspring