When Ronald Matarrita was a little boy, he was given a remote-controlled car to play with by his father. Doing what any other child his age would do, he drove his new toy around, for a few hours at least. Then, when the excitement wore off, he started to kick it, and kick it so hard and so often that he ended up wrecking it, not that it was entirely his fault.

The son of a football player, Ronald was crazy about the game, so crazy about it, in fact, that he would literally kick anything that moved, even presents given to him by his doting family, remote-controlled cars included.

“I’ve always liked football because my dad played the game professionally,” said the young Costa Rican defender, in conversation with FIFA.com. “I’ve been in contact with the sport ever since I can remember and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps and learn from him. I became more and more dedicated to it and I think that helped me to become a professional player.”

An open mind
Keen to learn, a good listener and wisely counselled at home, Matarrita began to make his way in the game and embarked on his professional career at the age of only 19, signing for Liga Deportiva Alajuelense in 2013. Quickly displaying his qualities as a buccaneering left-back, he forced his way into the Costa Rica squad within a couple of years. 

“I’ve been so blessed in my life,” said Matarrita, who was born in the city of San Ramon. “I’ve been lucky enough for things to work out for me and for me to go to the United States. Every day I train to be better. It’s only by being that dedicated that I can achieve the goals I set for myself.”

Signed at the start of 2016 by New York City, the Costa Rican suddenly found himself sharing a dressing room with global stars of the calibre of David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard and playing under club coach Patrick Vieira. With people like that around him, he has continued to learn and grow as a player. 

“They’re big stars and they’ve achieved amazing things throughout their brilliant careers,” said the young full-back, who also represented his country several times at youth level. “I’m very lucky to be with them on a daily basis and to be able to get to know them. It helps me to improve on the pitch.”

Dreaming of Russia
As well as New York, the young Costa Rican’s thoughts are also focused on Russia, a country he hopes to visit in 2018 so he can experience the excitement of the FIFA World Cup™ at first hand. “On a personal level it’s one of those objectives that I’d love to experience. I think every player dreams of going to the World Cup, though I can’t spend my whole time thinking about that. I’ve got to keep on working day in day out to earn a place in the national team and then go to the World Cup if we get there. First of all come the qualifiers, though, and we need to give it our all if we’re going to do well.”

Refusing to get ahead of himself, Matarrita knows this a long-distance race that can only be won the hard way. That is why he is focusing on nothing else than the final six-team round of the CONCACAF qualifying competition and Costa Rica’s two upcoming assignments: Friday’s visit to Trinidad and Tobago and next Tuesday’s home game with USA.

“Costa Rica have become one of the strongest teams in the CONCACAF region in recent years,” he said. “Opposing teams treat us with more respect than they used to. The first two matches in the ‘Hexagonal’ are going to be very important. If we’re going to achieve our aim and reach the World Cup, then we can’t afford to drop points. We have to be equally focused in both matches, both home and away.”

While the tirelessly dedicated Matarrita does not kick toy cars around any more, that does not mean to say he has stopped living and breathing the game. Having achieved every objective he has set himself so far, can he fulfil another one by helping his country make it to Russia? Only time will tell.