In March this year Costa Rican beach soccer player Danny Johnson found himself at a genuine crossroads: if he wanted to continue preparing for the CONCACAF Zone qualifying tournament for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015™, he would have to give up his job. Now, four months on, not even Los Ticos’ early elimination from the competition has made him regret that decision.
“I was working for a company that examined the foods that make up a basic shopping basket in my country, which meant that I had to travel to different points of sale for one or two days at a time,” the 30-year-old wide-player told FIFA.com. “While at first I was given permission to play in the tournament because it was an official one, they later changed their minds. So, I was forced to take one of the most difficult decisions of my life.
“The [Costa Rican] Football Association and the national coach intervened, but it was no use,” he went on. “So, I talked it over with my mum, who’s my advisor, with the mother of my two daughters – who I need to pay maintenance to, with my closest friends and even with the team psychologist. They all said the same thing: ‘Danny, if it’s your dream, you’ve got to go for it’. And because it was [my dream], here I am!”
An optimist by nature
Johnson began playing beach soccer in his home city of Limon back in 2006, on the advice of some friends, and wasted little time in breaking into the national squad. Even so, he stepped away from the discipline temporarily in 2008 to try his luck at left-back in the city’s 11-a-side team, at that point in the national second division.
“That’s why I missed the 2009 [Beach Soccer] World Cup,” he explained. “When I got back into beach soccer in 2010, I set myself the goal of playing at a World Cup. That’s why I’m enjoying this moment: though many people might see it as a failure, I’m savouring it as something I’ve fought for. I can’t feel sad or ungrateful.”
Not even the cruel manner that Costa Rica’s hopes of progressing to the next round ended could crush Johnson’s positivity: Los Ticos battling back from three goals down against a strong Swiss side to level the scores at 3-3 – only to concede the decisive strike just one minute from time.
“We knew what we came here for. Our goal was to fight [to reach the next round] and we weren’t far off. We played against two European teams with players who make a living from this, who have the edge on us tactically, mentally and in terms of experience. Our attitude meant we could go toe-to-toe with them, though, which is no mean feat.”
And with one game still to play, Johnson is determined to continue to enjoy Portugal 2015 to the full. “We’ll put this defeat behind us and start thinking straightaway about Oman. We want to make history and win our first ever game at a [Beach Soccer] World Cup. This team might play better or worse, but we always go for the win.”
That same determination and fighting spirit should also serve him well on the job-hunting trail on his return from Espinho. “Something steady will turn up, perhaps this experience will help open a few doors? Whatever I find, I’ll do what I can to combine it with beach soccer, but if that’s not possible then I’ll have to cross that bridge when I come to it. Now that I’ve had a taste of this [playing at a World Cup], I want to do it again, and next time make the quarter-finals.”