Quioto: This is beyond my wildest dreams
When Honduras produced the best Men's Olympic Football Tournament showing in their history last time out, at London 2012, Romell Quioto was barely able to follow their exploits on television. Not only was he far from home, but he was going through a period of upheaval in his life.
"I remember it vividly. I'd just been loaned out to Polish club Wisla Krakow and we were at a pre-season training camp in Slovenia. For that reason I was only able to catch part of some matches," he told FIFA.com. The attacker was only 20 at the time and the idea of featuring at an Olympic Games could not have been further from his mind.
"And now suddenly, I find myself here," he said, jabbing his finger excitedly in reference to the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. "Not only playing at the following Olympics, but scoring Honduras's first goal of the tournament. Honestly, this is beyond what my wildest dreams were back then. I was struggling to take a step up in my career, but I wound up going down a completely different path and things have turned out better than I could have ever imagined."
Quioto's words reflect the fact that, after heading to Europe on the back of an excellent season with La Ceiba outfit Vida, his Polish adventure was challenging to say the least. He lasted just a year in Krakow and spent the lion's share of his time there on the bench. Only after returning to his homeland and subsequently joining Olimpia did the forward rediscover his top form and get his career back on track. So spectacular has his renaissance been that Honduras's coach, the Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto, chose to include the soon-to-be 25-year-old (his birthday is on 9 August) as one of two over-23 players in his squad. Quioto repaid that decision by notching the opener as Los Catrachos got their campaign off to a flying start in overcoming Algeria 3-2.
Hopes pinned on going further Quioto's beaming smile made it clear just how much he is relishing being in Rio, a feeling obviously heightened by the narrow, yet precious victory over the Algerians. The large collection of pins adorning the credentials hanging around his neck only reinforced this impression.
"This is the one that all the athletes get. I got this one from some Spaniards and that one from a group of Canadians," he said. "These things are what sets this apart from a regular football tournament and I'm loving it. I'm conscious of how far away I was from all of this."
Four years ago, while Quioto was being put through his paces somewhere in Slovenia, Honduras enjoyed a fine campaign that was not far off being an even more historic achievement. After knocking out none other than Spain in the group stage, the Catrachos gave a great account of themselves before being edged out 3-2 by Brazil – led then, as they are now, by Neymar – in the quarter-finals.
Their winning start in Rio has given the Hondurans grounds to believe that they can match their London 2012 exploits – or perhaps even eclipse them. "That's the aim, of course. We came here with our sights set on going further than the quarter-finals," Quioto said. "But we know we haven't done anything yet. We've beaten difficult opponents to start with, but now we've got two more to come. We know that nothing is ever easy at this level."
Honduras certainly have a tricky route to the quarters and beyond. Luckily for them, in Romell Quioto they have someone with pedigree when it comes to overcoming obstacles.