Surprise package Maquensi out to make his mark
The 19-year-old was named the best player in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament
** His Panama side will make their FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup debut against Portugal on 28 April
** "We'll be going all out in the Bahamas," he told FIFA.com
Alfonso Maquensi is still pinching himself. Understandably so, considering he came from obscurity to help Panama not only qualify for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup for the first time, but do so in style by defeating Mexico to claim the 2017 CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship title.
"We knew that Mexico were really strong, but we managed to be crowned champions thanks to God and the hard work we put in under our coach Shubert Perez, who had given us step-by-step instructions on how to beat one of the top teams in the region," said Maquensi, who took the competition by storm and won the player of the tournament award.
"The team have worked really hard to make it this far. We weren't expecting to qualify for the World Cup the way we did, but things clicked into place for us and we reaped the reward for our efforts. Every player gave their all and coming to the Bahamas as regional champions is a dream come true," added the 19-year-old.
The winger, whose six goals played a pivotal role in Panama progressing to Bahamas 2017, is naturally raring to go: "I'm really thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to be here. I can't wait for the World Cup to get started."
Quick feet and twists of fate It is fair to say that the fleet-footed Maquensi is now well used to surprises. In fact, his beach soccer career came about quite unexpectedly: "A national trial was held in Panama and the coach gave me the chance to earn my spot, first as part of a provisional squad and then in the national team proper. I'm a fast, dynamic player and a real livewire. I used to play on grass, as well as futsal, but we assembled a team from the neighbourhood for that trial and the rest is history."
"Honestly, when my friends and I were putting together that side, I never imagined that soon after I'd be playing in the qualifying competition, winning it and getting to go to the World Cup."
However, Maquensi is not the sort to be happy to make up the numbers, whether on or off the pitch. Accordingly, the trickster is determined to stamp his mark on Bahamas 2017 and cause another shock or two.
"We're hopeful of having a good World Cup. We're really focused ahead of our opening match, which is against reigning champions Portugal. Taking on that calibre of opposition is never going to be easy, but we'll see how our coach wants to approach it and then do our best to execute the game plan. We'll be going all out in the Bahamas," he concluded.
(Good vibes! The Panamanian national beach soccer team get into the swing of things at the Hotel Atlantis in Nassau, the Bahamas.)