Shane Moody-Orio’s long career has been as intriguing as it has been varied. The Belize captain, goalkeeper and figurehead is one of the country’s few professional footballers, and has experienced two previous FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaigns. Nevertheless, even the seasoned shot-stopper admits that being involved in the very first game on the road to Brazil 2014 is a great honour.
With the first-leg match against Montserrat just a few days away, the Corozal-born custodian weighs up his side’s chances for FIFA.com, never hiding his desire to raise a few eyebrows in the CONCACAF region, and re-write the history books in the process, two objectives that would be accomplished by reaching the group stage of the qualifying process.
The first question is somewhat inevitable, given the circumstances: how does he feel about kicking off the qualifying phase of an illustrious competition like the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil?
“We’re very excited,” he says candidly. “We’ve been preparing for it for the past month-and-a-half. There’s always the chance of being caught out by something unexpected; our opponents have been able to pick up certain players in England, and they deserve our respect. But we’re full of confidence,” adds the Belize No 1.
He’s from the old school and is very demanding. We’ve been focusing on keeping possession of the ball and finishing.
And so they should be. Since 2010, the small Central American nation has benefited from the know-how of a Honduran coach with experience at the highest levels of the game, namely Jose ‘Chelato’ de la Paz, who guided his country to the dizzy heights of Spain 1982. Moody-Orio, for one, has enjoyed the veteran tactician’s approach.
“We’ve spent a year-and-a-half working with him. Truth be told, we’re happy with how he does things. He’s from the old school and is very demanding. We’ve been focusing on keeping possession of the ball and finishing. If he’s thrived this long in the business, it’s because he knows how to do things right,” points out the international keeper.
Belize’s focus is now solely on Montserrat, a team whose form has been a little shaky in the past, but should still not be taken lightly, in Moody-Orio’s opinion. “To be honest, we don’t know an awful lot about them, and we just hope that lack of knowledge doesn’t trip us up.
"The first leg, which is in Trinidad, will be extremely important, especially the first fifteen minutes. But we’re more concerned about our own game, about what we’re capable of doing on the pitch. If we stick to what we do best, we should win the match,” he explains.
The Belize skipper is forthright when it comes to detailing those strengths. “We’re fast and strong, with a mix of experienced veterans and young players with a lot of potential. Three of us play professionally in Honduras, and we try to contribute as much as we can. We’re a tough side that will battle to the very end, no matter the score,” he says.
High stakesAlthough mostly unknown to the wider football world, Moody-Orio has not been slow to take his talents to different leagues when the opportunities arose. Having turned pro in 2005, he moved to Costa Rica, where he twice won the now defunct UNCAF (Central American) Club Tournament with Puntarenas.
He signed for Honduran heavyweights Marathon in 2010, where the challenges have been even greater: “At the beginning it wasn’t easy, because fans there weren’t used to seeing Belizeans play football, let alone play in goal, but gradually I began to fit in,” he admits.
Interestingly, football has also influenced other aspects of the keeper’s life. While Moody-Orio is a native English speaker, he is highly fluent in Spanish, a skill that stems from his love of the beautiful game.
The most important thing is that we get people in this country to come together in celebration of a winning team.
“My grandma brought me up, and we lived near a Hispanic community at the time. When I was a little boy, I loved playing football, and to gain acceptance I learned Spanish. That was when I started to study the language, and I’ve since been able to perfect it in the countries I’ve played in,” he explains.
Returning to the present, the captain and his team-mates have one overriding objective: to make history. “The expectations are for us to get past this round, and if we can make it through the next one, we’ll be in the group stage, which Belize have never taken part in,” he states excitedly, before letting his mind wander over the possibilities down the line.
“If we get that far, we’ll fight as hard as we can to grab the first or second place that would get us into final six-team round of qualifying. The most important thing is that we get people in this country to come together in celebration of a winning team.”
It is doubtless a laudable goal, but Moody-Orio believes that there is even more at stake, specifically the very future of the game he loves. “Football is Belize’s national sport, but it’s a hobby for most people," he says, as the interview concludes. "I would go as far as to say that we have the most raw talent in Central America, but we don’t really have any options when it comes to exporting it. If our team can go on a good run, things could change considerably.”