The hot, sultry night in Genoa was coming to its end. The Swedes were pressing hard, pushing for a goal that would (probably) take them to the knockout stage of the World Cup 1990. The brand new scoreboard on Stadio Luigi Ferraris was showing that two more minutes were remaining and that the score was 1-1. Thomas Ravelli desperately threw the ball to the middle of the pitch, but the tall guy with number nine on black and white shirt of Costa Rica jumped leaped the highest. Alexandre Guimaraes headed the ball to the open space, where Hernan Medford took it and streamed towards the goal. Ravelli was unable to do anything but fall on his knees. After 1-0 win over Scotland and loss to Brazil, Costa Rica defeated Sweden and created one of the biggest sensations in the history of the World Cup. Exotic, unknown Costa Rica was was among best 16 teams in the world.
“I was only two years old and of course that I don’t remember anything”, explained Celso Borges when we met for a coffee in Solna Centrum last month. “But, I know every single detail from that tournament. Everybody knows. It was the best day in the history of the country”.
Borges is 24-year old midfielder who plays for AIK Stockholm in Sweden and will represent Costa Rica in the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. He is also the son of one of the best footballers that Costa Rica ever had – Alexandre Guimaeres.
“I grew up among the players. Hernan (Medford) was like a godfather to me. The house was always packed with football stars. I remember going to school and other kids asking me who will play, can I bring them shirts and things like that. I was proud and I still am. My father was my one and only role model and he still is”.
Guimaraes was born in Maceio in Brazil, but he moved to Costa Rica at the age of 12. He played for the biggest club in the country, Deportivo Saprissa and was capped 16 times for Costa Rica. After playing career, Guimaraes managed many clubs, but on two occasion – between 2000 and 2002 and between 2005 and 2006 – the Costa Rican national team as well. That generations reached the World Cup as well; in Japan/South Korea and Germany, but never got even close to 1990 generation.
“It’s not easy to be the son of the national team coach. As everywhere else I guess, the critics back home were loud and clear and I lived through all of them. He is my father and it was hard to listen all the bad things”, said Borges.
In the meantime he was given his professional debut and, steered by Medford as a coach, Borges was establishing as one of the nation’s biggest talents. In 2007, as member of U20 team that played qualifying tournament for the Olympics, he found himself face to face with his father, who was coaching Panama at the time.
“We drew in both matches and we went to penalty shootout. I was the last to take the penalty for our team. And I missed. I just stood there, devastated, looking at my father, who couldn’t properly celebrate. It was the strangest feeling ever. The worst feeling ever”.
But, this just strengthen the bond between the son and the father and made Celso a stronger character. A year later, Tor-Kristian Karlsen, at the time the sporting director of Frederikstad, confirmed that they paid one million kroner for Borges. Two years in Norway led to transfer to AIK Stockholm, where he confirmed his place in the national team. Capped 60 times so far (14 goals), Borges is one of the most important players Jorge Luis Pinto’s team.
Fourteen years after his father and the golden generation surprised the world, Celso Borges and Costa Rica goes to the World cup in similar atmosphere. In the group of death, together with Uruguay, England and Italy, Costa Rica is regarded as total outsider and exotic addition to improve the goal difference. But they believe in themselves.
“This is what we live for, to play with the best in the world. Suarez, Pirlo, Rooney, could it be better than that? We are going to play the best we can, as the generation of 1990 did, and we hope for the best. At the end, we have nothing to lose and a lot to win”.