Panama will take the spotlight on one of the world’s biggest stages this week when the World Cup gets underway in Russia.
It will be a historic event for Panama. This is the first time Panama has qualified for the tournament, the biggest sports event in the world, outside of the Olympics. In countries around the globe, activity will stop as people tune in to the big matches. The 2014 World Cup attracted an estimated 3.2 billion viewers.
As they say in the media business, you can’t buy that type of exposure. For each Panama match, expect lengthy discussions about the beauty of Panama, the booming economy and its role in the future of the region.
The World Cup will also stir Panama national pride, bringing together everyone in the community to rally around the team and its unprecedented run to the main event.
It will be a tough road in the tournament for Los Canaleros, which will open play on June 18 against Belgium, one of the strongest teams in Europe. Six days later, Panama will face England in a match sure to attract attention around the world.
But there is hope. England has a long history of choking in the World Cup, to the everlasting horror of its fans. And if Panama can beat Tunisia, the other country in the group, the team could be poised to advance, which would be a huge international upset and put Panama squarely in the spotlight.
But Panama already has reason to be proud. The U.S. and Italy didn’t even qualify for the World Cup, a subject of shame for sports fans in both countries.
Panama could also produce one of the true stars of the tournament. The squad is led by Ramon Torres, described by BBC as a “bushy-haired, well-built central defender … so popular in his football-mad home nation he is, by his own estimation, regarded rather like a film star.”
Torres has played in more than 100 international matches for his country and he is a national hero. His face can be found on billboards and advertisements around the country, the local version of Messi or Neymar.
The World Cup will give Torres—and all of Panama—a chance to shine. It will be an exciting time for football fans and the country. Buena suerte, Canaleros!
Image Source: Telemetro