Panama striker Blas Perez has certainly seen his share of the world, playing in eight different countries in his career, but somehow he always seems to save his best for his homeland.
Goals in each half from the 35-year-old on Monday gave Panama a 2-1 win over Bolivia in the Copa America Centenario — a victory hailed as “historic” by Panama, given that they had never faced South American opponents in a competitive match before.
Certainly, judging by the reaction of Perez, who collapsed to the ground and was mobbed by his teammates after striking the 87th-minute winner, the victory was more than just a good start to their Group D campaign.
Photo: Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY
“We are enjoying this one,” Perez told reporters after the game.
“It is our first time in the Copa and it is a joy,” he added.
The brace took Perez’s career tally for his country to 41 goals in 106 appearances and will have surely ended any debate over whether coach Hernan Dario Gomez was right to stick with the forward, despite his age.
“Blas works so hard, does so much running and he knows how to score,” Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo told reporters.
“He is also a great guy, a real leader in the dressing room,” he added.
Perez has seen plenty of different dressing rooms having played for 16 clubs in eight countries.
After debuting in his homeland, he has performed in Uruguay, Mexico, Colombia, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the US and Canada, where he currently plays for Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps.
“He is a man that represents a lot of things on and off the field,” Gomez said.
“He has had his share of heaven and hell, but again, he was out there demonstrating his qualities for 90 minutes, running and fighting,” he added.
“He scored two very important goals tonight. This group loves him and he transmits a lot of important things to the group. We have supported him, even through his difficult times,” Gomez said.
“He has great experience, he is a great man and Panama loves him,” Gomez added.
Panama has never qualified for the World Cup and while the improving nation certainly has a chance for Russia 2018, that might come too late for Perez.
That will make the upcoming two games in Group D, against Argentina and Chile, even more special for the Panama City-born forward.
“Argentina will be hard, Chile too, but our coach just told us — now go and enjoy this Cup,” Perez said.
Judging by the smile on his face, Perez needs no invitation.
Taiwan national team manager Henry Vom on Sunday had a successful debut in charge of Taichung Futuro, winning 3-2 against league leaders Taipower with a goal deep in stoppage-time, which combined with the results from the other matches saw the gaps close at the top of the Taiwan Football Premier League table. Besides the big win for Futuro, Hang Yuan edged Taitung 1-0, Taiwan Steel dominated National Taiwan University of Sport 4-1 and the Red Lions held Ming Chuan University to a 1-1 draw. Vom took over Futuro after previous coach Toshiaki Imai returned home to Japan. Imai, who also managed the national
The NBA said was re-evaluating its training program in China following allegations of abuse of young players by local staff and harassment of foreign staffers at a facility in Xinjiang. The comments come after a report by ESPN that quoted unnamed American coaches as saying that Chinese coaches hit young players. One American coach who worked at a camp in Xinjiang complained of harassment by local police, the sports network said. “The allegations in the ESPN article are disturbing,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in an e-mail statement on Thursday. “We ended our involvement with the basketball academy in Xinjiang in June
Coming from the business world, New York Liberty owner Joe Tsai (蔡崇信) did not understand why his WNBA franchise did not have a chief executive officer similar to the team’s NBA counterpart the Brooklyn Nets, which Tsai also owns. For Tsai, it was about equality, so he did something about it. The 56-year-old Taipei-born billionaire businessman and philanthropist promoted Keia Clarke to the position last week — making her the first chief executive officer in the team’s history. The WNBA veteran became the third black woman to currently be in charge of a franchise in the league, joining Los Angeles Sparks president
LEAVING IT LATE: Rakuten added late runs last night to add to wins on Wednesday against the Brothers and the Lions on Friday that went down to the last batter The Rakuten Monkeys rallied to post three late runs for another close win, prevailing 5-3 over the Uni-President Lions yesterday as Taiwan’s second-half CPBL season got started with lower scoring output, but exciting finishes. It was Rakuten’s third win in a row. In two games this week, they seized victory in dramatic fashion with their last at-bat and have drawn level with the CTBC Brothers on top of the table after yesterday’s results, 0.5 games in front of the Fubon Guardians and 1.5 games ahead of the Lions. It was tied at 1-1 early, with Rakuten hosting the Lions at the Taoyuan Intenational