Monday 14 November 2022, 20:45

Paulo Wanchope: “The World Cup is a magical event”

“The World Cup is an event that makes the world stop [and pay attention]. Why? Because regardless of our race, nationality or culture, we all come together to support our team and stand as one. I think that's the best way I can describe it; it's a magical event." We live in uncertain times beset by conflicts and global crises. The world is divided. The FIFA World Cup, through the power of football, will bring people together to cross borders, unite and celebrate together. Football Unites the World will be a global movement that serves to inspire, unite and promote development through football. Some of our FIFA Legends have shared their stories of how football has brought their respective countries together in times of uncertainty.

In the countdown to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, we look back at some of Paulo Wanchope’s most memorable moments at the world's greatest celebration of football. Paulo Wanchope is one of the most important players in the history of Costa Rican football. The country’s second highest national-team goalscorer of all time, La Cobra competed in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan and the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany, scoring goals on both occasions. “I think we had our concerns at the time because Japan and Korea Republic weren’t really known as countries that were keen on football. But that’s the essence and the magic of the World Cup, it gives us an opportunity to learn about new cultures, to meet people and I feel that breaking that barrier down was special.”

Paulo Wanchope of Costa Rica

But, for Wanchope, the lessons to be learned go way beyond the action on the pitch, “Coming into contact with a new culture helps teach us about tolerance and opens our minds. It helps us to grow as individuals, to be respectful, to realise that life is a privilege and that we have the opportunity to live in peace despite all the problems that exist in our world.” When asked for his World Cup career highlight, he cites Germany 2006, when Costa Rica went up against the hosts in the competition opener. "I remember the days leading up to the match, the training sessions, our high-intensity strategy... I couldn’t wait for the moment to come."

The game ended in a 4-2 defeat for the Costa Rican side but being part of that match on 9 June has left a lasting impression on Wanchope, particularly as the player responsible for putting away both of his team’s goals in Munich that day. “We were amazed to see how many Costa Rican fans there were there. One section of the stadium was completely red. I remember the adrenaline, the goals, the opportunity we had to compete and score against one of the traditional favourites... those are things you never forget.”