In Costa Rica, PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas is an idol. Considered by many to be the greatest sportsman in the country, he has been making the “Ticos” dream for more than ten years, from a distance, thanks to his performances at Real Madrid and in Paris today.
It may well evolve almost 9,000 km from the Costa Rican capital San José, Keylor Navas remains an almost daily attraction in this small Central American country. Each parade, each feat makes the five million inhabitants a little more proud. “He’s a standard, the benchmark of our country. It’s a bit like the face of Costa Rica,” says Roger Mora, his first goalkeeper coach at Deportivo Saprissa, with pride. This club, one of the most important in the country, had spotted the young Keylor at 14, while he was at the football school in Pedregoso, in the district where he grew up, San Isidro de El General. “He was a youngster with a lot of dreams and hope. He still had to improve technically but he was already very agile. And he was mentally impressive: in each team, he wanted to be number one,” recalls the one. who is still stationed at Deportivo Saprissa.
The birth of “Keylormania”
At Deportivo Saprissa, Navas impresses, wins in the first team at 18 and wins seven titles. “He had a great mental strength, which he always showed in training. As soon as he played for the first team, we saw his full value …” recalls Victor Cordero, former defender of Deportivo Saprissa and ex-teammate of Navas, now sports director of the club.
Its successful services then stir up European envy. And during his flight to Albacete in Spain, in 2010, Navas left a legacy. “When Keylor went to play in Spain and started to make good saves, big actions, there was ‘Keylormania’ here. A lot of young people went to join clubs to be goalkeepers, to make like Keylor, explains Roger Mora. Today, there are different academies for goalkeepers in the country where the reference is Keylor Navas. “
“An ambassador on an international scale”
During his matches in Europe, the performance of the goalkeeper is then scrutinized by the “Ticos”, and his rating will continue to climb during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he takes his family until the quarter-finals (loss on shots goal against the Netherlands). A performance that earned him signing for Real Madrid in August of the same year. “His career was already well respected but when he signed for Real Madrid there was huge media coverage, remembers Victor Cordero. And from there, we saw a lot of young people with the Real Madrid shirt on their backs. Today, we also see a lot of Paris Saint-Germain jerseys, of course! “
His three Champions League won with the Madrilenians take him into another dimension. “Today he is an ambassador of Costa Rican sport and culture internationally. Here, the Champions League matches are at 2 p.m. with the jet lag. But people are adjusting to see Keylor play because we know that he is likely to make a great game, “explains Victor Cordero.
Exemplary behavior and spirituality
In addition to being an example in sport, Navas also inspires by his way of being. “Keylor has always behaved well. He has always been exemplary in order to recover well, eat well, and not go out to party,” says Kevin Barrantes, Costa Rican sports journalist. And that goes with his spirituality, he is very religious. is a simple man, he does not smoke, does not drink … “
This devout Christian was even the subject of a biopic, “Hombre de Fe” (Man of Faith), which he presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018. The “Tico” has gone beyond the sporting framework in his country. “You can ask a 5 year old or an 80 year old grandfather in Costa Rica, everyone knows him. He is a strong brand image. And it is not uncommon, on the streets, to see advertisements with Keylor Navas. “
The Costa Ricans also hope to see him in the headlines the day after Paris’ match against Bayern Munich. This would mean that their idol is still in the running to win a fourth Champions League.