- Bolanos named league’s best player in Costa Rica at age of 36
- Player ready for any challenge with national team
- “Costa Rica facing their toughest qualifying competition”
Many felt there was no way back for Costa Rican Christian Bolanos in December 2017, when he announced he had failed to agree a contract renewal with Vancouver Whitecaps. Some went as far as suggesting that the then 33-year-old had played his last game.
Bolanos, however, had other plans and they involved a return to his homeland and former club Deportivo Saprissa. “I decided it was time to go back to Costa Rica with my family. At that point, at 33, when I was asked about retirement, I said that I’d review things tournament by tournament. And to this day, I still don’t know when the date will be,” he says sincerely in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
Christian Bolanos: key facts
- Born 17 May 1984 in Hatillo, San Jose, Costa Rica
- He made his professional debut on 11 December 2001 with Deportivo Saprissa
- He normally plays on the right wing
- His international experience involved spells in the Danish, Norwegian, USA and Qatari leagues
When he returned home, Bola continued to do what he does best, which is to commit 100 per cent and produce on the pitch – something he has done over the course of almost 19 years.
In his first tournament back in Costa Rica, he clicked immediately with the Purple Monster and looked set to make history with the national team by becoming the first Tico to play at three editions of the FIFA World Cup™ with an appearance at Russia 2018.
Then an injury just three months before the global showpiece put everything in doubt, and he had to draw on his renowned battling qualities to prevail.
“It was very difficult as we’d had a very good qualifying tournament as a team. And for me personally, it was my best one as I was our top scorer. It was the kind of tackle you see in many games, but I happened to take the brunt of it and fracture my ankle. I was under a lot of pressure to recover in time, but all the doctors did a great job and I was able to come back.”
At the peak of his career
Though now 36, Bola was recently crowned league champion again with Saprissa. Moreover, he finished the campaign as top scorer and picked up the player of the tournament award. And yet there are still some people wondering if this is the end of the road.
“I’m very happy, satisfied… Being crowned champions validates my top scorer award because, as I’ve always said, this was thanks to my team-mates, the coaching staff and the fans, who gave me the confidence and showered me with affection during this process.”
True to form, Bolanos still has other plans, which involve continuing to deliver for Saprissa and helping Costa Rica reach the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. That said, he is the first to admit that the path will not be easy.
“Qatar is another of the questions I’m often asked about. And while for some it seems crazy, the way I feel now, it depends on how things go in the future… Besides, the qualifiers are almost upon us.”
“I’ll never close the door to the national team; you just have to consider the moment and the circumstances. We had a coach for a year but he left, so that continuity has been lost. If the new man in charge wants to count on my services and rates me, then I’ll think about this objective and talk to him. I want to compete and not just join up for one or two games.”
And while the outlook is not exactly straightforward, who better than Bola to don the jersey and lead the side to new feats.
“We’re in the middle of a generational change [in the national team] and the youngsters are going to have to deal with this interrupted process and step up. Now [new coach] Ronald Gonzalez is striving to have a change of direction. Costa Rica are facing their most difficult qualifying campaign, because in previous editions, our group had been together for ten years. For all that, I’m confident we’re going to make it.”