- Luis Ernesto "Cascarita" Tapia - EFE
Luis Ernesto "Cascarita" Tapia is considered to be the figure who launched Panamanian soccer.
During the 1960s and 1970s, when baseball and boxing were the two predominant sports in Panama, Tapia helped provide the first glimmers that soccer could also be a key element for the Central American country.
The so-called "Central American Pele" began his soccer career in 1962 with Deportivo El Granillo, right in his hometown.
The multi-talented forward was just 18 when he was tapped for the country's national soccer squad and played his first international tourney in the Norceca championship in El Salvador in 1963.
Tapia was one of the architects of Panama's first victory in an elimination match, downing Costa Rica 3-2 in April 1976 in the run-up to the 1978 Argentina World Cup.
"I remember that (1-0) goal and the match well. It was a great victory and I think it was the first step to what Panamanian soccer is today," Tapia told EFE.
Tapia lives quietly and is recognized as an historic figure in Panamanian soccer, being the first player born in the Central American country to make a name for himself internationally.
He is waiting to see Panama make its debut in this year's World Cup on June 18 against Belgium, a match he will attend as an invited guest of the Panamanian Soccer Federation.
"It will be an honor to be a witness to something so big as hearing the Panamanian national anthem at a World Cup, a dream that I couldn't achieve, but of which I was a part," Tapia said.
Photo credit e info- Volgograd (Russian Federation), 03/06/2018.- A handout photo made available by Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos shows a space view of The FIFA World Cup 2018 stadium. Russia between 14 June and 15 July 2018. Volgograd will be one of the host cities. (Volgogrado, Rusia) EFE/EPA/ROSCOSMOS