How Panama's Felipe Baloy Achieved Soccer Legend Status

By Tarik Fayad

Felipe Baloy is no stranger to pressure. Having started his professional soccer career 19 years ago, at the age of 18, Baloy has made just shy of 600 appearances as a defender. In that time, the 6 foot 1 Panamanian has made the rounds, playing for teams in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, where he became the first ever Panamanian-born player to win the First Division championship, all while trotting across the globe to represent his country in more than 100 international matches for La Marea Roja.

So, when Baloy pulled on the captain’s armband in the 69th minute of Panama’s second-ever World Cup match against England last Sunday, all of Panama expected something, anything. Baloy delivered sensationally. Just nine minutes after taking the field, the 37-year-old footballer played off a fantastic free-kick to slide the ball home. That feat not only made him the fourth oldest player to score in World Cup history, but also the first-ever goal for Panama. In a single strike, just days before his announced retirement, Baloy managed to dwarf England’s six-point lead, exceed all of Panama’s expectations, and deliver one of the happiest moments in his country’s sporting history since qualifying for their first World Cup earlier this year.

We recently caught up with the brand-new legend and father of two to talk music, training, personal style, and how he deals with pre-game jitters.

How does it feel to represent your country in the World Cup?

For me, it’s a matter of great pride and pleasure to be able to represent my country. That was a dream that could be fulfilled thanks to many years of work.

What is your training regimen the day before?

Before a game the training is quite light, we mostly work out details of what we’ve done during the week.

What is your warm-up like on game day?

Everything depends on the physical trainer, usually they are short and demanding warm-ups.

What do you listen to before a big match?

We usually listen to music of all kinds in the locker room. I personally like salsa and reggaeton.

What goes through your mind as you’re walking onto the field?

Happiness, to be able to do and enjoy what I like.


Who gives you the best pep talk?

I think that just the fact of being a soccer player and playing on your national team is motivating, but there are always people who are important and their words are an added incentive.

Are there any rituals you repeat before big matches or totems you carry?

No, I just pray and I talk to my wife before each game.

How do you handle nerves?

Just listening to music and talking to my family

What was your first professional soccer match like?

It was something spectacular, the feeling of having achieved something you dreamed of as a child is indescribable.

What does it take to be a good team leader?

I believe that having the ability to help and support your teammates at all times is key, that they can trust you on and off the field.  Inspiring confidence in your teammates, having decision-making skills, passion and professionalism are also crucial.

How important is personal style to you? Describe your personal style.

It’s very important. I think that each person must have a marked style of their own. I consider my style simple or casual, but I’m always open to other options as fashions change.

What are your style essentials?

Personality, authenticity, atmosphere.

Who inspires you off the field?

My family.

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming soccer players?

Believe in your talent and fight for your dreams. Do not lower your arms in the face of adversity. Work hard every single day.

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