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Itinerant 'keeper ready for final bow

By Agence France-Presse in Bogota (China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-29 06:55

World Cup will close the curtain on Colombian's history-making career

Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon will make history when he turns 43 on June 21 as he will become the oldest player to be part of any World Cup finals squad.

Mondragon's amazing soccer journey has seen him appear in six World Cup qualifying campaigns and play for 11 clubs in seven countries.

There has been no shortage of emotion, but Mondragon said: "I am proud to reach a World Cup at my age. Today I feel happier than when I was first called for the United States (World Cup) " in 1994, where he was understudy to Oscar Cordoba.

Mondragon, who was born to a Colombian father and Lebanese mother, will start the World Cup as reserve to 25-year-old David Ospina, who plays for Nice in the French championship.

It is not certain he will get a game in Brazil - Colombia is in Group C against Greece, Cote d'Ivoire and Japan - but the hunger to play remains.

If he gets a game, Mondragon will be older than Roger Milla, the Cameroon legend who took part in the 1994 World Cup at the age of 42 years and 39 days.

He will also break the 12-year record for the gap between two World Cups contested, held by Alfred Bickel of Switzerland who played in the 1938 and 1950 tournaments.

Mondragon was on the squad in 1994 but made his name at the 1998 World Cup in France.

In its group games, Colombia lost 1-0 to Romania and 1-0 to Tunisia but Mondragon became a hero for a series of spectacular saves against the likes of David Beckham that limited England to a 2-0 win.

At the end of the game in Lens, Mondragon broke down in tears and had to be consoled by his England counterpart, David Seaman.

Mondragon started his career with Deportivo Cali in Colombia and it is the club he probably finished his career with. His last game was on April 20.

"To the soccer family across Colombia, a thousand thanks for all the love and respect," he posted on his Twitter account after the game.

He said it was not a farewell, but probably his last "official" game.

In between returning to Colombia in 2011, Mondragon has played for clubs in Paraguay, Argentina, Spain, Turkey, Germany and the US.

He spent 10 months with Metz in the French first division, helping it to avoid relegation.

Sylvain Kastendeuch, the team captain at the time, told Le Monde newspaper Mondragon "had an unorthodox style and saved shots from every position".

However, his career in France was brought to an abrupt halt by the French judicial system.

In April, 2001, a Paris court found Mondragon guilty of using a false Greek passport to be able to play in Europe. Along with two South American players he was banned from entering France for two years and ordered to pay a $409,000 fine.

The Colombian's career did not end though. He played with Galatasaray in Turkey from 2001 until 2007, then for Cologne in Germany for three years and Philadelphia Union in the US before going back to Cali.

"This call up to the national squad has given me an extra dose of oxygen," Mondragon said after Colombia coach Jose Pekerman named him to the national squad.

"He said he knew I was older than the other players but that he needed to bring in someone with experience, someone who could bring a lot of things to the group, and I was delighted to accept."

 Itinerant 'keeper ready for final bow

Faryd Mondragon attempts to make a save against Jackson Martinez during a World Cup farewell ceremony at the Campin stadium in Bogota on May 23. John Vizcaino / Reuters

(China Daily 05/29/2014 page23)

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