Colombia goalkeeper oldest player ever to enter FIFA World Cup
Bogota: 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 football journey has seen him appear in six World Cup qualifying campaigns and play for 11 clubs in seven countries.
Faryd Mondragon (r). Pic/ AFP
There has been no shortage of emotion, but Mondragon insisted: "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" 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 start in Group C against Greece, Ivory Coast 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 in the United States 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 at the 1938 and 1950 World Cups.
Mondragon was in the squad for the 1994 tournament, but made his name at the 1998 World Cup in France.
In their 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 for them was on April 20.
"To the football family across Colombia, a thousand thanks for all the love and respect," he posted on his Twitter account after the game.
He added that 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 United States.
Mondragon spent 10 months with Metz in the French first division, helping them to avoid relegation.
Sylvain Kastendeuch, the team captain of the time, told Le Monde newspaper that 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 300,000 euro 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 United States 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 José Pekerman named him in the national squad.
"He said that he knew that 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," Mondragon added.