Honduran league champions Olimpia and Spanish fútbol giants Barcelona have come to terms on a deal that will send Anthony “Choco” Lozano to the Spanish team’s B squad for the next two seasons, with an option for a third. The news means that Lozano–who spent the last two seasons on loan with CD Tenerife in La Liga’s second division–will become the first catracho to join the storied history of Barça.
After two years with Olimpia–where he amassed twenty goals–offers from first division sides like Getafe and Leganés came pouring in for the twenty-four year old forward born in Yoro, Honduras.
One might expect a player entering his prime to sign on with a club like Leganés competing in La Liga’s Primera Division but–as most fans of the beautiful game can corroborate–the allure of being able to don one of the most famous kits in the world is forceful and all-encompassing. Turning down Barcelona would be a tough sell to the family and friends back in Yoro and Tegucigalpa, after all. The fact that the blaugrana gave him a $50 million release clause surely helped elevate his standing on the world stage, as well.
The news made a splash in Honduran news outlets–and don’t forget the all-important Facebook walls–but, with Latin American sports media often focused on the peaks and valleys of Juan Carlos Osorio’s Mexican squad or the bevy of superstar footballers from South America, the talent populating Central America often goes overlooked.
Still, the region has laid claim to its sporting heroes: boxing legends Roberto Durán and Alexis Arguello brought world championship belts to Panama and Nicaragua, respectively, while Nicaraguan fighter Román “Chocolatito” González currently rests firmly near the top of most pound-for-pound rankings. Claudia Poll won a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics while swimming for Costa Rica in the 200m freestyle.
With Lozano in mind, however, Salvadoran forward Jorge “El Mágico” González is the lofty model of success for Central Americans playing in Spain. Though their styles differ in every sense–with Lozano playing as an opportunistic center-forward and Mágico dazzling crowds with his otherworldly ball control and technique–the Honduran will similarly carry the pride of a nation with him on the pitch every time he plays.
With Lozano and Keylor Navas in La Liga, Joel Campbell at Arsenal, and Bryan Ruiz at Portugal’s Sporting CP, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Central Americans have a place in the highest echelons of world football. For a region often disparaged or dismissed entirely in the world of sport, their presence on the global stage is a point of pride. Time will tell if Lozano can reach the supernova status afforded to El Mágico, but if fervor and Whatsapp message chains among Hondurans are any indication, the man nicknamed “Choco” is well on his way.