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Former Valley resident Paulo Wanchope plays in World Cup

June 07, 2002|By CARLOS HERRERA, Adelante Sports Editor

Imagine a former Imperial Valley resident being one of world's premiere soccer players. Now imagine him playing in arguably the most prestigious sports event on the planet, playing some of the best athletes around.

Former Calexico resident and Vincent Memorial High School basketball standout Paulo César Wanchope is doing just that as a member of Costa Rica's national soccer squad competing in the 2002 FIFA World Cup tournament.

The 25-year-old Wanchope arrived in the Valley as a foreign exchange student with dreams of becoming an NBA superstar.

In 1992 he attended Vincent Memorial, where he became the star of its varsity basketball squad, leading the team to the CIF Southern Section Division V championship match in 1994.

Wanchope led the U-19 El Centro Dynamo soccer squad to a state championship in 1994.

"You can notice who's a superstar and who's not. I remember him as a very humble and happy guy who was always striving for the best," said Vincent Memorial High School Athletic Director Jesús González. "I hope they (Costa Rica) make it to the second round and beyond."


According to González, there is the possibility Wanchope could visit the Imperial Valley after the World Cup.

Wanchope, who now resides in London, recently helped the Manchester City soccer team win its first First Division title. Manchester City then played its way into England's Premier League.

Soccer experts around the globe think Wanchope is the Costa Rican team's best hope to advance to the second round — something it hasn't accomplished in 12 years.

On Tuesday, Costa Rica made a giant leap in its quest to qualify into the round of 16 by debuting with a 2-0 win over China.

Wanchope's Costa Rica is in the Group C bracket with China, Turkey and Brazil.

Also on Tuesday, Brazil beat Turkey 2-1, leaving room for Costa Rica to advance into the next round if Costa Rica wins its next match.

The "Ticos" (how Costa Ricans refer to themselves) will face Turkey at 2 a.m. Sunday (Pacific time) in Incheon, Japan, with the opportunity to advance to the round of 16.

If Costa Rica beats Turkey, there is the possibility the Ticos will face Brazil in a battle for first position of their group at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday (Pacific time) in Suwan, Japan.

Only the best two teams in each group will qualify.

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