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14 May 2016
How beach soccer helped one Costa Rican winger get his life back on track.
The sport of beach soccer is famed worldwide for its ability to produce goals of the highest standard but for Costa Rican Valerio Meza, it offered a different goal altogether.
While a talented player, the Puntarenas right winger struggled to make the most of his gift as a lack of discipline held him back along with an addiction to marijuana.
"Yes I was on drugs", he explains. "I tried mostly marijuana, I was a troubled boy who liked the easy life and my friendships also influenced me to follow that path."
The tragic passing of a son also had an obviously devastating impact on Meza’s life before beach soccer helped offer him an outlet to get back on track after a difficult few years.
Having been off drugs since August last year, the turnaround in fortunes for Meza on the pitch has been remarkable - an improved attitude and the now-fulfilled prospect of national team football for Costa Rica providing a clear and realistic goal.
Now captain for Puntarenas, Meza’s form and improved attitude meant he was told after a match last season that the Tricolor national setup was a very real possibility.
The tentative offer came with a caveat however.
Meza needed to sharpen his focus and improve his attitude - a deal he has grabbed with both hands. Meza explained recently: "Beach soccer is vital.
"It has helped me to feel alive, to return to my roots and be a good person, which is most important."
Club coach Stewart Gomez has witnessed the turnaround first hand and he was the man to discuss the possibility of a national call-up for Meza with members of the Tricolor staff last term.
"After that match, I talked seriously to him,” Gomez added. "He had a huge opportunity in front of him, the National Team, but he had to take one step to the side and follow the correct path, that of a true sportsman."
Gomez was always confident Meza had the ability to represent his country and will certainly be a proud man if his player is selected to feature again for the Tricolor in their various commitments over the coming months.
Meza, clearly now on an upward trajectory, summed up: "My coach talked to me and made me realise I had to change my lifestyle.
"I listened to my parents, my coach and went out slowly at first. Today I am a man dedicated to family and a disciplined sport. I won the captain's armband in the team and was called to the national team.
"I feel that everything has changed very fast. My dream now is to be linked to the national team for many years."
Source: Futbol Playa CR