There were no goalies back then, only a gaggle of tiny, tireless strikers clad in neon beach garb, chasing a soccer ball across a swath of Acapulco sand. Out of bounds was the Pacific. Amid the swirl of bicycle kicks and diving headers and bad Pelè impersonations, defense was an accident. Nevertheless, the kid who would grow up to guard the Mexican national goal, Jorge Campos, was among them, playing on that beach. This explains why the 27-year-old Campos will be listed in this month's World Cup program at a uniquely paradoxical position: GOALTENDER/FORWARD.
Beyond Mexico's winning the World Cup, Campos, the goaltender, has but one goal, which is, well, one goal. At 5'9", 150 pounds, he isn't your basic brawny netminder. When he was asked to join the UNAM (Universidad Autonoma de Mexico) club team in 1989 as a goalie but found himself third in line for that position, he persuaded his coach to try him at forward. Campos led the team that season with 14 goals. He played mostly between the posts for UNAM in the four subsequent years but still scored at least six goals during each of those seasons. Campos, who some experts believe is at his best as a striker, explains his dream of scoring a World Cup goal. "A forward has more chance to express his joy at scoring than a goalkeeper does at saving," he says.
Which is why Campos won't be tethered to his own net post during World Cup play. Coming off a 9-2-1 record with seven shutouts in World Cup qualifying, Campos will definitely be playing goal, but he often roams out of his penalty area as far as midfield when his mates have possession. "They say teams have 10 players and a goalie, but with Campos you have 11 attackers," says Mexico's former national coach Cesar Luis Menotti. "He's a prototype of the 21st-century goalkeeper."
Of course, this improvisational style has its pitfalls. In a recent match Mexico led Bulgaria 1-0 near game's end, when Campos cavalierly played a ball in the box with his feet and not his hands. The ball was stolen, leading to the tying goal. The next morning's headline in a Mexican sports daily screamed: 1 GOAL FOR MEXICO, 1 BLUNDER FOR CAMPOS. "We accept the risks he takes since he's so fast and supple," says Mexico coach Miguel Mejia Baron.
Campos traces his flashy approach to his boyhood days as a surfer, when the waves taught him that risk produces the sweetest rewards. Fittingly, then, his wardrobe, also adapted from the beach, takes some fashion risks. His jerseys feature hues of fluorescent yellow, lime green and pink. It's a testament to his celebrity that pint-sized clones of his uniform were one of the most popular Halloween costumes in Mexico last year. Says Campos, "If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you play good."
Critics contend that he looks like a jockey. Or a clown. Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira complains that the jerseys give Campos an unfair advantage because he blends in with the bright colors of the stadium crowd, and opponents can't quickly identify him. His threads were even panned by his own federation, which threatened to cornerkick Campos off the Mexico team if he didn't wear the team sponsor's jersey. As a compromise he now wears his shirts with the sponsor's label sewn on. "My clothes make me happy," he says, "as if I'm back in my childhood, before I knew what a goalie was."
DAVID LEAH/ALLSPORT USA
Mexico's roving goalie will bring a colorful style of play to the World Cup.