Victor Coto: The first Costa Rican in the S.League
The question seems to have caught him off guard, perhaps even left him a tad bit vexed and for the first time during the interview, Victor Coto Ortega shifts in his seat uncomfortably before attempting to construct a response.
Coto had just been asked if being a journeyman footballer gave him extra motivation to succeed at the club and try to secure a prolonged stay. More than the question, it is perhaps the usage of the word, “journeyman” that ticked the Costa Rican off.
He explains that it is almost as if the word was dismissive of the struggles that Coto and many other globetrotters faced when they travelled from one country to another to try and establish a foothold in their careers.
Coto, who left home when he was 15 to start his youth football career, said: “Travelling around the world to play football is not as easy and happy like what most people think.”
“Yes of course, there are the happy things like getting to know new cultures and meeting new people, but I left my family and home at a very young age and since then I have just grown up on my own while trying to be a professional footballer,”
“Being alone, I have had to be strong and adapt quickly to different situations.”
Coto, who has previously played in Malta (Sliema Wanderers), Myanmar (Zeyar Shew Myay), Costa Rica (Deportivo Saprissa), Italy, Indonesia (Persijap Jepara) and Argentina (Gimnasia Jujuy) revealed the extent of his struggles during his stint in Italy with the youth team of fourth-tier side Cisco Roma.
He said: “I was living (in Italy) with a relative at that point and this person was into drugs.”
“I tried to manage for some time but I soon had to move out because the environment wasn’t good for me especially if I wanted to make it as a professional.
“While trying to find a new place to stay at, I even had to sleep on the streets for a few nights and I was only 16.
In Argentina, even my own teammates were rough on me because I was a foreign player, so I had to endure that as well
“In Argentina, even my own teammates were rough on me because I was a foreign player, so I had to endure that as well.”
With the S.League entering its 22nd season, the future of the domestic football scene is as rickety as ever.
But as more local players plan for careers away from football in fear of an eventual collapse, Coto is adamant that life out of football is not a thought that he wants to entertain despite the obstacles in his career thus far.
“It is hard to explain,” sighed Coto, who has been signed on a one-year contact.
“It is just the love of football. From young, it’s all that you ever want to do. “
“I have already fought hard to come this far (so) why should I just give up now and try something else? I just want to give everything that I have for my club and work as hard as I can every day.
I have already fought hard to come this far (so) why should I just give up now and try something else? I just want to give everything that I have for my club and work as hard as I can every day
“People say that it is hard here and it is not stable but I love it here (in Singapore) already where all the facilities and approach make me feel like a professional player as compared to where I was before so I am going to do all I can to try and stay here for longer.”
Coto has already been a hit with his teammates due to his easy-going personality and the three goals that he netted in as many games in pre-season have also helped the Costa Rican to settle in with the rest of the Eagles.
The forward’s record in the region is impressive as well, having netted over 20 goals during his spell in Myanmar while he had 10 goals to his name during a single season in Indonesia.
While he was apprehensive about revealing his individual targets for the coming season, Coto was more forthcoming on what he wants to be remembered for when he eventually has to pack his bag.
“I want to remembered as the guy who always trained hard and fought for every ball and the guy who was willing to die for the team,” he declared.
“If in the process, I can score goals and help the team to win trophies then that is the bonus for me.”
“I know that I am the first Costa Rican to play here, but at the end of the season, I want people to say that I was the first Costa Rican to win a trophy here.”
Photos: Zeyar Shew Myay (Unless stated otherwise)