How Oviedo Dared To Dream Big

Bryan Oviedo’s four-and-a-half years at Goodison Park were marked by a handful of dizzying highs and one crashing low.

The defender told this season's Everton’s matchday programme about the keepsakes which ensure his Blues memories will stick with him for life – and reveals how he achieved the improbable target he set himself aged 12.

22 June 2018.

Bryan Oviedo emerges into the heat of a gleaming Saint Petersburg afternoon. His mind rushes back 16 years, revisiting an image from his family home in San Jose.

Oviedo sees his 12-year-old self, in the dead of night, clutching a mug of hot chocolate and sitting snug to dad on the sofa.

The pair are marvelling at Costa Rica, with their attractive, quicksilver football, duelling with World Cup heavyweights Brazil in the 2002 World Cup finals.

“I would say to my father during that tournament, ‘One day I want to be there’,” says Oviedo.

“He told me, ‘You can do it’.”


On this broiling Russian day, Oviedo is about to ‘do it’. To play for Costa Rica against Brazil in a World Cup finals.

He thinks, too, of how his 2014 dream was trampled into the sodden turf at Stevenage’s low-slung Lamex Stadium.

“You see the people around and feel really sentimental, you think of everyone who helped you,” says Oviedo.

“You almost want to cry for the happiness you bring your family.

“I was really nervous. But I had the attitude, ‘Yes, Brazil are really good, but I can be better than my opponent’. You always have to think that way.”
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The World Cup in different forms has acted as a staging post through Bryan Oviedo’s life and career.

He was born 113 days before odds-against underdogs Costa Rica stunned Scotland at the 1990 competition in Italy.

Oviedo lay in bed hours after breaking the tibia and fibula bones in his left leg while playing for Everton against Stevenage in January 2014 and started to mentally plot his route to fitness for that summer’s Brazilian finals.

Again, he remembered his dad, who passed away when Oviedo was 21.

“I was alone in hospital, I did not sleep,” says Oviedo.

“I was telling myself to be strong and that I had to recover for the World Cup.

“I had some memories of my dad and wanted him to be there.

“But that is part of life. You have to always move forward.”


Oviedo concedes he was “thinking too much” that night after damaging his leg.

“It could not happen,” he says of his intention to play in South America less than five months after sustaining such a traumatic injury.

When Oviedo reported to USM Finch Farm to begin his rehabilitation, he opened his locker to a deluge of mail from Evertonians.

“The fans sent me really positive words, there were chocolates, too, all sorts of things,” says Oviedo.

Every one of the letters he received is stashed in the office of Oviedo’s Copenhagen home.

The messages directed Oviedo’s way a few months earlier were infused with more celebratory tones.

He still has the boots he used to swipe a shot beyond David de Gea and earn Everton’s first win at Manchester United in 21 years.

“I was in shock after that match,” says Oviedo. “Physically I was there… but it felt like a dream.

“I knew I could play well. But to score the winning goal?


“I still watch the video on YouTube with my sons.

“I had loads of congratulations, people saying, ‘Bryan, thank you, that was the best moment of my life’.”

It was December 2013 when Oviedo rocked Old Trafford.

He was playing the finest football of his career and Everton were in irresistible form.

Without prompting, Oviedo recalls how he mentally shifted from cloud nine after downing United to prepare for a match at Arsenal four days later.

The 1-1 scoreline in London did not reflect the visiting team’s superior performance and Oviedo was told as much by Arsenal’s Spanish speaking players.

Into the Emirates’ away dressing room they trooped: Santi Cazorla, Nacho Monreal and former Blue Mikel Arteta.

“They said, ‘Wow, you played really well, you have a top team’,” says Oviedo.

“Everything felt natural and fluid when we were on the field.

“It was special for me because I had been waiting a long time for my chance to play for Everton.”

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From the age of eight, Bryan Oviedo would spend every spare minute kicking a ball.

Being signed by habitual domestic champions Deportivo Saprissa aged 15 – “every kid in Costa Rica wants to play for Saprissa” – crystallised his thoughts.

“Football was never a pressure,” says Oviedo. “But I wanted to play professionally.”

Perhaps the chief reasons for Oviedo reaching his goal can be traced back a decade to matches in the unlikely settings of Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo.

A documentary honouring the Costa Rican team which reached the 2009 Under-20 World Cup semi-finals – and turned over hosts Egypt 2-0 in front of 80,000 people en route – was shot last year.

Oviedo was suspended for his side’s last-four defeat by Brazil but influential observers saw enough in the tenacious and technically proficient defender’s five tournament appearances to mark him down as one to follow.

He was in Argentina for a Saprissa fixture when Copenhagen won the arms race for his services.

“I flew straight there after our game,” says Oviedo. “I didn’t have any of my normal clothes and arrived without knowing anything about the club or city.


“The first six months was very difficult. I was away from my family and friends, everything I knew.

“I didn’t speak the language. I would go in a supermarket and understand nothing.

“Costa Rica is hot all year, I came here in January [2010] and it was -10.”

If Oviedo came across as a patient soul in the 15 months after he joined Everton, then his forbearance could possibly be attributed to the player’s memories of his wait for meaningful action with Copenhagen.

He was okay with being lightly run in his first season in Denmark.

“I was 19 and had to learn,” says Oviedo.

“I had to train well, then when I had my opportunity, grab it with both hands.”

He went home in the off season to marry long-term partner Angie, who joined Oviedo in Denmark following the pair’s wedding, and returned to spend three months at fellow Superliga club Nordsjaelland.

Oviedo won the 2011 Danish Cup with his loan team and repeated the feat as a Copenhagen regular 12 months later.

“I showed what I could do at Nordsjaelland, then played continually for six months with Copenhagen,” says Oviedo.

“I did well and every time I checked the news it seemed there would be options for me in England or Italy.”


Oviedo confesses he wasn’t entirely au fait with David Moyes on learning the Scot was scouting him at a Champions League tie against Lille in August 2012.

He did, though, know all about Everton.

“It was a big pressure knowing the Everton manager was at the game but a very nice feeling, too,” says Oviedo.

“I focused on my game and forgot someone was watching me.”

Oviedo was sold on the idea when Everton made their move but adopted a belt-and-braces approach nonetheless, turning to Copenhagen colleague and former Blues right-back Lars Jacobsen for insight.

“He told me it was fantastic club, one of the biggest in England, and I would be part of a family,” says Oviedo.

“Then I spoke with my wife and we decided it was the right thing.”

Oviedo swiftly learned about Moyes and the former Everton boss’s exacting standards.

“He was one of the best and wanted everything done perfectly,” says Oviedo.

“Training was hard, different from what I was used to.


“But after one or two months I started doing much better.

“I’d had an English teacher after the first month in Copenhagen, so I could communicate okay.

“I was 22 when I arrived. Everton had big, experienced players who gave me advice on how to improve and made me feel welcome straightaway.”

Oviedo’s first Premier League start came against Norwich City in November 2012.

He played on the left of midfield – Oviedo’s opportunities to fill his favoured defensive position were limited by the presence of “one of England’s best left-backs” in Leighton Baines – and extinguished his butterflies by creating a goal for Steven Naismith after 12 minutes.

“I was really concentrated from the day before,” says Oviedo.

“But I had to be relaxed when I played, to think, ‘I am a good player, do what you normally do’.

“I always looked up to Leighton. I wanted to be like him, to do what he did and try to do it better.”

Being next in line behind Baines and Steven Pienaar was a tough gig and it assumed an added dimension when Moyes’s successor Roberto Martinez initially didn’t fancy Oviedo as a defender.

An injury to Baines presented Oviedo with the chance to make his second Premier League start – one year and six days after his first – and alter Martinez’s view

He scored one goal and assisted another in a 4-0 win over Stoke City, igniting the dizzying run which featured that goal at Old Trafford and was halted in the cruellest possible manner.


“When Roberto came, they didn’t like me too much as a left-back,” says Oviedo. “It was a new era and another big challenge.

“But I never thought about leaving, only about training well and being ready.

“When I had the opportunity to show him I was good enough to play for Everton – I said to myself, ‘Don’t let this chance go’.

“I was nervous but once the game got going I felt much better. I scored and my confidence grew from there.”

Oviedo doesn’t try to paint himself as the model patient following that leg injury.

“You sometimes feel alone, you think, ‘Why did this happen to me’,” he says.

“After two or three months, it feels a long time.

“You say, ‘I don’t want to train today, I want to stay home, it is cold’. You don’t feel good.”

In those dark moments, Oviedo’s teammates, the Club’s medical staff and Martinez – “He was always positive, telling me I would come back stronger” – would chivvy him along.


“I thought, ‘I won’t back down’,” says Oviedo

He has never watched a rerun of the episode from Everton’s FA Cup tie at Stevenage.

“I don’t want to, I prefer to avoid that,” whispers Oviedo.

“I can’t explain the feeling in that moment, you are in shock, so much pain.

“It is like a bad dream, ‘This can’t be happening right now’.”

After one abortive comeback – screws inserted in his leg caused Oviedo significant pain – he returned more permanently in January 2015.

But when Ronald Koeman replaced Martinez in summer 2016 the Dutchman told Oviedo he’d be playing second fiddle to Baines.

“It was sad because I expected something different,” begins Oviedo.

“But you want to know how the manager is thinking and I was grateful for his honesty.”


Oviedo moved to Sunderland in January 2017 and received a stirring reception from the home supporters when he returned to Goodison Park for a game the following month.

All told, though, he views his time on Wearside and Sunderland’s tumble down two divisions as “one of the most difficult periods of my career.”

“I will always remember the Evertonians’ passion – but to feel it when you play for another club is special… it is not always like that,” says Oviedo.

“My memories from Sunderland after that day are not really good.”


Oviedo dissolved into tears after Costa Rica grabbed a last-ditch draw with Honduras in late 2017 to qualify for the Russian World Cup.

A space on the wall at home is reserved for the garish boots he wore in San Jose, their Dragon Ball design a nod to sons Martin and Fede’s favourite television programme.

“They are in a safe for now,” says Oviedo. “These are things you can look at in future to remember what you did.”

He will be able to reflect on running Brazil close in the finals, too.

Oviedo cleared his head on that steaming June day to be part of a defensive performance coach Oscar Ramirez considered “perfect”.

Brazil manager Tite jubilantly raced onto the field when his side finally scored in stoppage time.

The 30-year-old is not ready to start looking back just yet, though. He rejoined Copenhagen last summer after a move to West Bromwich Albion during 2018/19 collapsed at the eleventh hour.

Oviedo's team is second in the Superliga standings and on his most recent league start on 1 March he created a goal in a 3-2 win over sixth-placed Aalborg.


“It is another step in my career and I am so pleased to have this opportunity to play at a high level again,” says Oviedo.

“I want to play for many more years, to keep going until I can’t run anymore.

“I will give everything for Copenhagen, to try to be the best player in Denmark.

"Then, if I have another chance to play in England, or in Spain, Germany or Italy, I would be happy.”

So much has changed in the 17 years since Bryan Oviedo drank his hot chocolate and dared to dream big.

Not Oviedo’s ambition and belief, though. No, they remain solidly intact.

 

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