Campos A Footballing Maverick

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If there’s one thing the world of football loves it’s a maverick: a game changer who alters the way people appreciate the sport.

Jorge Francisco Campos Navarrete, or Jorge Campos as he was commonly known, was just such a figure.

A larger than life character with a smaller than expected stature, to whom convention did not seem to matter one jot. For the sixteen years his career spanned, football was richer for his presence, and that is reason enough to pay tribute to the man that was, in every sense, a riot of colour.

Born within spitting distance of the Pacific Ocean in the beach resort of Acapulco in 1966, Campos’ first and last love was always the sea. Though a keen sportsman from an early age, he did not begin playing competitive football until his early teens, preferring instead to spend his time with the sea, surfing amongst the miles and miles of glorious coastline that surrounds his home town.

When he did play football as a youngster it was not as a goalkeeper, but rather the role of striker in which he cast himself for the playground kickabouts in which he partook.

At just 5 foot 8 inches it is easy to see why it was an outfield attacking role that Campos initially preferred. But as he began to play more and more competitive football it was his natural agility and athleticism, the very same facets that served him well as a forward, that identified him as such a talented goalkeeper.

By the age of twenty-two Campos had agreed his first professional contract as a goalkeeper with Club Universidad Nacional, known affectionately as Pumas–one of Mexico’s most popular teams. Finding first team opportunities limited due to the presence of Mexican international Adolfo Rios, Campos found most of his playing time in his first season as a striker. Remarkably he scored 14 goals, a tally which saw him challenge for the title of the team’s top goal scorer.

By the 1990-91 season Campos had unseated Rios to become part of the title winning side of that year. Though now most commonly used between the sticks, forays in an attacking capacity were not unheard of. On a couple of occasions, typically when Pumas were trailing, Campos was moved up front with the substitute goalkeeper coming on to replace an outfield player.

It was as a goalkeeper that Campos began to distinguish himself however, with a series of dramatic performances. Campos became the archetypal ‘sweeper-keeper’, able to advance of his line with breathtaking speed to break up opposition attacks. But even more than this, he would regularly march forward with the ball at this feet, and organise his defence from outside his box. He became, essentially, Pumas’ eleventh and twelfth man. Half goalkeeper, half libero.

It was at the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.A that Campos first caught the eye of many. As an impressionable youngster who already fancied himself as something of goalkeeper, how could people not be enticed by this bizarre apparition? A daring and fearless shot-stopper, who frequently flirted with the reckless, all the while decorated like a packet of skittles; yes this was the role model for pundits.

Between 1995 and 1998 Campos went on a trailblazing tour across Central and North America. Like the rock-and-roll star he was born to be, this tour featured highlights such as the bicycle kick he scored for Atlante, spells with the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chicago Fire in the opening seasons of Major League Soccer, and further exploits in an attacking capacity for Cruz Azul. Everywhere Campos went he ripped up the rule book. But there was never anything sinister about his antics. No prima donna tantrums or silly demands. These were simply the carefree actions of a man who loved football and loved life.

Culled: Sabotage Times.