42 For 42: Mariano Rivera’s 40th Greatest Moment – Mo Inspires Native Panama To Victory In CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinal
Mariano Rivera is obviously influential on a baseball field, but it can be argued that he is just as influential off of it. Rivera, a native of Panama, was finishing a series with the New York Yankees in Texas against the Rangers. That same night, the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, a North American international soccer tournament, were being held in Cowboys Stadium. His native Panama were taking on Mexico that night, and Mariano just had to be there to support his countrymen.
The day before the game, Rivera met up with the Panama national team to deliver some words of wisdom ahead of a match in which they were surely underdogs, not only because of the level of talent possessed by Mexico, but because of the proximity of the game to Mexico itself, which resulted in a large percentage of the crowd cheering for El Tri.
Rivera certainly inspired the Panamanian team, known as Los Canaleros, leading striker Blas Perez, who plays in the MLS with FC Dallas, to say this of Mariano's meeting with the team prior to the match:
It was a very motivational conversation, He’s a person who is a great believer in God, he gave us a lot of inspiring quotes that will stay with us and we have to [look to him] as a great example. Mariano’s a great figure in Panama and the US and we’re hoping to do the great things he’s done.
It was only the second time that Panama had reached the semifinals of the tournament and, thanks in part to Rivera's pep talk, the team came through with a shocking 2-1 victory over Mexico. In the video below, Mariano spoke about the match to reporters at around the 2:20 mark.
Mariano Rivera is clearly a great inspiration on the baseball field, but he is also one wherever else he goes, as evidenced by this quintessential Mariano Rivera moment.