In the first installment of this year’s Q&A series, Vancouver Whitecaps FC captain Kendall Waston opens up about his upbringing and defining career moments after agreeing to a contract extension with the ‘Caps through 2019 with an option for 2020.
Q: What does it mean to you to be a member of Vancouver Whitecaps FC?
A: It’s a good and nice responsibility. This is my fourth year with Vancouver. To remain at one club for so many years is not easy. Players come and go. I feel very fortunate to still be here.
Q: When you first joined the team in 2014, did you expect to be here for so long and become the captain of the club?
A: When I first came here, my challenge was to improve in every area. I wanted to do my best and then everything would take care of itself. Now that I’m captain, leading the squad is very important to me. I have to represent this club and this city the best I can.
Q: What was the defining moment in your career that helped you get to where you are today?
A: I remember one time a coach told me I should have played another sport or focused on my studies. That was challenging for me. I just wanted to work hard and chase my dreams no matter what other people said.
Q: How old were you at that time?
That’s when I was a professional at Saprissa.
Q: How difficult was it for you at that time when you weren’t playing a lot at Saprissa?
A: I cried a lot of times. I felt very frustrated, but I never thought to quit. In my mind, in those difficult moments, things crossed my mind. Is this for me or not? But I felt the passion for this game so my only thought was: if I feel this, at least give it a chance.
The first time that Saprissa loaned me was difficult, but afterwards that’s what I wanted because when I was going back to Saprissa I wasn’t getting the opportunities. Sometimes for a player it’s good enough to just be on the biggest club in the country even if they aren’t playing, like in my case in Costa Rica. But for me, as a soccer player, I just wanted to play.
Q: Was another defining moment getting left off Costa Rica’s roster at the 2014 World Cup?
A: It motivated me a lot, to be honest. From there, I started to think that everything I do, every game that I play, I want to play like it’s my last one. You never know what’s going to happen and I don’t want to regret anything in the future.
Q: What motivates you on a daily basis?
A: My wife and my son. I want to give my kid the best I can. This is my job, so I have to work hard and try to do everything possible to bring food to my home.
Q: How did having your son change your life?
A: Sometimes, it’s difficult to describe. Everyone told me life changes when you become a father. You don’t recognize it until it actually happens. Being there for the birth of my son, it changed my life at that moment. When I’m sad, let’s say I go home after a loss or I have a bad game, and I see my son smiling, everything changes.
Q: What was your upbringing like?
A: My mom left Costa Rica when I was eight or nine years old to work in the U.S. and have a better job to raise me. So I was raised by my grandparents. When I was 15 years old, I travelled to San Jose by myself to play with the U-15 national team. And my father separated from my mother when I was a baby, so I’m used to being apart from my family. We don’t really have that togetherness.
Q: How did that affect you as a parent?
A: I wanted to give my son something different. I’m not complaining, every situation is different, but in my case I wanted to give my son a lot of love from his father. Make him see me not as a provider, but as someone that loves him.
Q: How has your life changed after scoring the goal that clinched Costa Rica’s World Cup berth last year?
A: It’s changed in Costa Rica a lot. People recognized me and asked me for photos a little bit before, but after that goal it has increased a lot. It’s a good thing that they know me for something positive and not something negative.
Q: Is it difficult to focus when the World Cup is coming up?
A: No, for me, the club is first. If I play good with the club, the national team will come. I can’t play giving 50 or 60 per cent, I have to give it my all. It’s the only way I can get better and be 100 per cent for my national team.