Gary Stempel: An Englishman in Central America

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Gary Stempel, the current head coach of Panama’s national team is a unique story. An Englishman that has enjoyed success in Latin America at a time when so few English coaches succeed outside of the country. His performance as manager of San Francisco, a top Panamanian club and with the Panamanian U-20 side got him the job with the full national team after Costa Rican coaching legend Alexandre Guimaraes couldn’t replicate his amazing Ticos success in Panama. El Salvador shockingly ousted the much higher ranked and rated Panamanians in the second round of CONCACAF qualifying.

Panama has been long considered a potential sleeper in CONCACAF. Advancing to the Hexgaonal and making the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2005 was supposedly an indication that the Baseball oriented country had awoke to football. Further success in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup where a ten man Panama side gave the US all they could handle in Foxborough furthered this thinking. But 2008 was a disaster for Panama, and now the Federation has started over under Stempel.

Winning the 2009 Central American Qualifying Tournament for the Gold Cup was a start. Now drawing with Mexico despite being reduced to nine men and smashing Nicaragua should give Stempel’s men the confidence to compete with the US on Saturday night.

Here is an interesting writeup on Stempel from last year in the Daily Mail.