“I’ve read all about the journeys of Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o, and they didn’t have everything handed to them either," said the 16-year-old. "They all come from humble backgrounds where money was scarce, but they always looked to the future and refused to give in. They’re an inspiration to me."
“Football helps you get ahead and teaches you to be strong,” the player told FIFA.com. It is highly probable that the home of Dona Digna, the grandmother with whom Salinas has lived since he was a small boy, was every bit as basic as those of the megastars who inspired him. As well as unconditional love and support, there was something else he never lacked as a child.
“From when I was about two years old, I always had loads of footballs – as many as 15 perhaps,” Salinas recalled fondly. It came as no surprise then when he decided it was the life for him. While honing his craft in the junior teams of Limon CF, where he still plays, he got his first taste of international football at just 13 – something that still fills him with pride.
“Representing your country and showing people that our football has a good future brings with it responsibility," the defender insisted. "We’re definitely moving forward." Proof of this is the return of the national team to the FIFA U-17 World Cup after a six-year hiatus.
“Right now there are precisely 56 days until kick-off," Salinas said smiling. "I know because I’m counting!” His infectious laugh booms down the telephone and it is not hard to imagine him marking the days off the calendar ahead of the 17 October curtain-raiser.
And while the pace of life is rather frantic at present, Salinas is still keeping things in perspective, as evidenced by his decision to continue his studies, albeit through distance learning. “My exams at school are every three months so I have to study on my own," Salinas explained. :From a very early age, my gran instilled that ethic in me.
"I need to act responsibly and that takes effort, because when I finish my national team duties, I have to return to Limon to train with my club and then travel to games on weekends. So I bring my books with me to study as I go." On his return from training, the up-and-coming defender also takes charge of washing his own clothes, cleaning the house and cooking. That said, he still manages to enjoy some free time.
“When I have time for myself I watch football," Salinas said. "For example, I follow La Liga in Spain, where I really like Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. I pay a lot of attention to how Atletico defend." The teenager has another keen passion, though, and it has nothing to do with football.
“I love singing and dancing and I’ll perform solo in front of the mirror,” he said with a hearty laugh, before adding: “I have the choreography all sorted if we score [in Chile] and I’ve already taught it to my team-mates.”
Salinas is someone who likes to have things mapped out and under control. You can see it in the way he monitors and picks up opposition players on the pitch, and also in the way he talks about his dreams of studying business administration at university and one day playing in Europe for his beloved Barça. Yet when it comes to his immediate future with Los Ticos and the upcoming U-17 World Cup in Chile, the player is no less focused.
“We’re very curious about our group opponents [Korea DPR, Russia and South Africa], so we’ll be looking for as much information as possible on how they play so we can arrive prepared," said Salinas. "I really want to win this World Cup – there’s no doubt about that in my mind.”
Given that Costa Rica have never advanced past the quarter-finals of the competition, some might call that over-confidence. Yet taken in context, it is just another example of the player’s steely determination. Indeed, this firmness and clarity of thinking, both fruits of his grandmother’s teachings, could prove very beneficial to this young Costa Rica side in Chile.
“You always need the kind of positive mind-set that allows you to give more,” he said. And as Salinas continues to mark off the days on his calendar, he cannot wait for a chance to put that into practice…