Panamanian football legend Luis Tejada has passed away at 41. Tejada was the top scorer for the Panama NT and had a long club career including a spell in Mexico with Toluca and Veracruz. He played in a number of clubs around the world, with his most notable spell in Peru. Tejada played part in some of the most important moments in Panama’s history, including the 2005 Gold Cup (where Panama went all the way to the final), the 2016 Copa América, and the 2018 World Cup.
Born in Panama City, Tejada started his professional career with storied Panama club Tauro. He would move on to Plaza Amador before making his first move outside Panama, as he went to Colombia where he played in Tolima and then Envigado. He would later move on to the United Arab Emirates for a short spell in Al Ain before returning home to Plaza Amador. He would make failed trips back to Colombia with Once Caldas as well as his only MLS spell with Real Salt Lake where he barely played. He would return to Colombia where he had one of his most successful tenures in two big clubs from Colombia; América de Cali and Millonarios. He would have a short spell at Tauro before going to Peru with the club where he had most of his club success, Juan Aurich. After a very successful time there, he would arrive in Mexico with Toluca.
Luis Tejada’s time in Toluca was somewhat successful, especially for a Central American player. Tejada was a starter in a very important season, Apertura 2012 where Toluca got to the final before being surprised by Tijuana, who would win their only Liga MX title to date. Tejada scored some good goals, but eventually faltered out, especially in the 2013 Copa Libertadores. He would later move to Veracruz, where he only scored two goals before ending his tenure and returning to Peru with Universidad Vallejo. In Peru, Tejada would have a second wind returning to Juan Aurich, where his level would get him to one of the biggest clubs in Peru, Uiversitario. After another great spell there, he would play in Sport Boys and then Pirate before returning to Panama, where he played in a number of clubs until his retirement.
Tejada was also one of the most historic players for Panama’s NT. He is the current leading scorer and played part in a number of important moments with the NT. His great coming out moment for the NT was coincidentally against Mexico. In a 2005 World Cup qualifier, he would score his most famous goal, an incredible bicycle kick that would give Panama a 1-1 tie against Mexico in Panama City.
Later that summer, he would have his best performance with the NT, when he won the Golden Ball in the 2005 Gold Cup, as he led Panama to the final for the first time. Tejada was tied as the leading scorer of the competition, where Panama came the closest ever to winning a Gold Cup, only losing the final in a penalty kick shootout. Tejada would play in three more Gold Cups and become Panama’s all time goal scorer in the competition with 10 scores.
Tejada would also play part in the 2016 Gold Cup, but his other great moments would be when his header into the path of Roman Torres for the goal that gave Panama the 2-1 win over Costa Rica that qualified them to the 2018 World Cup. This was Panama’s first and only World Cup performance and Tejada would also take part in said World Cup in what was his last major tournament with Panama.
Luis Tejada died on Sunday afternoon, after collapsing in a local football match of senior players. The cause of death is an apparent heart attack. Panama has announced a number of tributes and the dedication of the current football season to his memory. May he Rest in Peace.