Football in Costa Rica

Football is everything in this country: men play it, women play it, children play it and pretty much everyone watches it. Even the tiniest of villages has a football pitch – it seems people here just can’t live without it.

When I was offered the chance to watch a professional game I naturally jumped at it – it seemed wrong not to. I didn’t have a clue about football in Costa Rica so was happy to learn that the game would be between two of the top teams: Deportivo Saprissa and Municipal Pérez Zeledón. After a mammoth drive to get there, the first thing that struck me was how early we had to go into the stadium in Pérez Zeledón – two hours before the game started! Apparently it is impossible to reserve a seat and they fill up fast.

stadium

An hour before the game, and the stadium was already packed.

Packed stadium

Another big difference was that you aren’t allowed to take any sort of food or drinks container into the stadium. No one had bothered to mention this to me beforehand and I’d just bought a massive chalupa. Big mistake. I had to take it out of it’s box and put it into a plastic bag, whereupon it promptly collapsed into a big cheesy, meaty inedible mess – or at least the sight of it made me not want to eat it! To accompany my new creation I had a plastic bag full of coke. Hmm, delicious.

Coke in a bag

Imagine my surprise (and relief) when I realised that, unlike in England –  where we all feast on pies, sausage rolls and crisps inside the stadiums – in Costa Rica they eat fresh mango and burritos. My bag of meat and cheese was soon a distance memory as I chomped on a fresh, delicious (and very cheap) burrito.

Mango seller

When the players eventually ran on to the pitch everyone started throwing toilet paper everywhere. I guessed this must be some sort of ritual to welcome the teams.

Toilet paper on pitch

And then the action started. The standard was rather like a second or third division game in the UK, but the passion of the spectators was just the same. This game meant a lot, which was clear to see in the fans’ reactions.

Angry fan

Testosterone levels were high, and it seemed obligatory to stick your chest out as far as possible.

Passionate fans

But perhaps the biggest reaction of the crowd was not because of the players on the pitch, but rather the cheerleaders at half-time and the girls giving away free gifts!

Freebies

Oh yeah, and then there was the play acting. Never have I seen anything like it. Players would literally fall like flies after getting even the slightest of knocks. Faking serious injury seemed to be very tactical – it allowed players to have a short break and to take on fluids. I could understand it considering the heat the guys were playing in. Rather them than me. Below you can see a player who, only seconds before, had been writhing around on the floor in agony. Amazingly though, after being stretchered off, he was able to make an incredible recovery and sprinted back on to the pitch.

Play acting

In the end Pérez Zeledón won the game 1-0 and retained their position at the top of the Costa Rican premier division. I came away from the stadium with a much better understanding of the country’s passion for the game, but also for their strange (at least for me) practices in the stadiums.

Comments

  1. jajajaj its great to see this from your perspective, it makes it even more ridiculous, by the way Perez Zeledon is not a big one, its a crapy one who got lucky! saprissa is considered the best (i am not a fan of them by the way, im being really objective here, i am a fan of heredia) but it is safe to say they all pretty much suck!

    • Thanks for the info – I agree that most of the teams are pretty bad. It’s strange considering how popular the game is. I think the coaches and lack of resources must be to blame!

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