Little Costa Rica Comes Into The Spotlight At The 2014 FIFA World Cup In Brazil
During the day, I stream live sports talk radio from the United States on my laptop as I work in my little restaurant here in Uvita, Costa Rica. Normal World Cup chatter about strong countries like Spain and Brazil and the chances for the U.S. national team to advance through the “Group of Death” is about as in-depth as the radio-talk gets. But the real talk here is on the streets…
In the supermercado…at the hardware store…and in our little restaurant, it’s all about little Costa Rica. Setting out, the Ticos ranked fourth in their group of four, against perennial powerhouses Italy, England, and Uruguay—all former champions. And the excuses were flowing…
“Maybe we can get lucky…”
“Maybe we can get one win…and maybe a tie…”
There was hype but no great hope. But the talk never stopped.
And then the opening game was played.
The heavens opened and shone on tiny Costa Rica as they got the win against mighty Uruguay. It was crazy here. Horns honked everywhere and people shouted. Luckily, there’s not much of a gun culture here, so no shots were fired where I live.
From then on, the chatter got louder. The ridiculous marketing of “Sloth Kong,” a cartoon figure conceived by a large Costa Rican travel company, took off. New pictures were released of Sloth Kong donning the flag, pulling down the Tower of Pisa, and crushing the Coliseum in advance of the upcoming battle against Italy.
Still, all this excitement couldn’t contain the overwhelming feeling of dread that the mighty Italians would bring this hope crashing down.
And then the second game was played. Tiny Costa Rica dominated its much more famous foe. It was bedlam.
More horns honked than I knew existed. Located near the National Park Beach, our restaurant has the closest TV for weekend beachgoers. We got a nice crowd for the game, and total strangers hugged me. This win propelled Costa Rica into the second round no matter the results of the next game against England. You could feel the depth of national pride everywhere.
For the next four days, the cheers never stopped. The new greeting on the street became “Vamos Ticos!” Kids on their bicycles chanted “Ol-é…olé, olé, olé, Tico, Tico!” over and over and over again. Local television showed near pandemonium in the streets of San Jose. There was no trouble. You just couldn’t drive in the downtown area because of the congestion of revelers in the streets.
And then the Ticos took on England.
A meaningless game, but a tie assured them of winning the group. They got that tie and the revel continued. Costa Rica won the toughest draw in the tournament.
In the small beach town where I live, an impromptu parade was quickly organized via social media and word of mouth. Anyone that wanted in would meet in an hour at the beach entrance to drive and honk their horns in celebration.
Cars, trucks, bicycles, motorcycles, people on horseback, and plain old pedestrians filled the little road and, at a painstakingly slow pace, moved along, honked, and screamed with delight. Again, there wasn’t the slightest bit of trouble. The police didn’t try and stop it. They just sat and watched and smiled, too.
As I write, the locals are preparing for the big match against Greece. Sloth Kong is perched on Mount Olympus wielding a red, white, and blue lightning bolt while fighting off attacking Spartan warriors.
I’ll admit I’ve already had enough of Sloth Kong and the chants of olé. But I can’t get enough of the “Vamos Ticos!” greeting and the magic all around.
I’m writing this piece in our little restaurant while the game is playing. We have a packed house. The game has gone to double overtime and nobody is worried about food or drinks. All eyes are on the game. Greece tied it on a late goal and the worry is setting in again.
You could hear a pin drop. The game goes to a shootout and everyone is on their feet for the finales.
Costa Rica wins! Let the next fiesta begin…
If you can’t be in Brazil for the World Cup, I can’t imagine any place better than here to watch it all unfold. Ticos are glued to every game that involves a Latin American country…always cheering on their neighbors.
It’s a good time to be a Tico…or a converted fútbol fan living in Costa Rica.
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