Friday is the big day, and football (soccer) fans in Costa Rica are anxiously awaiting to witness what promises to be one of the most exciting games of 2013. On that day, the Costa Rica National Football Team (La Sele) will host their counterparts from the United States in what has been repeatedly reported as: “the ultimate grudge match.”
This international match is part of the qualification path to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which is sure to be one of the most memorable sports events of the 21st century. Football players in Costa Rica and around the world would like nothing more to one day tell their grandchildren: “I represented our country’s national football team in Brazil,” or “I played at the Estadio do Maracana; it was a deafening roar.” Although it is important for both the U.S. and Costa Rica to come away victorious this Friday for the purpose of keeping World Cup hopes alive, this game has an important matter to settle.
The matter is what happened earlier this year at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado, where the U.S. hosted Costa Rica during polar conditions unbecoming a football match. The U.S. team came away with three points after a sole goal by Clint Dempsey 16 minutes after the game started. The officials brought out the yellow balls needed for low visibility conditions, but after a while the snowfall had blanketed the entire stadium, the players could not see the markings, and the ball could barely move forward.
For hecklers and badgerers, the game was a lot of fun. Players could barely stay on their feet and were visibly frustrated; fans began lodging snowballs into the pitch and at each other in the seats; ESPN broadcasters Bob Ley, Alexi Lalas and Kasey Keller put on anoraks and ludicrous snow hats, and the second half played out like a rugby game where players could not touch the ball or each other with their hands.
The game was an embarrassment for FIFA, and Costa Rica’s late appeal fell on deaf ears. It was resolved that the matter was to be left alone, at least until the next match against the U.S., and that time has come. La sele is ready to reclaim the three point lost in the snow, and fans in Costa Rica are fine tuning their secret weapons: Heckling, baiting and riding.
Welcoming the U.S. Team
Harassment of visiting teams is practically a tradition in football circles. It usually starts with letting the visiting team know that they are not exactly welcome from the moment they arrive. The U.S. team has already tried to avoid this potential unpleasantness by requesting that Base 2 of the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) be reserved for their landing so that they do not have to clear customs and immigration with the rest of the foreigners arriving in Costa Rica. The country’s immigration and civil aviation authorities will have the last say on this matter.
Other proposals to badger the U.S. team is to purposely cause traffic jams as they try to make it to practice and to the game, although this might not even be necessary as traffic jams in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM in Spanish) of San Jose are the norm anyway. Then there is the classic maneuver of making a lot of noise near the hotel where they will stay, thereby eliminating their chances of getting a good night’s rest before the match.
For all the heckling and taunting proposed, national sports daily Al Dia has adopted a mature and serious stance by reminding fans that FIFA officials and Fuerza Publica will be watching closely. Everyone wants to enjoy a good match between two rival teams that have world-class stars on their rosters: (Saborio, Ruiz and Campbell for Costa Rica, Donovan and Dempsey for the U.S.), but there is no need for snarling or acting a fool. Here are the consequences for unacceptable behavior:
- Referee Marco Rodriguez will not tolerate field invasions of any kind. The pitch is off-limits to unauthorized persons. Should there be an invasion or excessive throwing of foreign objects, the match will be suspended and the National Stadium may be called off for future qualification matches against Mexico and other teams.
- Racists taunts or insults by fans may result in a FIFA investigation and possible elimination of the National Stadium in future international football matches.
- A physical assault on any of the visiting players and team staff may result in criminal prosecutions under articles 126 and 128 of the Criminal Code of Costa Rica, which recommends a prison sentence up to a year.
- Damaging the vehicles used by the U.S. team during their visit to Costa Rica may result in a criminal prosecution under article 228 of the Criminal Code, which could lead to a prison sentence ranging between 15 days and a year.
When conducted in a clever and respectful manner, heckling can be a fun aspect of the football experience. This is something that haters and others who take the beautiful game a little too seriously must learn to accept. Just like Costa Rican star striker Alvaro Saborio mentioned as he arrived home a couple of days ago: “The snow match is in the past. Now we have an important game on Friday.”
Article by Costa Rica Star