American football is one of the most popular sports in the world. Of course, it has its origins in the United States, but many countries now have American football leagues and professional players.
It is widely broadcasted and watched by fans, many of whom bet on this and other sports. Until very recently, you would not expect to find American football in any organized form in Costa Rica. However, that has all changed, and now there is a growing popularity of American football there. So, let’s look at how it started.
The national sport of Costa Rica is soccer, and this is not expected to change. Still, it was not until 2008 that they even considered playing any form of organized American football. Before this, you may find a group of kids playing a disorganized game with very few rules in the streets. Locally they called it Mejenga, and there was no referee, no marked pitch area and nothing more than a few locals who may have stopped to stand and stare.
In 2008, a group of locals who had discovered the game and fancied playing it in a more formalized manner started a private league called the American Football Association/Costa Rica Federation of American Football. However, they didn’t manage to organize any events or play a season until 2009.
There wasn’t that much outside interest and getting people to join was tricky. Local players understood the rules of soccer but had no idea what American football was. The enthusiastic few who started the group and anyone who joined remained confident about their sport. They trained a lot, and the first season, although very small, heralded a victory.
Clearly, their endeavors attracted the right sort of interest because, in the summer of 2009, the American Football Federation of Costa Rica was formed. The important part was that it gained the backing of the Costa Rican Institute of Sports and Recreation, and the government. However, for this first year, that was as far as it went, and it took until November 2010 before they allowed the international league representation of American football in their country. During 2010, the game was growing well, and many teams were playing in the stadiums of second division soccer teams. They chose uniforms, and the public we’re happy to come and watch. In 2011, they managed to secure further growth by securing some big sponsors, which included Gatorade.
Now it was becoming common to hear local youngsters saying that they wanted a career in American football when they left school. The first Costa Rica Superbowl championships took place with some big named stars, including Ethan Kelley, who is a former New England Patriots player.
Unlike soccer, which is a strict no-contact sport, American football is significantly more physical. According to ESPN, it ranks third on the list of the most physically challenging sports. Boxing takes first place, and ice hockey second. This is thought to be part of the reason why it takes longer to gain popularity.
Players must be physically strong and not scared of getting caught up in the rough and tumble of the game. Therefore, many players don’t enjoy the sport as a weekend hobby, because it can make your working day very difficult on Monday morning when you feel like you’ve been hit by a freight train.
On the other hand, American football players are proud of the commitment and sacrifice they make to stay in the game. It certainly requires a level of determination to continue to push forward when you are being smacked around and crushed by your opponents. The training regimes are very different to that of soccer, and the teams found that there was a very little crossover with soccer. Players came from little to no background in American football, having seen and heard what was on offer. Soccer players tend to stick with their sport and do not want to change to a more physical game.
It was not until 2013 that the national team of Costa Rica was invited to play at the international level alongside other high-profile countries, like the United States of America and Canada.
Comparatively, it is still relatively small compared to other sports, and the First Division 2015 national championship had only two original teams and two brand new teams. These included the Bulldogs, Turos, Predators and Titans. Thankfully, the sport is now very much alive and gaining in popularity all the time.
As a result, young aspiring players in Costa Rica will find plenty of training grounds in the country, and plenty of teams that are willing to take them under their wing and develop their skills as American football players of the future.