Sunday 4 June 2023

Why are There No Costa Rican AFL Players?

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Sports of all kinds are popular in Costa Rica. Its citizens are some of the healthiest in Latin America thanks thanks to a culture of healthy eating and doing plenty of exercise. Since it is a natural part of life, many Costa Ricans go one step further to achieve great professional sporting success.

Photo by Flickerd, CC BY-SA 4.0

The most popular sport in Costa Rica is association football (soccer). The bars and restaurants are filled on match days as people gather to watch the action with their friends and family. The same goes for the large National Stadium, which is always sold out for international games.

Many Costa Ricans have had successful careers in the domestic leagues in some of Europe’s biggest footballing countries. For example, Joel Campbell played for English side Arsenal, Keylr Navas is the goalkeeper for Real Madrid in Spain, and Bryan Ruiz also plays in England for Fulham.

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The Other Footballs
Outside of soccer, there are many fans of rugby in the country with a growing following for the national team and the newly formed domestic teams. Costa Rica also has a growing following for American Football with a league that first ran in 2011. Despite these two other versions of football growing in Costa Rica, Australian rules football has not had the same success.

What is Australian Rules Football
Australian rules football (often just called Aussie rules) is a distinct version of football that contains some of the elements of soccer, rugby and American football, whilst also introducing some of its own unique features. For example, the game is played on a larger, oval pitch and players are allowed to use their hands to manipulate the ball.

Photo by Skill1414, CC BY-SA 3.0

The game shares some rules with most of its cousins, but it resembles the Irish game, Gaelic football, the most. Games are played over four 20 minute quarters with each team allowed to have 18 players on the pitch at any one time. However, the teams also have many more players on the sidelines as they are allowed to make unlimited substitutions, unlike in rugby or soccer.

The Australian Football League (AFL) is the top flight league for Aussie rules, with strong competition between the top teams. This is demonstrated by the fact that three teams have a strong chance of winning the AFL Grand Final; according to Oddschecker, Richmond, Geelong, and West Coast are all strong contenders to win in September

Aussie Rules Outside of Australia
In the same way that the NFL has begun to expand American football outside of the geographic borders of the United States, the AFL has begun to export Aussie rules. 25 different countries take part in the International AFL Cup, including Sweden, France, the USA, India, and South Africa. Thanks to this, there are now more than 100,000 Aussie rules players around the world. Despite this, Costa Rica is yet to show any interest in the sport.

This could be because there are already new football “codes” trying to establish themselves in the country, leaving no room for Aussie rules at the moment. American football is a more logical game to take root in the country since Costa Rica is 3 times closer to the United States than to Australia.

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Rugby is also more suited to building a following in the country because of its existing international base and its popularity in other English speaking countries. This therefore means that there are no opportunities for players of Aussie rules to develop their skills to a level that makes them suitable for professional leagues like soccer players can.

In Summary
Costa Rica is unarguably a sporting nation, which has helped to create one of the healthiest populations in the region. The most popular sport, by a significant margin, is soccer. Despite Costa Rica’s small size it has exported a number of professional players to the top flight European leagues, including the English Premier League.

In more recent years American football and rugby have begun to emerge and grow within the country, building modest, but expanding fanbases. This doesn’t currently leave a lot of room for Aussie rules to take hold.

This doesn’t mean it can’t in the future, but now is not its time.

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Carter Maddox
Carter is self-described as thirty-three-and-a-half years old and his thirty-three-and-a-half years birthday is always on March 3. Carter characteristically avoids pronouns, referring to himself in the third person (e.g. "Carter has a question" rather than, "I have a question"). One day [in 1984], Carter, raised himself up and from that day forward we could all read what Carter writes.

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