Although Costa Rica is a beautiful country full of ecological wonders, beautiful landscapes, and colourful creatures, its heart is shown through the culture of the people and their passion for soccer. I am proud to say that I have been witness to the undying love for the game not only in local sports bars like los Profesionales, but also in a stadium during a game between the country’s two biggest rival teams, La Liga Deportiva Alajuelense and Deportiva Saprissa. I quickly learned that my tica mom is in fact Ligista, which naturally made me a Ligista, at least in name. I was hoping to change that by joining her and my roommates in watching the games as religiously as ticos do and knowing which teams were worth remembering.
I will never forget the first time I watched a Liga game in a sports bar. Being an international student from Canada who is accustomed to the rowdiness of hockey could not prepare me for the rowdiness I experienced after the final goal was shot. Screams broke out into a roar, beer was thrown into the air, and ticos were tossing each other around to celebrate the win for Alajuela. One would think that I would be prepared to witness a game in person after this experience.
Finally, it was decided that it was necessary to go to a game between two of the most rivaled teams known to Costa Rica. I had received warnings from fellow ticos advising me not to wear my Liga jersey to a Saprissa stadium, but despite the warnings, my roommate Laura and I chose to represent the Lion of Alajuela. We didn’t know what to expect as we walked down the Saprissista-filled street that was decorated in celebratory confetti and carefully watched by Costa Rica’s finest mounted police.
So there we stood, two lionesses amongst all the purple monsters, receiving angry glares, foul name-calling, and as much negative attention as one could understand in another language, but this was not in the least discouraging. On the contrary, the hunger to win was felt throughout the stadium and all the expected harassment was exactly what was — expected. This feeling shook the stands, the bleachers, and all the die-hard fans of the game. Fireworks blared and shattered in the air to announce the beginning. Our players were talked down to by all Saprissistas and an occasional soda or hot dog would make its way towards their heads. The cheers and chants never ceased and even the rain couldn’t dampen spirits.
In the end, Saprissa took the win, fans became hooligans, and Laura and I walked away with the bittersweet memory of having experienced such a thrilling and lively culture in all its glory while at the same time suffering a loss. In this sense, we had come and gone as Ligistas and we had felt that same pain as the rest of the Lions. We got mocked and teased leaving the stadium just as any tico wearing a Ligista jersey would. We were a part of this passionate sport, and I will always recommend that international students go out of their comfort zone to experience the thrills of being immersed in another culture as lively as Costa Rican soccer.