Part 4: We’ve Seen Better: The Local View on the Local Game

Posted on June 1, 2010 1:03 pm

By: Paul-Denys Calixte
June 2009

On a Saturday, at noon in the Street of Bitterness (“la calle de la amargura”) right next to the University of Costa Rica, the Omar Khayyam restaurant is packed to well beyond sitting capacity. Fans of the teams getting ready to contest the national clásico have arrived with jerseys, scarves, money for beer and enough enthusiasm to create a stadium-like atmosphere – one side standing up and cheering when their team unexpectedly scores first, only to sit down in disappointment and watch rival fists pump the air as the other unsurprisingly equalizes and then takes the lead. With their scintillating play and control of the game, the latter rides that confidence all the way to a win.

Before I gloss over this detail, I should be more specific about which is the nation in question: not Costa Rica, but Spain. Given that only this restaurant and one other in central San José have access to the right channel to see La Liga games, devoted followers of Real Madrid and C.F. Barcelona all gathered and shut down the grill with their sheer numbers to watch as the latter laid claim, for all intents and purposes, to the Spanish title. I am not implying that the clásico of Costa Rica, Deportivo Saprissa against la Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, is considered less than a headline-news event; but one cannot help but notice the vast difference in local interest between the top European leagues – namely the English Premier League and La Liga – and the national one. Of course, the almost-disdain for the local product must be considered in light of the point of comparison, for which reason I also look at how they view Costa Rican fútbol with relation to that of its Central American neighbors; but in spite of their optimism and confidence in their teams, they have a remarkably realistic view of where they stand in the global picture.

To start with how they relate their game to its English and Spanish counterparts, I should first define a word familiar only to avid US soccer internauts:

Eurosnobbery (n) – Degrading and ignoring a local product in favor of a superior European brand.

This is often used to describe fans of the sport in the United States who cannot miss the match of their favorite team or league in Europe every weekend and who will gladly skip work to watch a Champions League game, but who would never suffer the humiliation of being caught at an MLS encounter for a number of reasons (e.g. lower quality of play, less passionate fans). Given that soccer is by far the most popular sport here, and that their league features two of the best teams in North America – the aforementioned Saprissa and “la Liga”, who have both won continental titles in the last decade – I did not expect to see a similar trend here; but every Tuesday before my class on Costa Rican history during this semester, instead of talking about whether we thought Puntarenas could keep up their good start to the season or if la Liga had a chance of playing in the continental Champions League next year given the horrible form that led them to miss out on the playoffs, the discussion would immediately turn to who was our favorite to win the UEFA Champions League, or who got to see the Barcelona game over the weekend, or who currently is in Florentino Pérez’s radar for his makeover of Madrid. In fact, only twice have I heard people here talking with any interest about current events in the national league – once when I asked my classmates what came of Saprissa’s accusation that Liberia M

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