Friday, June 09, 2006

A good time was had by all

Government employees have the day off today. Public schools are closed. The streets are all but deserted, and why? Costa Rica is playing in the World Cup. (That's soccer.)

Now, I knew that. You can't live here and not know that. Like the Olympics, the World Cup happens every four years. I think. Or maybe six? Anyway, it is a very big deal - that much I knew. What I didn't realize until this morning was that not only had the Costa Rican team made it to the World Cup, they were playing the very first game of the entire World Cup, against the host country. (That's Germany.)

Now, Costa Rica takes its soccer seriously. There's no football or baseball or hockey or basketball to speak of. It's all about the soccer.

Let's look at something. Physically, Costa Rica is about the size of West Virginia. It has a population of four million (apropos of nothing, it was three million when I first came here in 1989).

I rarely pay any attention to the whole soccer thing, but even I know that--in the Americas--Mexico and Brazil are the teams to beat. These countries each have over 20 million people in their capital cities alone. Germany's not that big, but the city of Berlin does have a population almost exactly equal to that of Costa Rica - slightly higher, actually. These countries' teams are drawn from a talent pool that is exponentially larger than Costa Rica's.

So you can see how not only making it to the World Cup, but playing the very first game, would be something of a big deal.

As I said, the public schools are closed. The girls' private school was open, but the principal said there would be a television upstairs and students who wanted to watch the game could go up there. Abel had two televisions set up at the gym, with one of them connected to the stereo for added volume.

The opening ceremony was a lot like an Olympics ceremony, but with less flamboyant technology. (Remember the lake in the stadium and that thing that broke into pieces that floated up into the air? Not quite like that.) But there was music and dancing and ethnic costumes and flags and pyrotechnics. And children, of course, and past champions and all the fanfare.

The ceremony ended an hour before gametime (probably so they could prepare the field). Abel did actually give a spinning class, although it was a little stunted - we quit when the teams were ready to take the field. I decided to stay and watch the game, and it went pretty well. I mean, they didn't win or anything--it went 4-2--but they played a good game and did make two goals against the Germans when a lot of people would have predicted a final score of 0-0 or 1-0.

Something I like about Costa Ricans. They're passionate about their soccer, but they're also realistic. They can appreciate that it was a good game and that their team did really well. Not that they wouldn't have been disgusted if the team had played badly, but they can acknowledge a good job in the face of unfavorable odds.


Anita June 09, 2006 5:01 PM  

Every *2* years. THe last time we saw the world cup was just before Conor was born.

Sorry that you all lost today.

Jennifer June 10, 2006 8:13 AM  

Two years didn't sound right to me so I looked it up and it turns out it's four. I think Conor's been holding out on you.

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