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5 Questions For an Expat

'The Costa Rican Team Was Screwed' and Much More

We asked Mike Styles, an American who has lived in San Ramón for close to seven years, to explain the country for us. He talks about cabbies slowing down traffic, the Red Sox, and Snow Clasico anger.
BY Noah Davis Posted
September 05, 2013
5:07 PM
American Soccer Now: Silly question, but how big is soccer down here? Is it everywhere like in Honduras or less so like Guatemala? Will the country stop tomorrow during the game?

Mike Styles: Futbol is huge here! It is everything. No other sport matters. This is interesting to some of us because in the countries to the north and south of us, Nicaragua and Panama, baseball is the most popular sport. Club football is huge here as well and is dominated by two teams: Saprissa and La Liga. The country is essentially divided in to the two camps. Your blood is either purple (Saprissa) or red (La Liga).

ASN: What was the reaction after the loss to the U.S. in Denver in March? Was the general population upset about the snow? Did they feel like they were wronged because they had to continue playing in the blizzard or was that a media construct?

MS: They were absolutely upset! Everyone thought the Costa Rican team was screwed. Many thought they should never have walked on the field. Personally I have heard about this game from so many Costa Ricans I have started telling them that I believe they should actually be happy about the "snow game" because it will give them something to complain about for the next 10 years. It’s like the Red Sox and “the curse" before they finally won a World Series.

ASN: Along those lines, the president has been talking up the rivalry, the cab drivers are threatening to slow down traffic, etc. How real is all of this stuff? The country doesn't feel dangerous at all, which is wonderful, but do you think something like a cab slowdown could happen or is it posturing and rhetoric?

MS: I am not aware of President Chinchilla talking up the rivalry or the cab drivers threatening to slow down traffic. The latter is called “tortugismo” and is a common way that the transit operators protest fees or the presence of “piratas,” non-licensed taxi cab operators. They are not dangerous. It is one way that people show dissent, which if you think about it is pretty peaceful.

ASN: Do you have any sense of how the Costa Rican population views the U.S. team? They all seem to know Landon Donovan, but how much more to they know? Do they think the U.S. is "good"?

MS: They absolutely think the U.S. team is good and Costa Ricans are not the type of people that talk “shit” about other teams. I believe they have a great deal of respect for the U.S. team however they obviously are going to route for the home team. I also believe they view the Mexican team as a bigger rival; there are many cultural differences between the various Latin American countries!

ASN: Who ya got tomorrow?

This is do or die for the Costa Rican team; they have more to lose than the U.S. and therefore I believe they will win.

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