20 Facts about fútbol soccer in Costa Rica
1. Soccer – called fútbol in Spanish and football in the rest of the world – is Costa Rica’s national sport. Yes, surfing is legendary and rodeos are always popular in the small Central American nation, but fútbol is closest to the average person’s heart.
2. History shows us that Costa Ricans (Ticos) first started playing fútbol around 1876, as Spanish colonial influence brought a love for the world’s game. But reportedly, the English had a part in promoting the sport in Costa Rica, as they provided the first regulation size ball.
3. The first fútbol team in Costa Rica was established only ten years later.
4. Not surprisingly, the sport grew most rapidly in San Jose, the capitol city, where it was a common sport since 1904.
5. It took seven attempts for the country to form a national soccer league, but that was finally achieved in June 13, 1921 with the formation of the National Soccer League (Liga Nacional de Fútbol), with its seven founding teams.
6. That same year, the Costa Rican national team first played an international match at the Independence Centenary Games, handily beating El Salvador 7-0 and later winning the competition by upsetting Guatemala 6-0.
Fútbol (soccer) leagues in Costa Rica
7. Today, the first division league is called UNAFUT, the best quality soccer league in Costa Rica, and still features three of those original seven teams.
Costa Rica Soccer, Costa Rica Futbol, world cup costa rica, Sports Costa Rica, Vacation Costa Rica, Activities Costa Rica, Keylor Navas, Saprissa, travel costa rica8. The most popular and successful teams in the UNAFUT league are Liga Deportiva Alajuenlense, Club Sport Herediano, Club Sport Cartagines and Deportivo Saprissa.
9. But UNAFUT is by no means the only soccer league in Costa Rica. Here are the other professional leagues:
LIFUSE: Second division
ANAFA : Third division
AFUSCO: Indoor soccer
ADEFUPLA: Beach Soccer
ADELIFFE: Women’s Soccer
10. One of the unique things about soccer in Costa Rica is that every first division team has its own stadium, unlike many leagues in most countries where teams share the use of stadiums and arenas.
Costa Rica Soccer, Costa Rica Futbol, world cup costa rica, Sports Costa Rica, Vacation Costa Rica, Activities Costa Rica, Keylor Navas, Saprissa, travel costa rica11. Costa Rica’s national team is called Federación Costarricense de Fútbol (or La Sele for short), and plays at the National Stadium in San Jose’s Sabana Park.
12. The nickname “La Sele” is short for La Seleccion, which means “the selection” – q common nickname for national soccer teams in Spanish speaking countries.
13. Despite its small size compared to soccer powerhouses like Mexico, Costa Rica has played admirably in international play. In fact, with eight championships and three CONCACAF titles to its credit, Costa Rica’s national team is the only one in Central America to have played in four FIFA World Cups.
14. Those World Cup qualifications came in Italy (1990), South Korea and Japan (2002), Germany (2006), and Brazil (2014).
Costa Rica Soccer, Costa Rica Futbol, world cup costa rica, Sports Costa Rica, Vacation Costa Rica, Activities Costa Rica, Keylor Navas, Saprissa, travel costa rica15. The Costa Rican national team captivated the world and thrilled their countrymen in 2014, at the World Cup in Brazil – soccer’s biggest stage. There, the heavy underdog upset Uruguay 3-1, beat Italy 1-0, and tied perennial contender England 0-0, granting them a pass to the Round of 16.
16. In the Round of 16, Costa Rica tied Greece 1-1 after regulation time, but won on a miraculous round of penalty kicks to advance, netting five shots to Greece’s three. With that, they advanced to the semi-final against Argentina on July 5, 2014, with all of Costa Rica celebrating and cheering them on. The Costa Rican team played admirably but in the end, lost to the Argentines on penalty kicks, 4-3.
17. Costa Ricans have a distinguished list of favorite fútbol players from both league and international matches, including contemporaries Keylor Navas (goal keeper) and Bryan Ruíz (Captain of 2014 World Cup team). But the list of most famous Tico soccer players in the country’s history include Limon forward Juan Cayasso , all-time games leader and Saprissa star Walter Centeno, World Cup goalkeeper Luis Gabelo Conejo, two-time World Cup scoring specialist Rónald Gómez, and their all-time leading goal scorer, Rolando Fonseca.
Fútbol (soccer) Teams in Costa Rica
18. The two most popular and successful league teams in Costa Rica are Deportivo Saprissa and Liga Deportiva Alajuelense. Saprissa is known for their Stanford-red S emblem and represent San Juan de Tibás, San José, playing their home games at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá. Alajuelense, also called La Liga, sports a red and black striped shield with a white star and is from Villa Hermosa, Alajuela and plays their home games in Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto.
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19. Both teams have enjoyed times of dominance and enjoy a heated and close rivalry. In head-to-head play, Deportivo Saprissa has won 14 games to Alajuelense’s 13 wins, with 10 more games ending in a draw. Saprissa has also won 32 division championships and been the runner up 15 times, compared to 29 by Alajuelense, with 23 runners-up to their credit.
20. So if you want to make quick friends with Ticos, ask them if they like Deportivo Saprissa or Alajuelense. Chances are the Costa Ricans you meet will like one or the other, and once you agree with them and add a little Costa Rican fútbol knowledge you learned here, you’ll surely make a new local friend!