Manuel Veth –
It was the last day of the regular season of the Campeonato de Verano—the spring tournament of the Costa Rican Primera División. This was the last round before the two-stage playoff that would determine the Costa Rican championship—the first four teams make it to the playoffs.
At this point it was already clear which four teams will reach the Torneo de Verano playoffs, as Heredanio (Heredia), Saprissa (San José), Liga Deportiva Alajuelense (or LDA from Alajuela), and Belén had already secured the top four positions in the competition.
Final Day of the Regular Season in Costa Rica
LDA (29 championships) and Saprissa (32 championships) are considered the two biggest teams in the competition with Heredanio being touted as the number three club in the country (24 championships). Belén FC are the relative outsiders, as the club has never won a national championship in Costa Rica.
With one game to go, the Heredanio were first with 47 points, followed by Saprissa with 46 points. LDA were sitting on third place with 39 points. Belén meanwhile were cemented on fourth spot with 36 points.
The objective, therefore, was clear: Heredanio wanted to defend their top spot to guarantee their home advantage throughout the playoffs. Saprissa meanwhile hoped that Heredanio would slip on the final day, and give up the top spot, which would give them an easier semi-final against Belén.
Complicated right? Dramatic right? I was following all of this from a radio broadcast not far from the Irazú Volcano. In fact, I was actually watching a football match played at an altitude of almost 3000 meters at San Juan de Chicua, while the radio reporter excitedly gave an account of the matches that were taking place throughout the country—all underlined by various soundtracks that indicated the different scorers of the different teams.
Football Beyond the Drama of the Costa Rican Primera División
The game before me was played in what, at first glance, appeared to be a normal field, but on closer inspection it became apparent that the field was not much bigger than an indoor seven-a-side pitch. Fittingly, both teams only fielded seven players, but applied all the rules that are normally used on an outdoor pitch.
Despite the small pitch, the game was further complicated by the fact that fog made it impossible, at times, to see the other end of the field. I was standing behind one of the goals, and at one point couldn’t even see the keeper. With this in mind, it was impossible to say who did what at any given moment. The lack of a scoreboard also meant that I never found out the final score. Yet, despite the excitement of the final day of the Costa Rican Primera División, this might have been one of the more interesting games to watch on that day. It embodied everything that football is about, which is that, regardless of the circumstances and the location, one can always play.
What about the final results in the Costa Rican Primera División? Herediano won their final match against Santos DG, while Saprissa only managed a 1-1 draw against Limón FC, which set up a dramatic semi-final between Saprissa and LDA, the country’s two most successful clubs.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and PhD candidate at King’s College London. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. His thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, and will be available to readers later this year. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.